Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Civility

The sermon by our Senior Warden, Ann Robinson, on Civility can be read in its entirety here.

It is an excellent sermon and one we need to hear as we approach this November and the political rhetoric that is already on the airwaves and internet.

A good article, This Election Season, Let’s Focus on Truth and Civility by Jim Wallis can be found here and another article on the Urgency of Civility here.
“When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency” ~ Samuel Johnson

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops (Immigration)

From our CT Bishops:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The bishops of The Episcopal Church (about 150 or so) gather twice a year in various parts of the country to pray, study the bible, worship, and take counsel together for the sake of the Church's participation in God's Mission. We write to you as your bishops in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut upon our return from the Fall House of Bishops' meeting, which was held in Phoenix, Arizona, from September 16 to 21, 2010.

This year's meeting was planned to be in Phoenix well before the passage of the controversial Arizona legislation SB1070 that allows for police officers to question suspected undocumented people for proof of residence without cause. The fact that we bishops were going to Arizona in the wake of passage of SB1070 propelled migration and immigration concerns to be a central concern of our meeting.

Before our meeting in Phoenix began there was an opportunity for some bishops and spouses to travel to the United States/Mexican border in Arizona to learn first hand about border realities. Bishops Douglas and Curry were blessed to participate in the border experience, while Bishop Ahrens represented the diocese at a bishops' meeting on theological education at that time.

The time that bishops and spouses spent on both sides of the huge steel wall that now separates our two countries was incredibly enlightening, difficult, challenging, and spiritually transformative. Those who gathered on the border were blessed to meet and have conversation with migrant families and individuals newly returned to Mexico, with border patrol agents, with ranchers, with health care workers, with town officials and police officers from both sides of the border, and with pastors, priests, missionaries and lay-workers who were ministering to border communities and migrant families. We learned that border issues are incredibly complex and not easily resolved through sound bite political posturing. Above all, we learned that enlightened immigration reform that is humane, just, and economically fair to all on both sides of the border is needed.

The Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, reminded us in his closing sermon at the House of Bishops meeting that "immigration reform is one of the great human rights issues of today." We agree.

The Pastoral Letter and Theological Resource (links below) are the result of our experience, expert testimony, theological reflection, and prayerful deliberation as the House of Bishops. By canon, Pastoral Letters from the House of Bishops are to be read, or made available, in all congregations of The Episcopal Church. We ask that as the clergy of the diocese you read this Pastoral Letter in your congregations on or before Sunday, October 10.

We also commend to you for study in your congregation, the accompanying theological resource on migration and immigration, entitled, "The Nation and the Common Good: Reflections on Immigration Reform."

God bless you in this important work.

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas
The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens

Click here for Pastoral Letter

Click here of Theological Resource on Immigration

Click here for full article from Episcopal Life Online

September 26 Sermon (Proper 21)

"Do a little bit of good wherever you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I love that quote because it reminds me that we all have apart to play. We each have a little bit of good to do in this world and together those little bits add up to help change the world. But we live in a society that struggles with our individuality and the common good. We have a hard time seeing the need next door, in the next city or around the world, even as we are more and more connected in this media driven age.

Yesterday, we had a world awareness dinner with our youth group and the youth were divided into the first world, the second world and the third world. You can just imagine the meal. The first world sat at a nice table with candles and tablecloth, nice cutlery and good china and a comfortable chair. The Second World had its own table – no candlesticks or tablecloth, plastic cutlery and paper plates and cups. They had some food but not everything of the first world. The Third World has its own table. It is practically bare. There is only one plate but each person has a small cup and plastic fork. There are no chairs. They had rice and water.

The one who lived in the first world was invited to eat as much as they wanted, others were not given any more food. As one youth said afterwards, it reminded them to be thankful for what they had and not take it for granted. With statistics like these…
1 in 6 people in this world do not have enough food live a healthy life
1 in 8 do not have access to clean water
It reminds us, just as our youth learned yesterday, that if we look around at this world, we are all in fact rich. To see what this means on a global scale, you can go to and plug in your income and see where it falls on a global scale. How rich are you the site asks?

