In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Not recognizing this is the sin of our age. We say, “I am my own master. No one can tell me what to do. I don’t have to bow to anyone.” It is pathetic. We style ourselves kings of our paltry dominions, quarreling over the insignificant realm of control left to us. We make judgements of the other kingdoms or castles on our street. We secretly wish we could summon our knights and storm the castles of the worst offending kingdoms near us.
But not so with Christians. We are humble in spirit. We think better of others than ourselves. We speak the best of them, assume the best of them, we do not presume to know other’s inner motivations as though we are God with all hearts lying open to us, able to know and judge their evil intentions, as if we didn’t fill in the blanks with the evil that we ourselves have practiced and thought. We are humble. This is a statement that any honest person here must be cringing at. For each of us has our druthers, our issues, that we judge others over. And I’m not talking about issues of morality, but of indifferent things that God has not spoken about. Societal rules that depend more on your upbringing, ethnicity, personality quirks than any moral truth. Repent. We are all in the same boat. Sad little kings sitting on our sad little thrones. Isolating ourselves when we judge others. Lifting ourselves up, thinking ourselves alone to be wise, holding a low opinion of everyone else. Repent.
This is not the way of the Christian. Instead learn from the two men in our Gospel reading who go the way of faith. Faith is by necessity humble because the first thing faith recognizes about itself is that you are an outcast, cast out of God’s presence by your sin. Faith in our God always starts there when it ponders the self. But remember that faith is not about the self but about God. He is focus of your faith. Faith that is all about the self is not Christian faith. Christian faith’s focus is God the Father who loved you by sending His Son to suffer and die on the cross in payment of your sin. That is its focus, its love, its trust, even its fear. Christian faith does not concern itself with itself. For that is arrogance. That is lifting oneself up in the presence of the Almighty Saviour who is your all in all.
But when the necessities of daily life should bring you out of your rapturous focus on your God, then faith remembers, “I am nothing apart from my Saviour. I am cut off from the Father apart from His Son.” Faith is humble and lowly.
Could this be one of the reasons we see Christianity doing so poorly in North America today? Our culture is built on lifting up the self, being a god in own eyes, seeking own pleasure, comfort, and happiness. We become god. We are not under authority. We are wise, proud, high, and lifted up in our own sight. We can all see how pathetic others who puff themselves up are, but do we see our own overwrought pride and failings? And if you are god, then what need have you for a god? Even when living life without God slaps us down, and squashes us with some new torturous burden we bring on ourselves by our choices, yet faith that clings to itself still rails against God, shouting at Him, “I have no need of you. I am sufficient. I am king of my life.” A sad little king, on a sad little throne.
Thus, we are confronted by two Christians today. One destroyed by disease, an outcast, humility forced on him by the conditions of life. He comes to our Lord humbly, recognizing His lordship over all the universe. He confesses his faith, saying, “If you should desire it, you have the power to heal me.” Humble. Not insisting on his own way. Just confessing the truth. Content with whatever the Lord should choose, but trusting in the Lord’s own promises. Trusting in His character. Trusting in His mercy. He is healed.
We heard of a second Christian. This time a man of power, but an outcast for He knows this Jesus is for and from a nation to which he does not belong. He recognizes that he is outside of Jesus’ circle. Yet, he knows that, despite the power he wields, he too is under a greater authority than himself. So he recognizes our Lord’s authority as greater than merely the Jewish people, an authority that holds sway over the universe. So he humbles himself in faith. He comes to the master of the universe. It is not hard for he is not puffed up with his own importance. Life has taught him his role, his place in the world. We are all under authority. So he knows how to earnestly approach a higher authority and ask of it a gift not for himself, but his boy, his servant.
We are under authority. Do not be proud in the face of that. Be humble. For each of us has authority over some small part of our world, but everyone of us has many authorities over us. Therefore, know your place in your world. Know your callings, your vocations and act accordingly. This is the Christian way. For even our Lord, the Son of God, through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that was made, even He knows Himself to be under authority. He delights in it. He is obedient to His Father, to His Word and His will. He delights in doing the things His loving Father expects of Him.
You And I are under no less of an authority than the same Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So be humble. Take a cue from a tiny child. For just as a tiny child in vulnerable humility smiles as soon as they see their loving, protecting daddy walk in to the room, and they crawl over, pull on his pant leg, and reach up for him. So our loving heavenly Father’s heart is conquered both by your need and your humble trust in Him. And when a father picks up that child and they nestle their heads into the crook of their authority’s neck all is right. For that is the loving humility and the loving protection that God our Father has for all those whom He has called His children through Holy Baptism into His Son’s suffering and death.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON