Saturday, December 24, 2016

Part 4

Many of us see the Birth of Christ through the lenses of Nativity sets and childrens' Christmas pageants; Shepherds in bathrobes, angels in white with chiffon wings and coat hanger halos. Everything quiet and oh so peaceful! And with the uproar that is going on around us at this time of year, the peace is so pleasant.

But if the Birth of Jesus was anything, it was not peaceful. Bethlehem was filled with the descendant's of David, gathered by Roman Decree to be counted an taxed. All of the inns were full, every house was filled with distant relatives, and Roman soldiers were everywhere.

Out in the fields beyond the village; the fields where David had watched his father's sheep, it was probably much quieter. It was, for the most part an ordinary night like the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that as long as any of the shepherds could remember. Whatever they were talking about, it wasn't angels or babies. More than likely they were commenting on the new serving girl at the inn, or the killing of a sheep-eating wolf in a neighboring village, maybe, even the politics of the census, all the things they normally talked about as they sat in the dark watching their charges. Yes, it started out a peaceful night. But then came the angel. Then came the light. The Common English, and the God's Word translations say they were “terrified”. The Modern English says they “were very afraid.” Other translations use “Badly frightened”, “Terror-stricken,” and Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch Version says:”It nearly scared the life out of them.” In any event, the announcement and Birth of the Christ Child; the Prince of Peace was far from our peaceful vision.

It wasn't just the presence of the angel. It was all that light. Living in a world of artificial light that makes Time's Square at midnight on New Year's Eve,look like Medford at noon, it's hard for us to grasp. But imagine stepping out of your tent at 2 AM while elk hunting and suddenly the night is as bright as an exploding H-Bomb.
It was more than the angel, it was more than the light, it was the Glory, (literally the very apparent presence) of the Lord God Almighty—the one who was never to be seen, that surrounded them. In the midst of their routine, in the middle of the ordinary, the extraordinary became real. Night became day, dark became light. God has a way of doing that to and with us: transforming our brokenness into wholeness, our despair into joy, our sinfulness into righteousness.

But it doesn't require Angels or bright lights for God to break into our lives. God is the God of the extraordinarily ordinary. God takes the ordinary events of life and makes them extraordinary. Where was Saul when he met Christ? Riding to Damascus, an ordinary event, but God used it in extraordinary ways. Where was Martin Luther when he wrestled with the Biblical truth that we are saved not by works, but Grace? In his study, working on professorial lectures. And ordinary event made extraordinary by God. Where was John Wesley when his heart was strangely warmed? At a prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street; he even notes that he went “unwillingly.” an ordinary event made extraordinary by the newly felt presence of Christ. Someone thanks me for something I don't even remember saying in a sermon. An ordinary event made extraordinary by God's using it. A clerk's smile brightens your day, an ordinary event made extraordinary by God.

It's amazing how God works through the ordinariness of life to bring new life. Every
simple act, from taking morning coffee to your spouse, to brushing your teeth, to sitting at your desk, or in a pew is a potential for God; an arena in which God can, and does with some regularity, appear. What a gift to walk on the tiptoe of expectation! To know that at any moment God may break through our routine with the Good News of the Gospel! To know that our lives are the crucible in which God works.

For the shepherds, it began as an ordinary night, but soon became extraordinary. . the Angel, the light of God's glory, the announcement: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And finally, The heavenly host, the Angel Armies, bursting forth in praise: “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” The entire universe, “and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” all those to whom God extends grace, all of us.

And then, as quickly as they appeared, the angels were gone. Gone without a trace. Leaving the shepherds to wonder: “Did you see what I saw?” “Did you hear the angel saying the Messiah was born?” “Did you hear the heavens ringing with God's praise?”
C'mon! Let's go! I don't know about you, but I've gotta see this for myself!” And off they all traipsed to Bethlehem, apparently leaving the sheep to fend for themselves.
16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them.

Amazed, but did they believe it? Not everyone. The word translated here as “Amazed” is: Thou-mad-zo; to marvel or to wonder. In a small town like Bethlehem, the birth of a baby, even a baby born in a barn, would not go unnoticed. Many of those the shepherds told probably questioned what they heard. After all, shepherds weren't exactly the most reliable news sources of the day. But the shepherd's persisted, rejoicing and praising God for all to hear. And all who heard, responded. Some wondered, some doubted, some waited for more information, some believed. It is still
the same today, when we proclaim the birth of the Messiah. Not all will accept, but those who do will find peace on earth: not peace as the world gives, or tries to create, but true peace that puts our past behind us and lets us face the future unafraid. Peace of which John Wesley says:
- Peace in general; peace with God and with your own consciences. My peace - In particular; that peace which I (Christ( enjoy, and which I(Christ) create, I (Christ)give - At this instant. Not as the world giveth - Unsatisfying unsettled, transient; but filling the soul with constant, even tranquility.

This is the message of the angels; the good news of Christmas.

The angels of Christmas: messengers, guardians, worshipers, and proclaimers. May you see them all this season. AMEN.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Have You Seen the Angels? Part 3

All day, all night,
Angels watching over me, my Lord.
All Night, all day,
Angels watching over me.”

A little boy rushed into his kindergarten class one morning and made the following announcement:
My mother just had a baby, and it was born too soon, so they put it in a percolator.
It could never be said that the Baby Jesus was born too soon (or too late, for that matter). He was born, after all, right on schedule, in God's good time. It might be said, however, that right from the start, God put Him in a percolator.
...Even before he was delivered by Mary, she carried Him in her womb on a long, difficult, dangerous journey to Bethlehem.
...He was born under extremely adverse circumstances in a place designed to accommodate animals, not human beings.
...Shortly after His birth, He was targeted by King Herod for assassination.
...Then, in order to protect Him from the king's wrath, Mary and Joseph had to take their new born Babe on still another long, difficult, dangerous journey, into Egypt.
...This was followed by still another tedious trip back to Israel, after the death of King Herod.
When Jesus entered this "percolator" world, He needed protection. And the New Testament writers tell us how angels were assigned to keep Him safe and sound.

Little did Joseph know Mary's baby was in danger from the time of his conception. The huge red dragon of Revelation 12 was waiting and ready to destroy Jesus. Enter the guardian angels who stood watch over the child from the beginning. Hence we find angels again journeying to Nazareth. This time to reassure Joseph that all was well; to be sure an earthly father was in place to protect and care for the Holy Child. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.
Mat 1:21 She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus---because he will save his people from their sins." It was to be a perilous journey, fraught with danger every step of the way. When Herod tried to use the Magi to locate the child, Angels interceded, and sent them home by a different way. When Herod, in his anger at being tricked, determined to destroy the Child by killing all the males under two years old and around Bethlehem, a guardian angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Hurry and take the child and his mother to Egypt! Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is looking for the child and wants to kill him."
Mat 2:14 That night, Joseph got up and took his wife and the child to Egypt. Even after Herod died,and Joseph, was given the all clear by the angel, the family didn't return to Bethlehem, but to the remote village of Nazareth in distant Galilee; a move quite likely coached by the angels.

The fact that the child, Jesus, needed guardian angles speaks to his importance in God's plan. Yes, he was to die, but not yet. Still, trying to obstruct God's plan, Satan and his minions went after the child with a vengeance. Unable to convince Joseph to divorce Mary, bringing shame and shunning on her and her child, he used Herod's fear of loosing power to try to kill the infant. Never, in all history, was one infant the center of so much struggle. Without the angles to give warning, and Joseph to heed and obey, the story would certainly ended differently.

Like the Christ child, all of us need a bit of protection from time to time. I'm not certain if we all have heavenly guardian angels or non; theological scholars come down on both sides of the issue. But this I believe: Just as God surrounded Jesus with an army of angels. Some are heavenly, some are human.
All are here to help us and protect us. Fay is convinced that our friend Peggy is a guardian angel. When she had a difficult time bringing her mother back from sister's. It was Peggy who not only helped with transportation, but protected Fay from her Aunt.

Often times God sends people we don't know to help us. The story is told of a woman who came rushing into a beauty parlor asking:”Does anyone here know how to stop the hiccups? to the sink,
What is the matter with you!” the woman shouted as she jumped from the chair, “Are you crazy​?”
You don't have the hiccups any more, do you?” the stylist smiled.
I didn't have the hiccups when I came in.” the indignant woman snorted. My mother is sitting out in the car very upset because she has a stubborn case of hiccups. Perhaps you'd step outside and slap her.”
And then there are those times we don't really want an angel. The busy Christmas shopping season was in full swing. A little boy was standing in the middle of the aisle of one of the large department stores and he was crying, "I want my mommy!" As people would go by they would say, "There, there, little boy. Your Mama will find you." And a number of them had given him pocket change to help assuage his tears. But he kept sobbing, with tears running down his cheeks. Finally someone from the department store came along and said, "I know where your mommy is, son." And the little boy looked up and responded, "So do I, just keep quiet."

Did you ever wonder where are the angels when you do need them? In a Bill Keene Family Circus comic strip, Billy comes into the house all tattered and torn. He looks like he's been in a wreck and then a fight and then drug for a mile or two by a team of runaway horses. He asks: "Do guardian angels take days off?" No. God's presence is always with us, we are never alone, even when there is no one around. A little boy was eagerly looking forward to the birthday party of a friend who lived only a few blocks away. When the day finally arrived, a blizzard made the sidewalks and roads nearly impassable. The lad's father, sensing the danger, hesitated to let his son go. The youngster reacted tearfully. "But Dad," he pleaded, "all the other kids will be there. Their parents are letting them go." The father thought for a moment, then replied softly, "All right, you may go." Surprised but overjoyed, the boy bundled up and plunged into the raging storm. The driving snow made visibility almost impossible, and it took him more than half an hour to trudge the short distance to the party. As he rang the doorbell, he turned briefly to look out into the storm. His eye caught the shadow of a retreating figure. It was his father. He had followed his son's every step to make sure he arrived safely.
That is how God watches over us.

From before his birth to the time of his death, resurrection, and ascension, God surrounded Jesus with protection and care. In baptism we are raised with Christ, and Christ himself promises us in John 10: “My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me,
and I give them eternal life, so that they will never be lost. No one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father gave them to me, and he is greater than all others. No one can snatch them from his hands,”

Like Jesus, we are surrounded and protected by God's Holy Spirit. We are His, and He is ours. May your Advent be blessed with the sight of angels.

Have You Seen the Angels? Part 2

It's an obvious understatement to say we live in a time of great fear. The language of "terror" has become the motivating mantra of our day. A Google search for the word "fear," came up with a fascinating site called "The Phobia List"—pages of phobias, A to Z. Everything from Alliumphobia—the fear of garlic and Lachanophobia—the fear of vegetables to Zemmiphobia—the fear of the great mole rat. It even lists Ecclesiophobia—the fear of church and, get this, Homilophobia—the fear of sermons! You can even get a poster of the "Phobia List" which will cover your entire wall. We all have our own phobia lists, We all have our own phobia lists, and the list can be as fresh as the morning papers: Daily bad news about the state of the economy or personal security; Ongoing fighting in the middle east with no clear sense of how long it will go on, or when, if ever, it will end; horrendous fires, tornadoes, drug resistant bacteria, plane crashes, epidemics, drought and flooding. Add to that, fear-mongering TV preachers and politicians who use talk of terror for political gain until the fear of terror becomes its own terror. Then add to that, panic-driven newscasters who can't even give the weather without fear-filled, bated breath. It all leads to what Jane Spencer in the Wall Street Journal refers to as the "fear system" of our day. Into that maze of fear, we have the audacity to read the word of the angel to Mary: "Do not be afraid!"
Do not be afraid. It's a hard message to accept in the face of our world. But, like FDR, Advent reminds us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Mary was both troubled and confused by what the angel told her. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” Mary was quite likely wondering just what such a greeting meant. Why would she, an insignificant young woman from an insignificant village be favored by God? Granted that she was of the House of David (Through Aaron) as was her husband Joseph; but then being descended from David wasn't all that unusual. So what had she done to deserve such a greeting?