I did just that, and I’m in the top 1.72% richest people in the world! The site goes on to say that we all have a choice to make with our money… $8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market. $30 could buy the last season of ER on a DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti. It would seem we all have choices in how we use our riches, even if we don’t feel particularly rich.

But if we look, we will see someone sitting by our gates, waiting for our compassion, our love, our hope. In the parable, the rich man ignores Lazarus who is at his gate, and only after their fortunes are reversed at their deaths, does the rich man see Lazarus. But he wants Lazarus to serve him some water and later to seek out his brothers. He still does not see him as anything more than a servant…

But it is Abraham, the patriarch of the faith that says to him that his brothers should listen to Moses and the prophets, for if they won’t listen to them, they will never listen to someone risen from the dead. Which reminds us that whether we are the rich man or his brothers and sisters, we have Moses & the prophets and Jesus who was raised from the dead, reminding us of our calling to care for one another. The rich man was blinded because of all his wealth, he did not or would not see the poor man Lazarus who was at his gate. St. Paul warns us about such riches in our lives.
"We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains."
Can we be content with what we have? Can we share with others? The pursuit of wealth and riches can lead us to wander away from the truth. And “the truth of this parable” as a fellow Episcopal priest put it,
“is that the rich man needs Lazarus as much as Lazarus needs the rich man. The independence that riches seem to bring is only an illusion. The rich man thinks he can afford not to see Lazarus lying outside his gate. The rich man lives under the illusion that we are islands, contrary to John Donne’s wisdom, entire of ourselves. The rich man lives with the illusion that we are intrinsically separate beings, our own possessions, and that to be responsible only for ourselves is enough.” (the Rev. Dr. Amy Richter)
But we know that our lives and dependent upon one another and on God. As St. Paul says,
“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Life is lived with our hope set on our God who has so richly loved us. Things will happen in our lives, and the riches we have one day, may be gone the next, but God will not be gone the next and our eyes need to be open to seeing our God at work in the world about us, & at work in our own lives, to use what we have for the sake of the world. We must not be blinded by our own stuff, too worried about what we might lose, for it is then we will sacrifice others, God, even ourselves before we lose those things in our lives.

As Jesus said, "you cannot serve God and wealth;" and the life of the rich man is the perfect example to us. We are blessed in so many ways, but our truest blessings are from our interactions with one another. We must look and see the Lazarus at our gate, for by doing the little bit of good to them, we can change our lives and our world. For as St. Paul puts it,
“We are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AA and the Episcopal Church

Here's an interesting article:

12-step manuscript rare glimpse into early AA

At the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous was the Rev. Sam Shoemaker.

You can read about him here and here.

And here is an article by the Rev. Shoemaker on "WHAT THE CHURCH HAS TO LEARN FROM ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prayer for Peace

Almighty God, kindle, we beseech thee, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with thy wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquillity thy dominion may increase till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer p. 207)

September 19 Sermon (Proper 20)

Fortune named this company "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years. It was one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America in 2000. Its stock was traded on the NYSE and was known as a Blue Chip stock. The company traded in 30 different products. It made $101 Billion in 2000. And its finances were all lies…

The company was Enron. Its accounting fraud and corruption is legend and has only recently been outdone by the failures at Lehman Brothers. It is easy to hear the words of Jesus, his parable of the dishonest manager in light of such acts. But as Jesus tells us about a dishonest manager in his parable, at first the dishonesty seems to be OK with Jesus. But what is Jesus really getting at in this parable? Isn’t honesty a good thing?

Think about the parable: A manager is summoned to his master who has found out that he is squandering his property. He is fired by the master but first he must make an accounting. The manager then meets with those who owe a debt to the master, he lowers their debt one by one, not because they have been over billed but he is reducing his take in their debts that he legally could take as a manager, a type of service fee. He lowers the costs to get in good with the debtors. And it works. The debtors are happy and so is the master. The master commends the manager for what he has done.

So what are we to make of this parable?

I don’t think the question that Jesus asks and answers in this parable is really about the manager. The manager’s dishonesty is not the point of the parable. Jesus seems to turn everything upside down by having this manager praised for acting shrewdly and commended as something for the children of light (his followers) to do, but there is more to it. The manager acts to save himself, to be welcomed by others after he is thrown out of the master’s house. But he does it by cutting his take, his fee, so others would look upon him favorably. The possessions, the money he could make from the debts are no longer given priority. He has had a change of heart, and I think that is the message within this parable; the change of heart over possessions. He acts shrewdly by changing and making the debtors happy.

