In the gospel for today, Matthew's Jesus says, "whoever exalts themselves will be humbled and whoever humbles themselves will be exalted".
The whole humility thing is a tough one. The moment I think, "boy, I'm being humble!" I'm obviously not.
I was following a car today on the way to the first of the two churches I celebrated at that had a bumper sticker that read: STAY HUMBLE. It was on a very new, very expensive, very big car. 'Good luck with that,' I said to myself.
(Someone at the second church told me it might be an AA bumper sticker. Those in recovery probably do know a little more about 'humility' than most of us--but STAY HUMBLE is a demanding taskmaster.)
In my life, I've noticed that humility is much more often something that 'happens to me' rather than something I 'do'.
Thinking of my two children humbles me. They are such remarkable and brilliant adults in two great marriages and are both incredible parents. I'm humbled by them--I know 'they did that', it's not something Bern and I 'gave them'.
I've always been humbled by the people I serve as a priest--more so now in these three little churches than ever before. The folks in these country churches are remarkably committed, constantly compassionate and deeply loving. I am humbled to serve them and just to be around them.
I was profoundly humbled by the two funerals I officiated at yesterday. One was for a woman of my age, roughly, who I never met but is related to a member of one of the Cluster churches and one was for a young man, just 27, who left behind two small children.
The woman's funeral was a private, by invitation service in a lovely chapel in a cemetery. She had suffered greatly and was in a care home with advanced Parkinson's disease when she died so there was some relief along with the grief that her troubles were over. She was obviously loved and very lovely (pet lover--enough for me but from all I learned of her I wish I had known her--she would have humbled me, I believe.
The young man's funeral had a packed church with 40 or so folks outside listening to the service on a speaker system. His mother is a dear, brave soul. His children are precious. Funerals for the young are tough to do--so much left undone, so many questions. I was doing alright, even through 3 moving eulogies. We ran out of wafers because so many of the crowd came to communion so I asked a member of the altar guild at the rail to go get more. But the Verger, when the service was over, went to get the young man's now fatherless son to put out the candles, which he's done before. But to watch that small boy extinguish the candles around his father's ashes humbled me to tears.
Here's something I notice--the things that humble me (my children, the people I serve, the moments of funerals and most every worship even, the kindness of strangers, the compassion I encounter, my wife's love) 'bless' me as they humble me.
Maybe what we need to do is really pay attention to those moments of humility that are visited on us and give thanks for the blessings they bring.
Maybe that's how being humbled exalts us. Maybe that's so.
Something surely to ponder....
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