As Mary wondered what the greeting meant, Gabriel continued: 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 1 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.

Why? Mary Asked. “Why Mary?” we ask. Why an unwed, impoverished, and teenage girl?

Throughout the gospels Mary is portrayed as thoughtful, obedient, believing, worshipful and devoted to Jewish law. To us, and to all who knew her, she is the ideal Christian. However, none of these qualities are offered as reasons for God choosing her, God’s reasoning is tucked away from our view. We can guess, and we can come to our own conclusions, but the truth of God’s choice is known only to God in his eternal plan.

If Mary had wanted a perfect life on unbroken happiness, ease and pleasure in all things, then she certainly didn’t get it. If she had tried to measure up the favor of the Lord by the expectations of the world, then it would seem that the promise and salutation of the angel was only an illusion.

There are those who would tell you that God's favor results in health, wealth, and prosperity. God's love is exhibited in a beautifully decorated tree with presents piled high around it. Televangelists and Christian writers proclaim that God’s favor is with them, that God wanted them to be wealthy and powerful. Their messages always contain some sort of theologically problematic promise: If only you pray more, if you only read your bible more, if you only put more money in the offering plate, then God will make you healthy, happy, holy, and wealthy. That is not the favor Mary Experienced, nor is it the Gospel Jesus proclaimed. If God had wanted our discipleship to be easy then he would not have come into the world through the difficult situation of an unwed virgin. If God had wanted our faith to be easy then we would have no need for church, repentance, and forgiveness.

On the contrary, it appears that if you are “favored”, you are probably being recruited by God, who has a task for you. At it may well be something you don't want to do. Like Jonah. The LORD told Jonah, the son of Amittai, (Jon 1:2) to go to the great city of Nineveh and say to the people, "The LORD has seen your terrible sins. You are doomed!" Jonah didn't want to go so he ran in the opposite direction only to learn that you cannot run away from God. God’s favor and blessing do not necessarily mean life is easy, we get our way, or we live happily ever after. It is not God’s reward for right behavior or right believing. It is rather a state, a condition, a way of being. Mary’s “yes” to God is not the source of or reason for her favoring and blessing. Rather, her favoring and blessing are the source and origin of and the means by which she can say “yes.”

With Mary, and frankly with every single one of us, it comes down to obedience. Purely and humbly Mary put herself into the hands of God. She sacrificed so that God’s will could be done in the world. “Let it be with me according to your word.”

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

"Excuse me," Governor Herter said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?"

"Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person."

"But I'm starved," the governor said.

"Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."

Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. "Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state."

"Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."

The baby Mary would give birth to is the one in charge of this meal. It appears to be a simple meal, just bread and juice. But it is so much more. It is the body and blood of the one called great; the Son of the Most High God; poured out for you, and for many for the forgiveness of sins. So don't be afraid to take seconds...or even thirds. This is the food of salvation, the food of grace. Come, eat, drink, and celebrate! AMEN.

Have You Seen the Angels, part1

My beloved wife, has, from time to time, described me as being a bit on the stubborn side. The phrase she uses is something like: “You make a Missouri mule seem obedient.” Well, I may be a bit set in my ways, but I do like to think I would at at least recognize, listen to, and believe the words of an angel, should one appear to me. Not so Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest in the order of Abijah. He was old at the time of this story, and he and his wife had failed at one of their most important cultural duties, bearing children. In Israel and among oriental peoples generally barrenness was a woman's and a family's greatest misfortune. The highest sanctions of religion and patriotism blessed the fruitful woman, because children were necessary for the perpetuation of the tribe and its religion. Indeed, barrenness was considered a punishment, though for the life of him, Zechariah could not understand why he was punished. Some scholars suggest that by this time, probably the only time in his life he would serve at the temple, his faith had been reduced to a mere repetition of the prescribed rituals; he was simply going through the motions.

How many of us are, or know folks like that? Every Sunday finds them in church; they start and end their day with prayer; they treat others as they would want to be treated and even go out of their way to aid and assist those in need. Yet, in their hearts the”re is no fire. They even contemplate why they do all these things. Maybe it's like my Daddy told me: “There are some things you do simply because they are things you do. For Zechariah, going through the motions was what one did simply because one was born a priest.

And so, when Abijah's order was called, Zechariah dutifully reported to the temple where he offered sacrifices, adjudicated legal matters, pronounced blessings over the people and performed other priestly tasks. Then one day he won the lottery. It was the custom that each day a lottery was held to determine who would enter the Sanctuary and burn the incense. The Sanctuary was the most sacred part of the Temple. It was an impressively high building, of white stones some of which were of very great size: 36 feet long, 18 feet broad and 12 feet high! The building had a vestibule and two halls. The first hall was called the Holy Place. No one was allowed to enter it, except priests twice a day. It was beautifully decorated, as described in 1 Kings 6,15-36. The inner sanctuary was thirty feet in length, width, and height. Solomon overlaid it with pure gold and covered the altar with cedar.[a] 21 Solomon covered the temple’s interior with pure gold. He placed gold chains in front of the inner sanctuary and covered it with gold.
There were three main religious objects in the Holy Place: the altar on which incense was burned, the table with bread offerings and the candlestick with seven branches.
It was here that God interacted with humans, and here that God interacted with Zechariah through the angel Gabriel. While there are unknown thousands of angels in the bible, only three, Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer are named. Michael the Archangel is the leader of all angels and of the army of God. Gabriel is the messenger

Most modern images of angels are sweet, cherubic appearing creatures in white flowing gowns, with halos and lovely wings...the parts played by little children in the classic Christmas pageant. But that's not an accurate or realistic image. Daniel was terrified when he saw Gabriel and fell with his face to the ground. While we do not know exactly what he looked like, we do know two things: His appearance was frightening, and he was recognizable as an angel.