As disciples of Jesus we are called to worry less about our possessions and to act more shrewdly with them, for they are mere things. Jesus has talked a lot about possessions in the Gospel of Luke and it is summed up by the last line from today’s Gospel: you cannot serve God and wealth. In fact, it’s hard to love others when the bottom line is to earn yourself as much money as you can without looking around at the needs of others including clients and shareholders.

Sadly, the debris from Enron Lehman Brothers shows us what unbridled love of wealth can do to us. Jesus tells us that we can’t serve two masters because he knows we can’t do it. We will fail at it. However, the parable is not just about such businesses and the mangers of today. If we are honest with ourselves, really honest, we know that is also true of us. We often put our wealth, our possessions, our status, many things in front of our Love of God, and in front of things that really matter in our lives. And we can and do act like the dishonest manager.

But the parable reminds us that what matters, is how we live, our relationships with God and our neighbors, its about “the dash”, which is a beautiful poem read by Katie Fernandes at her grandmother’s funeral (Kathy Sheppard) on Thursday (The Dash (Poem) - by Linda Ellis).

Are we willing to change, to put our possessions in their proper place so to please and be faithful to our God, the first in our hearts? And when people speak of your dash, will it be your stuff they speak of, or how you gave so much love, so much of your time, talent & treasure to others? For when we place God first in our hearts, when our treasure is not our possessions but our relationship with God and each other, then we will be made complete and everything else in our lives, all of our relationships, will fall into line. Today, let us let go of those possessions and let God lead us on. Amen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Prayer for Labor Day

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 261)


This is the blessing that was used last Sunday...

“Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be quick to love, make haste to be kind, and the blessing of God Almighty…”

September 5 Sermon (Proper 18)

Choose Civility.

A few weeks ago, Ann Robinson our Senior Warden reminded us that if we are to stop the uncivil words and actions in this country, it must start with us. She wonderfully illustrated the connection between our faith and our actions.
“If we are to change the course that our country is on, we must do more than teach people good manners. Ultimately, an increase in civility must come about as a result of putting our moral beliefs into practice. Christians should lead the way through exemplary behavior. Christians must be the best example of civility that society has.”
Ann is right about our civility, rooted in the words of Jesus to love one another and the writings of St. Paul that call us to lead loving lives – it is up to each of us to live such civility in our lives today. And yet, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to do more than just be civil. Think of Jesus; words today.
Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
Whoa! Wait a minute, did Jesus not get the memo about civility, cause that’s Embracing Hostility. Hate others? We have lots of groups in this country called “hate” groups,
“organized groups that advocate and practice hate, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other designated sector of society.” (Wikipedia)
Is this what Jesus intends for us? Sadly, there are Christian hate groups who are more interested in picketing soldier funerals than proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. But why would Jesus call us to hate our spouses our siblings, family members, friends, even our lives? Isn’t Jesus the one who called us to love one another? To remember that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves? What’s going on here?

Wendell Berry the Kentucky farmer, poet & novelist sits uneasy with such a contradiction.
“My reading of the Gospels, comforting and clarifying and instructive as they frequently are, deeply moving or exhilarating as they frequently are, has caused me to understand them also as a burden, sometimes raising the hardest of personal questions, sometimes bewildering, sometimes contradictory, sometimes apparently outrageous in their demands.”
And he is right, there is a burden to our faith in our understanding of what Jesus asks of us in the Gospels. Just as Jesus uses parables to shake things up, making a point by turning things upside down, so to with his call to hate others even ourselves. As he confronts the crowd, he does it so that all will understand the demands of what he is calling them to do. It is the cost of the discipleship.
Take up your cross, give up those possessions – Love God above all else even your own life…

In 1569 in Holland, a Mennonite named Dirk Willems, after escaping from prison for his heretic beliefs, was pursued by a "thief-catcher," a bounty hunter of sorts. As they ran across a frozen body of water, the thief-catcher broke through the ice. Without help, he would have drowned. What was Dirk Willems to do? What he did was turn back, pulled the man out of the water and save his life. The thief-catcher, who was grateful of course and wanted to let him go, was forced to arrest him. Dirk Willems was brought to trial, sentenced and burned at the stake. Did he know he would die? I don’t know, but he knew the burden of the discipleship, and he had to save the man’s life even as it ultimately would cost his own. That is the cost of discipleship, Jesus would have us know.

