Week of Proper 25: Saturday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  A Heraldic Chair

Image Source = Rodolph de Salis

Of Humility, Honor, and Shame

NOVEMBER 4, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 11:1-6, 11-12, 25-29 (Revised English Bible):

I ask then:  Has God rejected his people?  Of course not! I am an Israelite myself, of the stock of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected the people he acknowledge of old as his own.  Surely you know what scripture says in the story of Elijah–how he pleads with God against Israel:

Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.

But what was the divine word to him?

I have left myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.

In just the same way at the present time a “remnant” has come into being, chosen by the grace of God.  But if it is by grace, then it does not rest on deeds, or grace would cease to be grace.

I ask then:  When they stumbled, was their fall final?  Far from it!  Through a false step on their part salvation has come to the Gentiles, and this in turn will stir them to envy.  If their false step means the enrichment of the world, if their falling short means the enrichment of the Gentiles, how much more will their coming to full strength mean!

There is a divine secret here, my friends, which I want to share with you, to keep you from thinking yourselves wise:  this partial hardening has come on Israel only until the Gentiles have been admitted in full strength; once that has happened, the whole of Israel will be saved, in accordance with the scripture:

From Zion shall come the Deliverer;

he shall remove wickedness from Jacob.

And this is the covenant I will grant them,

when I take away their sins.

Judged by their response to the gospel, they are God’s enemies for your sake; but judged by his choice, they are dear to him for the sake of the patriarchs; for the gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.

Psalm 94:14-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Luke 14:1, 7-11 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.

(sabbath healing–a text for the previous post–here)

When he noticed how the guests were trying to secure the places of honour, he spoke to them in a parable:

When somebody asks you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honour.  It may be that some person more distinguished than yourself has been invited; and the host will come to say to you, “Give this man your seat.”  Then you will look foolish as you go to take the lowest place.  No, when you receive the invitation, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say, “Come up higher, my friend.”  Then all your fellow-guests will see the respect in which you are held.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who ever humbles himself will be exalted.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Honor and shame are social concepts, for we have only the amount of each that other assign us.  This fact forms part of the backdrop of the parable from Luke 14.  The fact remains that we are more likely to cause socially awkward situations for ourselves by seeking honor and glory than permitting others to bestow it on us.

But I propose that there is a better way, which is not seeking honor and glory as others define it, but finding them in God.  Each of us in the human race bears the image of God.  Some of us are unaware of this fact, but that does not change our reality.  So, if we play with the metaphors, Yahweh is our father is some ways and our mother in others, Jesus is our brother, and saints (living or dead, canonized or not) are family members.  Jesus died as a criminal, in a way meant to bring dishonor to one.  Before that he left Heaven to become fully human.  (He was already fully divine.)  St. Peter died when crucified upside down, a crown stoned St. Stephen to death, and martyrdoms have continued to the present day.

So, in the Kingdom of God, honor, glory, and shame have very different meanings than they do elsewhere.

St. Paul the Apostle (himself beheaded by order of Emperor Nero) wrote eloquently and at length of the importance of grace.  By grace God has not given up on those–Jews included–who have not recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  And, also by grace, God has grafted Gentiles onto the tree of salvation.  I am a Gentile, so it follows that, by grace, God has grafted me onto the tree of salvation.  Of course, Paul’s definition of faith includes the act of responding positively to God, who has initiated the salvific actions.  This positive response is one of free will, which we have because God has placed it there.  So everything goes back to God.

So Paul’s only spiritual boast was in Christ, as is mine.  This is an attitude of humility, which is quite separate from self-degradation.  Claiming to be lower than pond scum is an example of self-degradation.  No, I am a bearer of the image of God because God has placed it within me.  As a member of the human species, my basic problem is one of sin–pf course–but I am higher than pond scum.  Humility, rather, is having a realistic self-estimate then acting on it.

The proper source of my identity is God.  My honor comes from God and is in and through the same.  I could be in the most degraded hellhole on earth (Fortunately I am far from it.) on the account of Jesus, and I would remain remain undefiled by earthly notions of shame.

Years ago I read an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He repeated a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard forced the Jew to clean the toilets, which were especially disgusting.

Where is your God now?

the Nazi taunted the Jew.

Right here beside me in the muck,

he replied.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/of-humility-honor-and-shame/

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19 responses to “Week of Proper 25: Saturday, Year 1

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