As Zechariah was in the Sanctuary burning the incense, all the people who gathered to worship were praying outside. 11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.

Don't be afraid” Gabriel begins his message: “Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers[a] back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Poor stubborn, faith-lost Zechariah. Not only can he not believe what he has heard from the angel; he voices his disbelief. “I'm too old.” he says; “so is my wife.”

Well, then,” answers Gabriel, “because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”

When Zechariah comes out of the Sanctuary, it is clear to those waiting that something has happened. Because he was unable to speak to them,and could only gesture, they realized he had seen a vision.

We don't know how Zechariah explained to Elizabeth what had happened, but Gabriel was right, an elated Elizabeth soon found herself pregnant... (Luk 1:24) and for five months she did not leave the house. She said to herself, (Luk 1:25) "What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me."Even when we doubt God, even when our faith is reduced to simply going through the motions, God doesn't give up on us. Even though we may think God doesn't hear our prayers, that they are just empty recitations, God listens. God answers. It may not be when or how we think it should be, but God listens and fulfills our needs. Somewhere deep down in the bottom of his soul, Zechariah found the faith to recognize Gabriel, and the courage to ask “How?” In silencing Zechariah's tongue, Gabriel also silenced his doubts and restored his lost faith. If we can only find the strength to confess our doubts, to continue to pray when praying seems useless, we, too, will find our prayers answered and our faith restored.

May you see the angels this Advent. AMEN.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Luke 21:5-19, Isaiah 65:17-25                                                                        November 13, 2016

Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another, all will be demolished.”

The Temple was the center of Jewish faith. Even as Jesus predicted it's destruction, it was 46 years into it's second restoration The grand symbol of security to the Jews at the time, it was where God and humans interacted. Four football fields wide, and five long, it was made of marble so pure that, from a distance, it looked like a snow capped mountain. There was a wall of gold that shone blindingly brilliant in the sun, and it was filled with treasures from around the known world. For Jesus to prophesy the destruction of this magnificent edifice was baffling, and almost blasphemous.

On Wednesday morning many Americans awoke despondent; the unexpected, and to them, inexplicable victory of Donald Trump left them pondering the words of Henry Kissinger: “More than at any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads--one path leading to despair and utter hopelessness, the other leading to total destruction.” The election result brought chaos to international financial markets ,(but that seems to be calming down) and has both our allies and our opponents questioning the solidarity of their relations with the United States. Some ask, “Are we returning to the 1950's America of racism ,prejudice, oppression and, even McCarthyist red-baiting and witch hunting?” .There was an explosion in search traffic on Google for terms such as "emigrate" and "how to emigrate to Canada,” while huge numbers of internet surfers worldwide also began googling the phrase "end of the world" when the news broke. Others, I am sure, are stocking up on food, gold, guns generators, guns and ammo in preparation for the cataclysm they see coming. Others have taken to the streets.

Teacher, they asked, “when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?” Many of us wonder the same thing. Jesus doesn't give a direct answer, he doesn't tell us that it will be two weeks from the second Wednesday of March, 2019. He simply tells us to be faithful. And yet there are still those who claim to know when the end will come. The latest prediction, August 21, 2017 when a total eclipse is expected to spread across America. with western Europe experiencing a partial eclipse. It will be the first total eclipse to travel from one coast of America to the other, for almost a century .Conspiracy theorists have pointed to passages from The Book of Revelation to support their predictions. Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Cautions Jesus, Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them.” The politicians are not our salvation. The President can neither prevent nor halt what God has planned. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions,” Jesus continues, “don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.” Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky.”

The things Jesus prophesied were then, like they are now, current events of the day. Rome was always fighting rebellions and other lands. Disease and hunger were almost a universal norm. But, says the Lord, as bad as things are, this is not the end. .

The editors of The Wesleyan Study Bible believe that the “Wars and rebellions” of v. 9 refers to the Jewish uprising of 77AD when the temple was destroyed, while others say we cannot tie the prophesies to any particular event in the first or subsequent centuries. Whatever century Jesus is talking about, the important thing for us is to be faithful, especially when we face uncertain times; especially when we feel disenfranchised, that no one knows or cares about us; that what we think and feel doesn't matter.

However we voted, and I'm pretty sure that we did not all vote the same, we are still in Christ, and we are called to reflect that in how we treat and respond to others. Whether you think the election is the best or worst thing to happen to the United States, we are all in this together. This is a time for reconciliation and prayer.
The times they are a changing. The future may look bleak. Great or ungreat, this nation will never be the same; but there is no cause for alarm. We do not and cannot know what the future will bring; but we need not live in fear, for we can and do know the one who brings us the future: a future of promise, a future of hope, a future of joy. A future described by Isaiah, who promises in God's name a new creation, a new Jerusalem, even more fantastic than the first.
The times they are a changing. The future may look bleak. Great or ungreat, this nation will never be the same. We do not and cannot know what the future will bring; but we need not and should not live in fear, for we can and do know the one who brings us the future: a future of promise, a future of hope, a future of joy. A future described by Isaiah, who promises in God's name a new creation, a new Jerusalem, even more fantastic than the first.
My chosen people will use your name as a curse. I, the Sovereign LORD, will put you to death. But I will give a new name to those who obey me. Anyone in the land who asks for a blessing will ask to be blessed by the faithful God. Whoever takes an oath will swear by the name of the faithful God. The troubles of the past will be gone and forgotten." The LORD says, "I am making a new earth and new heavens. The events of the past will be completely forgotten. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create. The new Jerusalem I make will be full of joy, and her people will be happy. I myself will be filled with joy because of Jerusalem and her people. There will be no weeping there, no calling for help. Babies will no longer die in infancy, and all people will live out their life span. Those who live to be a hundred will be considered young. To die before that would be a sign that I had punished them. People will build houses and get to live in them---they will not be used by someone else. They will plant vineyards and enjoy the wine---it will not be drunk by others. Like trees, my people will live long lives. They will fully enjoy the things that they have worked for. (SEE 65:21) The work they do will be successful, and their children will not meet with disaster. I will bless them and their descendants for all time to come. Even before they finish praying to me, I will answer their prayers. Wolves and lambs will eat together; lions will eat straw, as cattle do, and snakes will no longer be dangerous. On Zion, my sacred hill, there will be nothing harmful or evil."
(Isa 65:15-25)

