Kingdom Humility

 

‘There was a spiritual old man who lived a secluded life. He was held in high estimation in the city and enjoyed a great reputation. He was told that a certain old man, at the point of death, was calling for him, to embrace him before he fell asleep. He thought to himself, if I go by day, men will run after me, giving me great honor, and I shall not be at peace in all that. So I will go in the evening in the darkness and I shall escape everyone’s notice. But lo, two angels were sent by God with lamps to give him light. The whole city then came out to see his glory. The more he wished to flee from the glory, the more he was glorified. In this was accomplished that which is written: “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” ‘

——-Abba John the Dwarf

Every person who seeks to be a fervent follower of God wants to be seen as humble. Humility is the identifying hallmark of Jesus our Savior. No matter how hard we try, we are still driven by the human desire to be recognized and appreciated. Much of our spiritual journey is spent trying to control our need to succeed. After much prayer and determination we may arrive at the point in life where we really don’t want the spotlight and recognition. Then the new journey begins. Our challenge now is how do we avoid worldly affirmation and acclaim?

The spiritual old man was struggling with that very challenge. He, no doubt, had put much prayer and work to arriving at place in life where he shunned the notice of others. He wanted to comfort the brother who had reached out to him, but he devised a plan of making sure that his act of kindness would be done in the dark of night. That way, he thought, no one would notice, but God had another plan. God decided to send angels to light his path. This display of spiritual presence brought a torrent of attention on the spiritual old man. The very attention that he had sought to avoid was what he received. What does this mean?

Abba John uses the scripture: “He who humbles himself will be exalted” as a way of expressing why such attention is thrust upon the spiritual old man. The truth that I would like to point out is that acclaim only has value if God is the source. The world recognizes worldly values, God recognizes kingdom values. Perhaps if we all sought to be anonymous purveyors of blessing, we may find ourselves more valued by God and the world than we ever dreamed or imagined. The key to getting all the acclamation, success and self-esteem we can handle is found in the ability to be truly humble. That is kingdom humility and it is the goal of every follower of the Christ.


Prayer

Lord instill in me the form of humility that is not derived in self depreciation and doubt but one that is spiritually placed by you. I ask you today to give me the insight to understand what you mean by humility so that I might be one who is gifted with kingdom humility. With that gift we are allowed to be tremendous servants to the world. Lord I pray for this gift and with it I may be your faithful servant.

Amen

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The Leaky Sack

A brother committed a fault. A council was called to which Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a sack, filled it with sand and cut a small hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and said, “What is this, father” The Abba said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

—–Abba Moses of the Desert

If I were to say that we live in a judgmental world, it would be a surprise to no one. We are surrounded by people who make judgments on everything from the call of a referee at last Sunday’s football game to the right of someone to call themselves an American. People very neatly set up boundaries that give them permission to judge, and we just love being in the seat of judgment. From that seat we are a notch above everyone else, and it sure feels good. Jesus said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Abba Moses took the saying of Jesus very seriously. He was so mindful of his own sin that he knew he couldn’t possibly sit in judgment of another. His lessonabba-moses of the sack with the hole in it drives home an important point. We don’t see our own sins very clearly, how can we clearly see the sins of others? Our lives consist of a series of successes and failures that make up our journey towards God. Just as the monk didn’t see that going to a meeting of judgment was appropriate, we need to begin to get a glimpse of what is the true calling of the Christ follower. Our present age conditions us to see ourselves as far more the judges of the world rather than the light of the world.

The symbol of the leaky sack is to remind us that sins are not always seen by those who commit them and our sin is never far away from us. We do leave a trail of sin in our daily walk. That trail, however, is covered by grace that come from God’s love for us. We, in turn, need to understand grace so that we might fully receive such a gift and pass it on to others. That is the lesson of the leaking sack.


Prayer

Oh Lord, why does the wisdom of forgiveness escape us so readily? It seems so very difficult to empty ourselves of the baggage we carry. This baggage blinds us from the reality of our own weaknesses and frailty and drives us to a life of false righteousness. Help me, Lord, to tend to my own sin and allow me to live into a peace with You and my fellow sinners.

Amen

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When I Say I Am a Christian

 This is a poem I shared in a recent sermon. I share it with you

“When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not shouting, ‘I’ve been saved!’

I’m whispering, ‘I get lost!’ That’s why I chose this way.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t speak with human pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble – needing God to be my guide.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not bragging of success.

I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt.

 

When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t think I know it all.

I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not claiming to be perfect.

My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I’m worth it.

 

When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name.

