Why are we so interested in the stories, whether in fiction or in real life, that involve a fall from grace… or the exact opposite? These stories grab our attention, capture our imaginations: whether it’s the big decline… or the grand elevation. We love tragedies. We love happy endings.
Examples of the fall:
Anakin Skywalker, a promising young Jedi warrior, descends into despair and becomes the notorious Darth Vader.
Captain Ahab, Lady Macbeth, Sauron, Voldemort, the Joker.
In real life, there’s Richard Nixon, Roseanne Barr, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Examples of the elevation:
A lowly Cinderella becomes the belle of the ball.
George Bailey is lifted up out of despair and is shown the true meaning and value of his life.
A small hobbit embarks on a perilous journey and, as a result, saves humanity.
A sixth round draft pick who nobody wanted goes on to become the best quarterback of all time.
A crucified Jesus rises three days later to defeat sin and death.
Speaking of the Bible, there’s a lot of this in there too. Stories about how the mighty will be lowered and how the lowly will be elevated. Scripture is filled with tragedies and happy endings. For example, today’s Gospel describes two peoples who go into a temple to pray. One is exalted. One is humbled.
How we hear this story has a lot to do with how we see ourselves. If we feel downtrodden, then this message is about hope, better days ahead, redemption. And that is consoling. If we see ourselves as though we’re the righteous ones, then a comeuppance is coming for us someday.
One of these message feels pretty good. The other is unsettling.
But did you notice who Jesus addressed this particular parable to? It’s stated very clearly: He “addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness.” Today’s parable was not directed to the lowly. It’s not about hope. And it’s not about consolation.
So… would you join me today in being a little unsettled?
Bottom line, this is an invitation for us to become more humble. I’d like to suggest to you that there are ten things every one of us can do, starting right now, to become more humble.
One… be grateful. Look for the good in our lives and the blessings we experience each day and thank God for them. Do this often. All throughout the day in fact.
Two… when you are faced with something for which you do not feel grateful… like a humiliation or a defeat… accept it. Accept it and surrender it over to God. Place that thing, whatever it is, at the feet of Jesus who hung upon a cross and suffered the ultimate humiliation and defeat.
Three… listen to others. And I mean really listen to them. Listen to them in a way that make them feel as though you care. Be in the moment, not a hundred miles away or looking at your cellphone or thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner or do tomorrow at work.
Four… have a sense of humor about yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Five… put someone else before yourself. Be in the second spot and stay there for awhile. Sacrifice for that other person if doing so helps them out somehow.
Six… do not dwell on the faults of others. If you see or hear or feel something negative about them, keep it to yourself.
Seven… choose silence more often. Don’t feel the need to always weigh in, to always express your opinion. Let others have the floor more often.
Eight… focus more on giving than receiving. Take more pleasure from offering something to someone else than in getting something new for yourself.
Nine… give others the benefit of the doubt. Even if you have your doubts about someone or something, let it go.
Ten… admit when you’re wrong. When you apologize, mean it. Don’t qualify them or add conditions because then the apologies don’t feel real.
Two people go into a temple to pray. The humble one experiences the grand elevation. The humble one is exalted. The humble one is redeemed. The humble one has the happy ending.
All of us came into this church today to pray…