Stand firm in the faith,” says Jesus. “Remain obedient to God. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and be saved.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

In Good Company

Luke 19:1-10                                                                                                           October 30, 2016

You have no idea how much I detested this story when I was a kid. Every time it came up in Sunday School it was accompanied by That song:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man
a wee little man was he;
he climbed way up in a sycamore tree
Lord Jesus for to see.
And,  of course,  everyone in the class looked at me, many with a smirk on their face. I never wanted to hear this story again!

Then, when I was in Seminary, I learned that the Greek in the oldest Manuscripts of Luke is unclear, but it may well be that it was Jesus, not Zacchaeus, who was the wee little man! I like that! Like Zacchaeus, that puts me in really good company!

Jesus met Zacchaeus where he met a lot of people whose lives he touched: at home on the road. While the "Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, the Son of Man didn't have a place to call his own." Mary and Joseph were on the road when He was born, and again shortly after when they fled to Egypt. He was on the Road when He called Simon and his partners, James and John; and again when he called Matthew. He was on the road when his hungry disciples picked grain on a Sabbath and aroused the ire of the Pharisees. It was on the road that he healed the Centurion's daughter and raised the widow's son at Nain. He was on the road in the region of the Gerasenes when he was confronted by, and healed, a demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs. It was in a crowded street that a desperate woman reached out, touched the hem of his garment, as was healed.

Later, Jesus sent his disciples on the road to heal the sick, teach the masses, and proclaim the Kingdom of God. On the road to Jerusalem, he met a Samaritan woman at the well; and he often taught his followers as they walked along the road. Indeed, the Gospel of Jesus may be the original Road Trip story.

On the road again, Jesus entered Jericho where a man named Zacchaeus lived. He was in charge of collecting taxes and was very rich. Jesus was heading his way, and Zacchaeus wanted to see what he was like. But Zacchaeus was a short man and could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree. (SEE 19:3) When Jesus got there, he looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today." I don't know about you, but when I was young I learned the hard way that it is considered rude to invite yourself to lunch. But Jesus isn't about rules and etiquette, Jesus is about repentance, forgiveness, and fresh starts.

Upon hearing Jesus invite himself to Zacchaeus' house, the self-righteous in the crowd immediately began muttering: “He's going there for lunch?” “He's going to share a meal with a tax collector?” “Isn't he afraid some of Bacchus' sin will rub off on him?” It did, of course, but that's another sermon.

So Jesus is at the house of this despicable character, a Jew who sold out to the Romans to make money from his neighbors. Suddenly Zacchaeus blurts out: "I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have,” ever cheated." Yeah, right! You and I are pretty certain that isn't going to happen, and I would guess Jesus had his doubts,too. But if so, he didn't show it. The rash promise reminds me of Fr. Mulcahy in M*A*S*H. A young soldier who has been snatched from the jaws of death by Hawkeye and the medical staff says: “FR. When the attack came, and there was all the noise, and all the shooting, and all those enemy soldiers coming at me, I promised God that if I got out of there alive, I'd become a priest. Father, I don't want to be a priest!” With the understanding and compassion he so often exhibits, Fr. Mulcahy let's the young man off the hook. “If God demanded every fox hole promise to be kept,” he explains, “We'd have more priests than people who need them.”

Jesus may, or may not, expect Zacchaeus' promises to be kept, but he welcomes and rewards the spirit of repentance in which they are made. "Salvation has come to this house today,” the Lord proclaims, “for this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham.” It is not the promises, but the change that has come over Zacchaeus, that matters. When we encounter Jesus we come away changed. When we truly come to know Jesus, nothing is ever the same again. After the resurrection, Simon tried to return to fishing: he couldn't do it-he had changed. Certainly Bartimaeus and the ten lepers were never the same again. The centurion's daughter and the widow of Nain were forever changed; and so are we.

You simply cannot be touched by Christ and remain the same. It simply isn't possible. That's why we call it “Born Again,” because we are a new person. John Wesley taught that this new birth brings about great inward changes that affect our entire existence. Before encountering Christ, he writes, we lived under a thick fog that thwarts us from hearing or following the voice of God. After encountering Christ, after our new birth, the fog is lifted “The eyes of our understanding are now opened and [we] seeth Him that is invisible. We become able to receive the divine Spirit that God continually breathes into us and to respond to God through faith in love and prayer.” (The Wesley Study Bible, Abington Press, Nashville, 2009. Page 1522) Such change in the reborn is as continuous as the seasons as we move from glory to glory until we are transformed into Christ's likeness. If your life with Christ is not chainging you, invite Him to lunch.

You know, cell phones really are a wonderful invention—even if they do cost a $5 donation to UMCOR when they go off during church. Before cell phones, Fay and I would wander aimlessly through the mall looking for each other. Then, when our paths finally crossed, I would be on the receiving end of a stern lecture on the sin of not staying in one place. Now, when we get separated, I just hit her number on speed dial, and, assuming she has her phone with her, we can quickly make arrangements to meet.