Carol Wimmer

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Incarnationalism

 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.James 1:27

 

 

Whenever the human and the divine coexist at the same time in the same person Francis-of-Assisi-Nancy-Earlewe have Christianity. I don’t know that it finally matters what Scriptures you read, liturgies you attend, or moral positions you hold about this or that—as much as “Do you live trustfully inside of God’s one world?”(Richard Rhor) This creates honest people, people who don’t waste time proving they’re right, superior, or saved, but just try to live and love the daily mystery that they are in the loving presence of God. “God comes to you disguised as your life,” as Paula D’Arcy loves to say. Imagine that!

 

There are basically four world views: (Fr. Richard Rhor)

1) Reality is just matter

2) Reality is just spirit

3) Through religion and morality we can work to put matter and spirit together

4) The material world has always been the place where Spirit is revealed.

You cannot put them together. They already are—as in Jesus. Only the fourth position, “incarnationalism,” deserves to be called authentic Christianity. It has to do with the right reality, not the right rituals.

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Mastering Your Passion

A disciple of Abba Anthony said, ‘If anyone wants to drive out the demons, he must first subdue the passions; for he will banish the demon of the passion which he has mastered. For example, the devil accompanies anger; so if you control your anger, the devil of anger will be banished. And so it is with each of these passions.’

——–Sayings of the Desert Fathers

 

Self-control and overcoming the negative forces and habits that drive each of us is a worthy goal. The wise old man attributes every problem very directly to a “demon.” We do not share such a view of good and evil. We do, however, need to acknowledge the presence of supernatural evil in our world. That being said, I want to concentrate on the positive advice of the saying.

Passion is the root of both good and evil. Learn to reap your positive passions, and subdue your negative (sins) ones and you will be on your way to a life of the Spirit. We are advised to master the passions that lead us away from God and our neighbor, thus banishing that obstacle of spiritual attainment from our lives. May each of us take this to heart, and make it a matter of fervent prayer.

Edmund-Burke


Prayer

Lord let me take serious the passions that drive me. By your spirit help me to control my negative passions and allow those that  are life giving to soar. May I soar in your direction all the days of my life. Give the wisdom to know the difference and the self control to win the day.

Amen

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Success

From Brown Book Magazine:1904

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


“I am going to work with Christ today, for the salvation of my soul, for that is the reward he gives.”

Sayings of the Desert


Whether it is the words of a great writer or a committed monk of the desert, the formula for success seems to be the same. Success is expressed by what we accomplish outside of ourselves by giving to others. Jesus said, “…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you.” Jesus makes it quite clear that hospitality or works that only have potential payback are not a key to the doorway of success. The essence of success is leaving more thaRalph-Waldo-Emerson-1fn you take. In doing so, your success provides for the welfare of all. Those who provide for the welfare of all find themselves immeasurably rewarded.

There is not one among us who does not seek success. For some, success is big and glowing but for others, it is far simpler. Our skill set, goals and definition of success are all factors in our ultimate success, but one thing remains constant, Those who act only out of selfish motives never find peace. A person who has no peace is not successful no matter how they appear on the outside. One who spends life laughing, loving, and enjoying has the ability to motivate and help others to grow. A person who seeks God in all work will find Him in multiple places. Never think of yourself as “merely” anything, but see yourself as one who contributes greatly to the world. The key word is always – CONTRIBUTE. Our lives will ultimately be measured by our contribution.


Prayer

Lord help me to see the needs of others around as being as important as mine. Lead me to give more than I take and receive graciously what I am given. Let every moment of my work be a time of prayer that is guided toward you. Let my days be filled with laughter and joy and my nights with rest and peace. Please allow me to contribute to the successes of others and to be at peace while doing so. My I leave a trail of abundance as I go about my days. Let me leave more than I take.

Amen

graciously what I am given. Let every moment of my work be a time of prayer that is guided toward you. Let my days be filled with laughter and joy and my nights with rest and peace. Please allow mw to contribute to the successes of others and to be at peace while doing so. My I leave abundance as I go about my days. Let me leave more than I take.

Amen

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Our Journey Toward God

 

Cloud-of-Unknowing-PIC-1The “Cloud of Unknowing” is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in the latter half of the 14th century. The text is a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer. The true message of this book is that the way to know God is to stop trying figure Him out and simply surrender yourself to the realm of “unknowing,” and then we begin to see a glimpse of God. The first chapter introduces four degrees that we all share in our journey to God. These are COMMON, SPECIAL, SINGULAR AND PERFECT. I would like to unpack some small truths about these degrees.

COMMON

The common degree is where we begin. In this degree we discover the joy of the creation of God. We see the love that he has surrounded us with in our friends, our activities and the things that make our lives worth living. Freely we acknowledge that we are created by Him from nothing and that He is the one who breathes life into us. When someone asks a “common” person if they believe in God, they answer with an enthusiastic, YES! They not only believe in God but comprehend His majesty.

SPECIAL

As our spiritual journey continues, a realization of the fall and sin of Adam comes into our lives. With this realization we can begin to see the suffering of the Savior as He redeems us of our sin with His marvelous grace. This degree brings us into a time when we realize that God sent Jesus to negate the sin of Adam and bring grace to all.

SINGULAR

By continued prayer and growth in faith we become extraordinary in our relationship with God. This relation begins to be natural and inbuilt into every aspect of life. We no longer “have” to pray but our lives become a prayer. This is a most challenging degree to reach. Most committed Christians fall in and out of this place.

PERFECT

Perfection is heavenly bliss. Such bliss is not attainable on this earth but must wait until we are joined to God in the heavenly state. John Wesley spent a great deal of his life looking to achieve this state but realized in his old age that it would not come this side of heaven. In spite of that he still reminds Methodists that they are marching on to perfection.

This path suggested by the writer of “Cloud of Unknowing” can serve us well as we live out our Christian journeys.


Prayer
O God, all hearts are open to you.
You perceive my desire.
Nothing is hidden from you.
Purify the thoughts of my heart
with the gift of your Spirit, that I may love you with a
perfect love and give you the praise you deserve.
Amen

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Finding a Way

One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph.   Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able.  But to each one the old man said, ‘You have not understood it.’ Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, ‘How would you explain this saying?’ and he replied, ‘I do not know.’ Then Abba Anthony ‘Indeed Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: “I do not know.”

—-Abba Anthony of Egypt

The current events of our day demand that presidential candidates know everything. As a result, these candidates say things that are not well thought out, and even reckless. People lie on their resumes because they feel they must do so in order to get ahead. The world we have created is one that encourages everyone to be more, do more than is realistic. That demand has been the downfall of many who could function in a world that accepts and respects, “I don’t know.”

“I do not know.” These are four most difficult words. Admitting these words has been difficult for people since the beginning, since we are created with a “must know” nature. All men run from mystery, and yet God is a mystery. He calls us to believe what we have not seen. We are led to serve without knowing the results of our service. Be attentive to the voice of the Spirit that calls us to action, even the things that remain a mystery to us.

The old monk helps us find a way in the here and now to the mystery of God. The “I do not know” is the way that we express our belief in that unknowing mystery of God. We are surrounded by atheists and doubters who have demanded concise and quick answers about the God we worship. We are first and foremost a people of faith. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Proclaim your faith and live your life in the joy of not having all the answers.

PRAYER

Dear Lord ,I do not know why there is so much evil in the world. I do not know why I fail to love you and my neighbor as much as I should. I do not know why prayers that seem so necessary go unanswered. I do not know why the scripture is full of mysteries. It is in that sort of unknowing that I cry out to you in faith.

Amen

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What Is Truth

A really good take on the subject of truth.

THE RIVER WALK

What is truth

Read: 2 Samuel 4:1 – 6:23, John 13:31 – 14:14, Psalm 119:17-32, Proverbs 15:31-32

Relate: Breakfast had been ruined. True, it was not the most lavish of meals but I enjoyed eating a bit of emmer and honey along with some figs and wine in the cool of the day before the world interrupts. Today the world interrupted too early. These pesky religious leaders led a band of rioters to my doorstep so that I might pronounce judgment on some criminal they managed to catch. These so called priests are quite fine with criminals running around causing trouble, just as long as they are their criminals. Apparently this guy got on their wrong side. So much for breakfast.

Two guards escorted in a man who looked already a bit beaten and disheveled. By appearances he hadn’t slept and his Jewish captors already have had a bit of sport with him. Even without this…

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Three Precepts

Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

—–Antony of Egypt


  • ALWAYS HAVE GOD BEFORE YOUR EYES

This statement begs the question, how do we always have God before our eyes? God is before our eyes when we worship and pray. The monk is telling us that our lives should be bathed in worship and prayer. In these practices we can find the face and heart of God.

  • WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT ACCORDING TO THE TESTIMONY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

The Psalmist writes, children sing -“the Bible is a lamp unto my and a light unto my path.” The monk advises that this simple instruction is one of the keys to pleasing God. Today’s world seems to have neither light nor path. Antony steers us to the lighted path of Holy Scripture.

  • WHATEVER PLACE YOU LIVE DO NOT EASILY LEAVE IT.

Monks call this one stability. Our transient, temporary society is floundering for lack of stability. Marriages crumble, jobs are abandoned, work goes unfinished, all because we are not willing to commit ourselves to being in for the long haul. Pleasing God requires that we develop stay power – the type that settles us in long enough to walk through the valley that precedes the mountain.

The words of this monk of old can take us a long way today.


God-Before-your-Eyes-Quote

Prayer

Lord help me to know how to live this day. May I have the unction to keep you before my eyes in the midst of the many distractions of this life. Help me to look to the scriptures when confusion and disarray come my way. Let your scriptural light- light my way. Allow me to find peace in the place that you have provided for me. In finding that peace, I then can become a blessing to others.

Amen

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