It reminds me of Les Miserables and Jean Valjean who saves Javert from being executed. Javert who is hunting him down for escaping. But as I thought about such a cost of discipleship, that Jesus was getting at by saying the cross that is ours to bear, that we may even have to give up our life, lies with another character from both book and movie.

Frodo Baggins (a Hobbitt) from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JR Tolkien. He chooses to take the ring, which was given to him by his uncle, to Mount Doom to destroy it. In the quest to destroy the ring, Frodo paid a great price, losing friends along the way, some who nearly betrayed him to get a hold of the power of the ring, nearly losing his life from that power, but saved by Gollum in the end who takes the ring from him because he was utterly fixed on getting that ring back but perishes with it in the fires of Mount Doom thus destroying the rings power and the end of evil reign of Sarumon. Fordo would never quite recover from all that had taken place, the wounds he received from the journey. But in the end, his cross bearing brought life again, esp. to the Shire.
Berry writes, “If we take the Gospels seriously, we are left, in our dire predicament, facing an utterly humbling question: How must we live and work so as not to be estranged from God’s presence in his work and in all his creatures? The answer, we may say, is given in Jesus’ teaching about love.”
In the end it is not about hate, its about love, a love that we have for God that ultimately trumps all of our possessions, all of our selves. A love that will help heal our broken world, a love that God our potter will shapes our lives if we are willing to let God do it. So when we hear that voice of Christ in our souls calling us, asking us to live out of that faith, then we must as the prophet Isaiah once uttered, “Here am I, Lord, send me.” Which in the end is the civil and right answer for us all. Amen.

Prayer for New Zealand and Pakistan

God our refuge and hope: Hear our prayers for those whose lives have been overturned by disaster. Direct relief to the desperate, comfort the injured and bereaved, calm the fears of those who do not know where to turn, cheer and protect the downhearted, strengthen those who lend help, and in all things increase compassion and care for the commonweal; through Jesus who knew our sufferings and opens for us the gate of new life. Amen.

(written by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Burden of the Gospels

The Burden of the Gospels by Wendell Berry
Anybody half awake these days will be aware that there are many Christians who are exceedingly confident in their understanding of the Gospels, and who are exceedingly self-confident in their understanding of themselves in their faith. They appear to know precisely the purposes of God, and they appear to be perfectly assured that they are now doing, and in every circumstance will continue to do, precisely God’s will as it applies specifically to themselves. They are confident, moreover, that God hates people whose faith differs from their own, and they are happy to concur in that hatred.

Having been invited to speak to a convocation of Christian seminarians, I at first felt that I should say nothing until I confessed that I do not have any such confidence. And then I understood that this would have to be my subject. I would have to speak of the meaning, as I understand it, of my lack of confidence, which I think is not at all the same as a lack of faith.

It is a fact that I have spent my life, for the most part willingly, under the influence of the Bible, particularly the Gospels, and of the Christian tradition in literature and the other arts. As a child, sometimes unwillingly, I learned many of the Bible’s stories and teachings, and was affected more than I knew by the language of the King James Version, which is the translation I still prefer. For most of my adult life I have been an urgently interested and frequently uneasy reader of the Bible, particularly of the Gospels. At the same time I have tried to be a worthy reader of Dante, Milton, Herbert, Blake, Eliot and other poets of the Christian tradition. As a result of this reading and of my experience, I am by principle and often spontaneously, as if by nature, a man of faith. But my reading of the Gospels, comforting and clarifying and instructive as they frequently are, deeply moving or exhilarating as they frequently are, has caused me to understand them also as a burden, sometimes raising the hardest of personal questions, sometimes bewildering, sometimes contradictory, sometimes apparently outrageous in their demands. This is the confession of an unconfident reader.
Read the whole thing here.

It was written in 2005 but is just as relevant 5 years later, an excellent essay!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why Community Matters

There hasn't been a more important story for Yankee over the years than this one: keeping place alive, keeping communities vibrant. And that doesn't happen without people who care, and people who understand that all of our lives are better when we belong to a place that we care about. (Mel Allen, Yankee Magazine)
Read the whole wonderful article on why community matters here.

Another wonderful quote from Yankee Magazine:
"Life has more meaning when the past ties into the present." (Robb Sagendorph)

Praying the Daily Office

Great words of advice when using the Daily Office to pray...
A word of warning. When starting to keep a Daily Office, it may be tempting to think a given office is too complicated or confusing. Let me encourage you to keep at it. It becomes easier over time, for you will learn what’s next as you go through it, and thus it will become a normal part of your life. The main trick is to learn what the structure of an office is. The maintenance of the spiritual life is not always easy, but it is worth the effort.

Finally, it is crucial to be faithful in praying the office. There will be times when you will feel you are not getting anything out of the practice of the Daily Office, or that you are not as focused as you should be. Don’t be too worried about that. There is more going on than meets the eye. Over time you will have found that you have absorbed more than you thought you were. Praying a Daily Office is bound to become routine and at times thoughtless. This is unavoidable. Remain faithful in the practice anyway. You’ll be thankful that you did.
— Br. Martin (from St. Gregory's Abbey)
Read his first article by downloading the #237 - Easter 2009 Abbey Letter.
A relatively new set of offices called The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle has become popular in recent years. This is a three volume set that follows the liturgical year by following the natural seasons (volume 1 is Summertime, volume 2 is Autumn and Winter, volume 3 is Springtime). This set of offices is designed to be used by busy people, and is set up so as to rarely require flipping around within each book. Four offices are provided: Morning Office, Midday Office, Vespers Office, and Compline. Compared to more traditional offices, these are relatively short in duration.

Part of what makes them short is that the complete Psalter is not used, but instead only a judicious and appropriate selection of verses from a given Psalm is used for the office in which it is appointed. Short scripture readings are also provided. The psalms are the Prayer Book psalms, and the lessons are usually from the New Jerusalem Bible.

These are very good books for anyone who is busy but desires to enrich one’s spiritual life by using a daily office. These books would also be a very good place to begin for those who may be interested in starting some form of structured daily prayer. They are user-friendly and nicely printed. Phyllis Tickle has done the Church a great service by making these books available and introducing the custom of praying a daily office to many individuals. —Br. Martin
You can read his latest article here. (pdf)

God did not create the universe?

British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking writes, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist." (from the Grand Design)


"The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander. (from CNN)

Yes but maybe an even better response from Ship of Fools on Twitter:

Stephen Hawking in Ikea. Hawking: "This table easy to put together?" Assistant: "So easy it assembles itself." Boom boom.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Monroe to Celebrate its Families All September

from Monroe Patch:

A poster contest, a college placement workshop and an apple festival on the Monroe Green. All events are a part of Monroe Family Month, a celebration First Selectman Steve Vavrek hopes to have every year.

State Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112) told the first selectman the Connecticut Legislature stopped funding events for Family Day in 2008. But a grassroots revival for the month of September was fine with Vavrek.

"Monroe needs to get back to our community roots," he said. "For too long it has become town verses schools, activists versus schools and businesses, Republicans versus Democrats ect. ect."

The theme for Monroe Family Month is "Families — Monroe's Greatest Resource." The month will also feature a Citizen of the Year. The goal of the month will be for businesses, schools and town departments to work together with education and family oriented events and activities.

Read more about Family Month here.

It is wonderful to see our Apple Festival listed in this month's activities!

Five myths about mosques in America

I have watched with sadness the terrible debate going on in our country regarding the building of mosques and the terrible stereotypes being used to denounce any such plans, whether in NYC or in Tennessee or California.

What are the 5 myths:

1. Mosques are new to this country.
2. Mosques try to spread sharia law in the United States.
3. Most people attending U.S. mosques are of Middle Eastern descent.
4. Mosques are funded by groups and governments unfriendly to the United States.
5. Mosques lead to homegrown terrorism.

You can read the insightful and helpful article in the Washington Post here.

Having grown up in the Detroit area, I know first hand that such Mosques are part of our landscape and should be honored as a worship center, just as we do churches, synagogues, temples, etc.

A New Translation of the Bible

I use the NRSV. I have since I was in High School. I like other translations too (New Jeruslaem and the Message) but I always go back to the NRSV.

That may be changing. The Common English Bible has just published the New Testament translation. I like it. You can look at the project here as it lays out some differences between the CEB and the NRSV and NIV translations. Explore the website, its worth it.

You will be hearing the CEB used for the Gospel readings this fall.

August 29 Sermon (Proper 17)

“There is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves.”
Any guesses where that is from? From the book of Ecclesiastes found in your bible (Bravo Carl!). So who doesn’t like to party and enjoy a good meal with friends & family? Certainly we as Episcopalians are often thought of in that vein, think of all the jokes about us:
What's the difference between a Baptist and an Episcopalian?
The Episcopalian will say hello to you in the liquor store.
We do like to party, we enjoy meals together. We haven’t seen a potluck that we haven’t liked here at St. Peter’s! The parables of Jesus, told in the Gospel of Luke are full of parties! Think how many banquets, feasts, celebrations that are mentioned! (Feast at the end of the Prodigal Son) Parties, banquets, feasts – they were part of the lives of people of Jesus’ day and they are part of our lives today.

And Jesus uses those occasions of celebration to teach us about the Kingdom of God, and in that Kingdom, humility is important even at a party. At a meal on the sabbath thrown by the Pharisees, when there would be a pecking order, Jesus watches people take the seats of honor & privilege. So he tells them a parable…
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, go and sit down at the lowest place. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus in his wisdom, using an old proverb, reminds all to not take one of the best seats, for there might be someone who is the more honored guest & you would be disgraced. His parable, though, is not just about a dinner party and where to sit, but its about our whole lives and the willingness to humble ourselves knowing that God honors those who are humble. For humility helps us see our place in God’s creation, as both created in God’s image and equal to others. And through that humility, Jesus wants us to think of our neighbors, especially those who are often forgotten in our society. Jesus said,
“when you give a luncheon or a dinner, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you.”
Quite a contrast to inviting the movers and shakers, the privileged, the ones who would repay us. But it is those who can’t repay us, who need our help, these are the ones Jesus said we should invite. It is to see others through the eyes of humility, out of love and respect, that not only looks to our own well being, but the well being of family, of community, of all; humility is part and parcel of being a disciple of Jesus.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. -- C.S. Lewis
A gentle reminder we are not the center of the universe. But it is through humility that we can achieve greatness. I think of a story told by Muhammad Ali to his young daughter…
A king sensed something special about his slave Omar. Omar served the king well as his personal attendant. The king rewarded Omar for his faithful service with a beautiful robe and set of clothes. A courtier was very jealous of Omar and looked for a way to discredit him before the King. He noticed that every day Omar took a large sack into the royal treasury and left with the same sack. The courtier immediately reported to the king that Omar was stealing. The next morning, the king hid outside the chamber to see for himself. As usual, Omar entered the room, opened the sack - and took out of the sack his old slave robe. In the large mirror in the treasury, Omar said to the reflection: "Omar, once you were a slave. Never forget who are you are and how blessed you are." The king was deeply moved by Omar's humility. "I knew there was something special about you. I may be a king; Omar, but you have a king's heart." (from Hana Ali, More than a Hero)
Omar remembers who he is, he is not puffed up because of his new position or his new clothes. He does not presume to have a higher place, but it is the king who sees his humility and exalts this humble man whose heart is set right. Likewise, God honors the humble in heart, those who are content with what they have. For we are called to do good and to share what we have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

(story told) I think of a Thanksgiving in Berkeley, CA Before going off to relatives, I joined fellow parishioners at the shelter in downtown Berkeley to cook a meal. They can’t repay us but it was worth every minute. It is a ministry of Good Shepherd parish and it has become one of my fondest memories. (Faith in action)

There may be nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves as Ecclesiastes says, but it must be tempered with humility and we must remember those in need for as Henri Frederic Amiel once said, “True humility is contentment.” May we be content and humble and feast with all brothers and sisters on earth. Amen.