Like Fay and I wandering through the mall, like Abram in search of a new land, too many Christians and would be Christians wander from placer to place never really knowing where they are going or what they are looking for. They visit church after church, ministry after ministry, seeking the right sermon, the right song, the right prayer, the right scripture that will let them find Christ. They are pilgrims without a pilgrimage. The truth is, there is no right church, there is no right sermon, no right prayer, no right scripture. While they are wandering around seeking who knows what, Christ is right there in the middle of the road; right there in the pew; right there in the office or store; right there, wherever they are: “Hello, I'm right here? Won't you invite me to lunch?”

Are you spending your time and effort up a tree looking for Jesus? fumbling your way through the fog? or on the road, walking with him? Maybe you walked with him for a while, but now you've wandered off and are lost again. There is no better place, and no better time than here and now to start, or renew your walk. Look, He's here on the road beside you, calling for you to come down from that tree; to get off the sidelines and into the game; to walk with him in the peace, presence, and power of the Holy Spirit. Come, as we rise and sing #2151 FWS I'm So Glad Jesus Lifted Me. AMEN


Luke 12:13-21 October 23, 2016,                                                       Harvest Thanksgiving

So, Pastor,” you may ask, “What did this farmer do that was so terrible. Didn't you tell us last week that if we pray for a good crop we should get out and hoe the fields? And isn't that just what the farmer did?”
Well, I guess it is. But the farmer forgot the second rule of Discipleship: “Avoid the tyranny of things.” That is: “Don't let the things you own, own you.” The farmer in the parable had too much. "What can I do?” he said, “I don't have a place large enough to store everything." Later, he said, "Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods.”

So far So good. Makes sense to store the grain for another season. Makes sense to keep your goods dry and safe from thieves and vermin.

You may remember the TV ad some years ago for those big plastic bins we store stuff in. This family is looking at all the stuff
jammed into their house and garage and wondering what to do. They purchase a bunch of the advertised tubs and put all their stuff in them. Looking at the neatness around her, the mother says:”Look at all this space! We need to buy more stuff!”

The tyranny of things. When our possessions take over our lives, and we are so busy keeping, caring for, and protecting them, we have no time to enjoy life. We become so fearful of loosing them, we are even afraid to use them.

I saw an article several weeks ago about the pros and cons of investing in precious metals: gold and silver bullion. The article pointed out that many folks invest in coins and bullion fearing the disintegration of the economic system. (Remember the millennial bug?) Although the writer felt such a scenario was extremely unlikely, If they are right, their investments may be the only viable currency. The article then went on to discuss the cons of such investments. First, are you actually getting what you pay for? How can you know? The metals must be assayed for purity and coins must be validated. The investments must be stored in a secure, yet available place; are you ready to pay for storage? Or purchase and install a safe in your home?

It reminded me of the story of a demon who kept watch over a large treasure buried under and old house. One day he was called to another part of the world from where he would not be able to return for 20 years. The demon considered what he should do with the,” treasure as it was too large and too heavy to take with him. He considered hiring a watchman, but that would cost a lot of money. If he left it under the house, someone could dig it up and steal it. What was he to do? Then he hit on an idea. He took his treasure to the home of a miser. “Good sir” the demon began, “I wish to give you this gift before I depart for a far away land. I have always admired you and trust you will accept this gift. You may do with it as you wish, spend it for whatever you want or need. I only ask that when you die, I be named the sole heir of your estate.” Of course the miser jumped at the thought of all that gold, and the demon departed, his deal made.
Twenty years later, having completed his assignment, the demon returned to find the miser had died of starvation. The demon found the treasure, still intact in its strong box, and not a penny missing. He carried his treasure home laughing, knowing that he had found a guardian who didn't cost him a thing!

The farmer determined would build a safe place for his things, but listen to what he says next: Then I'll say to myself, 'You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' " There are two faults with his reasoning. First, like far too many folks, the farmer believes that his good fortune is all his own doing. He fails to see the hand of God, or the work of his employers having contributed to his wealth. He's like the businessman who brags “I did it all by myself, with no help from anyone. “ Unless you count hi the grants, scholarships, and student loans that got him through college; The Small Business Administration Loan that got him started in business; the tax breaks he gets from various governmental bodies, and so on. Like the businessman who fails to recognize the help he has received, the farmer in our story has left God out of the equation. Nowhere, not once, does he mention God, let alone thank God for what he has.

Let's get this straight: the farmer is not faulted for amassing his wealth. John Wesley's first rule of money was: “earn all you can.” Jesus is not anti-wealthy. Remember when A woman came in with a bottle of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus' head? When his disciples saw this, they became angry and complained, "Why such a waste? We could have sold this perfume for a lot of money and given it to the poor." Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said: Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me. (Mat 26:7-10) John tell us that: After the soldiers had nailed Jesus to the cross, they divided up his clothes into four parts, one for each of them. But his outer garment was made from a single piece of cloth, and it did not have any seams. The soldiers said to each other, "Let's not rip it apart. We will gamble to see who gets it." His cloak was a fine piece of clothing, it was the Brooks Brothers suit of the day. What Jesus objected to was not that we have property, but that we fail to realize we have it only in trust.

Which brings us to the farmers second mis-reasoning. ll that we have comes from God. When God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, blessed them, and said, "Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals. I have provided all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit for you to eat; (Gen 1:27-29) As we celebrate the harvest, it is appropriate that we give thanks. And is so doing, we remember that thanksgiving includes giving. Giving thanks, and sharing the abundance/
In Deuteronomy God not only commands:
The LORD is giving you the land, and soon you will conquer it, settle down, and plant crops. And when you begin harvesting each of your crops, the very first things you pick must be put in a basket. Take them to the place where the LORD your God chooses to be worshiped, and tell the priest, "Long ago the LORD our God promised our ancestors that he would give us this land. And today, I thank him for keeping his promise and giving me a share of the land." The priest will take the basket and set it in front of the LORD's altar. Then, standing there in front of the place of worship, you must pray: My ancestor was homeless, an Aramean who went to live in Egypt. There were only a few in his family then, but they became great and powerful, a nation of many people. The Egyptians were cruel and had no pity on us. They mistreated our people and forced us into slavery. We called out for help to you, the LORD God of our ancestors. You heard our cries; you knew we were in trouble and abused. Then you terrified the Egyptians with your mighty miracles and rescued us from Egypt. You brought us here and gave us this land rich with milk and honey. Now, LORD, I bring to you the best of the crops that you have given me. After you say these things, place the basket in front of the LORD's altar and bow down to worship him. Then you and your family must celebrate by eating a meal at the place of worship to thank the LORD your God for giving you such a good harvest. And remember to invite the Levites and the foreigners who live in your town.
(Deu 26:1-11)
But also: “Every year you are to give ten percent of your harvest to the LORD. But every third year, this ten percent must be given to the poor who live in your town, including Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows. That way, they will have enough to eat.” (Deu 26:12)

The harvest for which we give thanks, the food we produce, is sacred. Hence, the World Council of Churches has proposed The Ten Commandments of Food.
I Give thanks for the food you eat.

II. Eat food grown as close as possible to where you live.

III. Strive for all people to have knowledge about and access to affordable, nutritious food.

IV. Eat mindfully and in moderation.

V. Do not waste food.

VI. Be grateful to those who grow and prepare food for your table.

VII. Support fair wages for farm workers, farmers and food workers.

VIII. Reduce the environmental damage of land, water and air from food production and the food system.

IX. Protect the biodiversity of seeds, soils, ecosystems and the cultures of food producers.

X. Rejoice and share the sacred gift of food with all.

According to, the food insecurity rate right here in Jackson County is between 15 and 19% of households. Food insecurity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. That means that on any given day, as many as 12,000 Jackson County homes are without adequate food. This is a disgrace a state that produces huge amounts of beef, potatoes, Green peas, onions, snap beans, sweet corn, filberts are other Oregon crops berries, pears, plums and cherries and Apples, to name a few. America leads the world in food production, yet one in eight Americans, including 5 million seniors and 13 million children face hunger every day. I can't help but wonder how much of that is due to people like the farmer in today's story: How much in due to the lack of generosity? How much is due what I call the “I got mine” mentality that looks no further than the dining room table?

The farmer's failure to acknowledge, or be generous to God; his stinginess toward other people, cost him his life. Jesus concludes the story with:  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

As we celebrate the harvest, let us celebrate with Thanks and with Giving. AMEN.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Vulture or Hummingbird?

A few weeks ago, when Fay and I traveled to Portland for my class's 70th birthday party, I made it a point to go past my “growing up” house on Oatfield Road. I almost didn't recognize it. There was a huge hedge across the front, and what had been our front porch had been torn out and a large deck built in its place. The front windows had been changed and the place painted a different color. It was the same building, but not the same house. I guess Thomas Wolfe was right.
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."

This is the situation faced by the exiled Judeans. The destruction of the Temple and the exile to Babylon represents a tremendous shock to the Jewish people. It may be hard to imagine today what it must have meant back then, because we really have no basis of comparison.
In those days normative Judaism meant living with the constant presence of God, which was always accessible at the Temple. Miracles occurred there daily and could be witnessed by anyone. For example, whichever way the wind was blowing, the smoke of the sacrifices always went straight to heaven. Feeling spiritual today is nothing compared what it was like to feel spiritual in the Temple. With such intense spirituality it was clear that God was with the Jewish people.
The same thing could be said for the land. One miracle that the land exhibited was that every six years there was a bumper crop so that the Jews could take the seventh year -- the sabbatical year -- off from labor. It was amazing.
Now all of that is gone. The land, the Temple, God's presence. (Remember, the Jews of the time saw God as geocentric, belonging to, and present in a specific place—the temple. Is it any wonder they lamented in Psalm 137:
1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps
upon the poplars.
3 For there our captors made us sing
and our tormentors made us entertain,
saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
4 How shall we sing the song of the Lord
in a foreign land?
They were strangers in a strange land, far from home. Their only hope was that somehow God, from whom they had turned, would swiftly rescue them and return them home. And so they spent their time hoping and wishing, but doing nothing about planning their future.

As I mentioned several weeks ago, Fay and I met with our financial planner to look at and determine which of several investment strategies would best. meet our short and long term goals. One reason for this is, of course, that at 70, long term goals aren't as long term as they were when I was 30.
The point is, we need to plan and prepare for the future, even though we aren't always sure of what it will hold. But just has they had abandoned God and ended up in exile, they now abandoned all hope for the future. They were just going to sit in Babylon and waste away until someone else, presumably God, returned them home.

In Jerusalem, some 800 miles away, God came to Jeremiah and told him what was (or perhaps more accurately, wasn't) happening in Babylon. Apparently the exiles, the former leaders, movers, and shakers of Jerusalem still didn't get it. They still didn't understand they were being punished. And so, directed by God, Jeremiah writes them:
4 This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:
You're not coming home; at least not for a long time. Get used to it. Put on your big boy pants and get to work.
5 “Build houses and make yourselves at home.
“Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.
6 “Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.
7 “Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.
Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”
In other words: “For the next 70 years, this is your home, whether or not you think so, whether or not you want it to be. That's the reality, So quit your whining and get on about the business of living. Build houses, plant fields and vineyards, start businesses, become active in the community, be a part of your

As Steve Goodier reminds us:
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation's deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do.

A colleague of mine was appointed to church that was dying. He was told that his job was to prepare the congregation for their closing and disbandment. After all, the few members left were, by their own description, old, tired, and weak. Undeterred by what he heard, my colleague saw this as an opportunity. He went in not with the goal of closing, but with the goal of growth and rebirth. He became active in the community, convinced a group of youth to form a praise band, restarted the Sunday School, began a school backpack program, opened a thrift store and food bank. Soon the congregation began to grow. Within a few years the major problem of that church was not keeping the doors open, but finding room for everyone and every ministry. In short, where the conference expected a vulture, they found a hummingbird.

The ten lepers in today's gospel were, for all intents, vultures. Outcasts from society, they existed of the scraps of food and rags of clothing those who felt pity would leave for them. Unclean, they were not allowed to come close to the rest of society. But then they saw Jesus, and were instantly transformed into hummingbirds. For the first time in their lives they saw not the dead body of their disease, but a beautiful bloom; reached out; and were healed.

Jeremiah is reminding the Jews that they are to make the best of life in Babylon. Instead of looking to the carrion of the past, they are to look to the colorful plants of the future. They are to seek out the nectar of their new home and make it a land of milk and honey. We too, are called to make the best of where we are; to no longer see the world as hopeless, but to look joyfully to the future and set about bringing hope to the land and the world.

Vulture or Hummingbird? It's your choice. AMEN

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Pathway to Success

The Pathway to Success
Luke 14:7-14 Upper Rogue/Gold Hill UMC Picnic August 28,2016

O Lord it's hard to be, humble when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror, Cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me, I must be a wonderful man.
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, But I'm doing the best that I can.

Of all the Christian virtues, none are as misunderstood or unpopular in our world as Humility. Humility is often used as a synonym for weakness and self-deprecation. It is believed that being humble means groveling in front of others or thinking we're no good and others are better. That's not what the Bible says. God says when you are humble, you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ. Humility recognizes that our own strength is not enough, we need, and give thanks for, God's help and give God credit for the gifts and graces that bring us success. Godly humility is being strong enough in our faith to put others first. The picture of humility in the Bible is one of a strong person who loves others, not someone who is a wimp. Perhaps the best description of humility I ever heard was from the top sensei of the Tong So Do school of Karate who wrote that true humility is the ability to lift up others without pulling yourself down.

The old joke says: "In Sunday School I got a ribbon for humility; but when I wore it they took it back."  Which brings us to the flip side of humility, arrogance. The definition of arrogant is someone who is full of self-worth or self-importance and who tells and shows that they have a feeling of superiority over others. An example of arrogant is when a guy on a date brags about himself all night, acting like he is the best thing to ever happen to a woman.

In today's lesson from Luke, Jesus engages the arrogance of his fellow guests at a dinner party. In that society, where you sat at the table was a sign of your status in the group. Kind of like when I was in Zaire (Now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In a culture where almost everyone walked everywhere, to be seen riding in a car was a sign of importance. Consequently, we had several local teachers who would walk past the school to our quarters so they could be seen riding to school in our car. So it was that Jesus, noticing the guests elbowing one another in a mad rush to the best seat, said to them: “When someone invites you to dinner, don't take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he'll come and call out in front of everybody, 'you're in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.' Red faced, you'll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.
When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then, when the host comes, he may very well say, 'friend, come up to the front.' That will give the guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, if you walk about with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (The Message)

When God says to be humble, he lets us know we must examine our motives and attitudes. We also must examine how we respond to others. Shortly after assuming the presidency of the prestigious Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Booker T Washington, the renowned African American Educator, was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

Being humble means you can speak with the right attitude. Henry Augustus Rowland, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, "What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?"

The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, "I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion." Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland's disposition expressed surprise at the professor's uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, "Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath."

Humility makes it easier to have courage. Humility frees you from worrying about how others perceive you. You have less of a need to make a good impression on people, so you are more open to learn new things. You don't mind if people see you as imperfect, or that you are not as skilled or talented as you would like to be.
An arrogant or conceited person always needs to appear to be perfect, to be highly skilled and talented. This creates tension and anxiety. The truly humble person is calmer and more relaxed.” (From Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Courage")

Thus it is, that You will usually be more successful if you practice what the Bible says about God and humility than if you are pushy or arrogant. (When you are humble, you are likely to have more influence than when you fight abrasively.) Even if you don't achieve the results you hoped for, you have the joy and pleasure of having acted in a godly manner. When you understand the meaning of humility in the Bible and put it into practice, you are a winner—even if you do not "win.
"David Hess writes for Forbes: Highly innovative and consistently successful businesses like IDEO, Google, Intuit, Bridgewater Associates, W.L. Gore & Associates, and Pixar Animated Studios have cultures and processes that encourage and enable people to unlock their chains so they can imagine, explore, experiment, and think critically. These companies encourage childlike curiosity and taking ownership of challenges with the mindset of a scientist who is good at not knowing. All are idea meritocracies that devalue hierarchy and value candor.
Along the way to adulthood, however, most of us lost our childlike curiosity and our candor because we became consumed with being liked, being “smart”—which to us meant being right and not making mistakes—and protecting our self-image so as not to lose face. Innovators, however, can’t be consumed with always being right and can’t avoid mistakes and failures. Innovation, as a process, requires failure. Exploration into the unknown, by definition, produces surprises. To become innovators, we have to develop a different mental model of “smart.” That requires us to accept the science of learning, which illuminates the cognitive and emotional proclivities that can inhibit our learning.” In short, innovation, courage, and humility go hand in hand.

John the Baptist had the crowd following him before Jesus came to the scene. His followers saw Jesus and quickly left him and went to follow Jesus. Some disgruntled ones went to John and reported to him. They thought John would flare up and curse his disciples but to their surprise replied, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:26-30. It was John’s joy to promote Jesus above himself. That’s the mark of true humility.

Do you have the strength of faith to be humble. Do you have what it takes to sit at the lower spot? Even when it means you may not be called up? Do you have the faith to fail? Do you have what it takes to recognize and honor the gifts and successes of others without downplaying your own. Are you ready to try true humility? To quote one of the presidential candidates: “What have you got to loose?” Other than pride (which goes before defeat), and arrogance (which precedes a fall)? [Proverbs 16:18]

The odd truth is that humility is the pathway to success. Take it. AMEN.