In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34; Luke 18:14) This does not mean that you should go manufacture up a whole lot of humility for yourself so that you can get the grace goodies from God. That’s Pharisaical. That’s hypocritical. The Pharisees were masters at “humbling themselves” before God while rubbing in everyone’s face how humble they were. A false “look at me” humility.
It means be like a little child (Luke 18:15-17). For unless you receive kingdom of God like a little child you can not enter it. Toddlers need their parents. Especially when once again they’ve lost a wrestling match with gravity. At that moment no one but mommy or daddy will do. And it doesn’t matter how many times you ask them, “What’s the magic word?” they still come to you demanding stories, food, drinks, and fixing of all their problems major and minor.
You are God’s child. You need Him. He is the one who can fix what is broken in you. The One you go to when the world hurts you. Even when you did it to yourself. Like a greedy, deceitful, whoremongering tax collector; or a prideful brother murderer; or a backstabber, a loser, a burnout, a drunk, a dramaqueen, a liar, an object of scorn—or whatever label you or the world put on you. Whatever word causes you to turn your eyes downward. But whatever you have done that is not who you are. The world tells you doing is being. Your worth is connected to what you do, what you don’t do, how much you make. You are what you do: whether that’s a prostitute, a cheat, a druggy, a homosexual, etc.
But the Lord tells you this day that He is your being. He is your Father. He claimed you in Holy Baptism. He elected you to be His own. He sent His Son to spill His blood in payment for you. To cover over the sin which cries out from the ground hounding after you. To silence your wounded conscience. To wash you clean in the water that flowed from His pierced side. And that makes you His. It has nothing to do with your doing.
Pharisees boast and mention and can’t stop talking about what they do. Even in prayer. Pride devours you and then devours others, bad mouthing, slandering or murdering those who best you. So God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, just as he rejected Cain’s prideful offering (Genesis 4:3-7; Hebrews 11:4), and then protected Cain when Cain, petulant child, cried out to God his Father in his lowly estate (Genesis 4:13-15).
God humbles those who exalt themselves and exalts those who humble themselves in faith. This is not another pharasaic scheme to get ahead with God, but the reality of failed children who are loved by their Father. Loved so much that He pays their debts. He covers their shame with His mercy. He sends His Son to take on Himself what they’ve done. To exchange their wicked deeds for His righteous deeds. To pour into their laps His Fatherly love. So that like beloved children they might be receivers of grace not boasters of mighty works.
For the receiving child, who humbly trusts, doesn’t think that it is presumptuous to come demanding good things from mom or dad. They just believe in their daddy’s goodness. And so they receive. And they go home justified to live as their daddy’s child. Their sins covered over by the blood of Him whose blood speaks a better word than Abel’s (Hebrews 12:24). Whose blood washes away sin rather than bringing it to remembrance (Genesis 4:10).
And so you who will not lift up your eyes for the shame of your doing, have your faces lifted and eyes wiped free of tears by Him who is your Being. By Him who out of love for His Father purchases for His Father sons and daughters out of all of their houses of bondage. For you are not those names you’ve been called, or you call yourself. You are a child of God. Wrapped in His arms of love and lifted up by Him onto His knee to be embraced by Him on His throne of grace.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON