Monthly Archives: November 2017

11-26-17 CHRIST IS KING!

CHRIST IS KING!

Ephesians 1: 15-23; Matthew 25: 31-36

 

I plan to take people from this congregation for a final time to the Holy Land on July 9, 2019. The first time I took a group was in February of 1998, almost 20 years ago! I keep going back not just because it’s where Jesus was born and performed miracles, but because I also saw evidence of why Jesus is called “Christ” and “King of kings!” I was moved when I saw the empty tomb, an I imagined what it was like to have Peter and Mary and the others peer inside and find no body! Wow! He is a “Risen Savior!” He really is King of kings and Lord of lords as Handel put to music in his masterpiece “Messiah.” Jesus’ fateful journey started on a cross at Golgotha. You can see Golgotha outside of the walls of Jerusalem, even today. Churches around the world have crosses; sometimes they are silver, sometimes gold, and sometimes wood. Sometimes they are plain and other times ornate. They can be at the top of steeples, on walls or tables, or on a necklace around one’s neck. The cross, no doubt, is most recognizable symbol of Christianity. But the cross symbolizes an event that brutally ended one’s life. One person once said he could not imagine people wearing little electric chairs around their neck to remember someone who was put to death. Yet the cross is our symbol because the cross was not the end of Jesus! His body was lovingly taken down, placed in a gifted tomb, and he arose from the dead! He was alive again—the Christ—the King! Still, there is another way to say you are a Christian than with a cross. It is the fish!  Early Christians used that symbol in secret, because living a Christian life was difficult. If a Christian came up to another person and wasn’t sure the other was a Christian, the first one would nonchalantly draw an arc on the ground with a foot as they were engaged in conversation. If the other person was not a Christian, the gesture would be meaningless. If the other one was a Christian, their foot would draw a second overlapping arc in the dust of the ground, creating the sign of the fish like I described to in today’s Children’s Sermon. The sign of the fish—a reminder of the man who called us to be fishers of men—of people—is another symbol for people who call Jesus Christ. It sets apart Christians from non-Christians. But wouldn’t it be nice for buildings and bumper stickers to have depictions of an empty tomb, the main sign that God was doing something big? That is a great symbol! But we use crosses, maybe because an empty tomb is hard to depict. On that first Holy Land trip, our group went to the Garden Tomb next to the place of the skull called “Golgotha” in Hebrew, or “Calvary” in Latin. The life-changing event that Jesus gave was not just that he died for us. That is noble, and it is sacrificial, but it is not unique. People have died protecting our country or protecting their family. The unique, life-changing event that happened to Jesus was that he came back from being dead! Three days dead! Rising from the dead is called resurrection! That Sunday morning, the tomb was empty and Christ had risen from the dead! That is, I believe, the most important and unique aspect of our faith.  Sometimes the world gets it wrong. The story is told of a new boy coming up for a children’s sermon one Sunday. That pastor asked, “What do you think happened when Jesus came out of that tomb?” That new little boy thought and timidly answered, “He saw his shadow and there were six more weeks of winter?”  On the other extreme, there were some disbelievers who have suggested that Jesus’ followers stole his body to make it seem like Jesus’ predictions came true. That is known as “The Stolen Body Hypothesis. But Matthew 27 records that the Pharisees were afraid just such a think would happen, so they asked Pontius Pilate to allow them to guard the tomb. Pilate agreed. There was no robbery of that tomb.

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The apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection in his letter to the Ephesians, to solidify their faith, and to answer the questions of seekers. In chapter 1, verse 20 and the following he declares that “Christ was raised from the dead and was directed to sit at the right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come; and [God] has put all things under his feet and made him head over all things for the church.”

 

One Easter, the late William Sloan Coffin preached this:

[After] 2000 years … it looks more like a Good Friday than an Easter world. In totalitarian countries, politicians have yet to hear [as Pilate heard] “You are not Caesar’s friend,” and away they fall like autumn leaves, while in more democratic countries, politicians seek to minimize their responsibilities, washing their hands and thereby plaiting the crown of thorns. Like Peter, most of us follow our Lord halfway, but not the other half. As for the majority of citizens, are they not like the crowd that gathered at Calvary, not to cheer the crucifixion, but also not to protest it? Failing to realize that compassion without confrontation is hopelessly sentimental, the people go home, beating their breasts, preferring guilt to responsibility. (W.S. Coffin, “Easter and Forgiveness”)

 

We are not filled with the new life Jesus offers if we just use the church to be sprinkled with water, sprinkled with rice, or sprinkled with dirt. There is more to church than rituals and more to Christ than prayer. What a difference there is between being a Christian through rituals, and being a Christian because you are doing what Jesus would do! We can become his hands, feet, and heart! We can actually feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and help the homeless find a home or work alongside of them building it! We could fulfill Matthew 25! For some, that means putting legs on their faith. We in Volusia County, and even in this congregation, have opportunities to do any of those activities; to do what Jesus would do. If you are unable to do those things, then you can support the missionaries and outreach programs of our church so you can do them through someone else. Or come next Sunday to our Christmas Market and buy a gift of mission, empowering someone else to be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ for the world.

 

Let me close with these thoughts by Dr. Bill Carl, Professor of Homiletics and President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary:

Christianity is not merely a religion that was marketed well with just the right political spin by gifted writers. It is a living, breathing, ongoing conversation with God, humanity, and all creation, empowered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the resurrection, there would have been no Christianity, no Christendom, no hymns, no seminaries, no churches, and no nativity scenes. Jesus lives, not in the sense that King Lear or Hamlet or [even] Handel’s Messiah live on in the hearts and minds of people, but in the sense that something totally new has happened and keeps happening [!] The resurrection is the ultimate breakthrough of God into our world that transcends all nature and history!”

 

By God’s will and action, Jesus arose from the dead! His name is above every other name! And Jesus Christ is truly King of kings and Lord of lords! If he is Lord of your life, as he is of mine, don’t just say it; let your life and your actions reflect it.

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                  November 26, 2017

 

11-19-17 THE REASON WHY

The Reason Why

It was the day August 17, 1960, four men leave on a journey that would be the start of one of, if not the most influential bands in the world.  They would play on and off in Hamburg from August 1960 to December 1962.  The first time they played in Hamburg they played forty-eight nights straight and by the time they were done in 1962, they had started to hone their ability and showmanship on stage; These skills would achieve them a recording contract; a contract that would take them to a greatness that they never knew they could have.  One that they all sought, but that only through perseverance faith and trust, would they achieve.

In the year 354 a man that is known as an early North African Christian theologian and philosopher, whose writings went on to influence Western Christianity and Western Philosophy to this day was born.  He believed that the Grace of Christ was indispensable to a human’s freedom.  He is said to be of influence to such Christians as the Calvinists and Lutherans; and is also thought of as one of the main influences and theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvation and divine grace.  His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. The segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople [8] closely identified with Augustine’s On the Trinity He tells a story in his autobiography, The Confessions. He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry, but because “it was not permitted.”[41] His very nature, he says, was flawed. ‘It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”[41] From this incident he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin, and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Oswald Chambers a Scottish preacher of the eighteen and 19 hundreds, that served as a chaplain to the YMCA and also in World War one writes this in the back ground to the scripture 1 Corinthians 10:31  whatever you do, do all to the glory of GodThe true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.  Does everything we do glorify the Lord?

One of my classes in Seminary was on mission and ministry development.  The basis of it seemed to be simple; find motivating ways to develop the mission and ministry of the Church and all that that entailed.  The day came, and we started the class; the readings seemed light and the class seemed easy.  A couple of days into the class after reading the opening chapter of the book.  I started to read the next chapter.  What I read stimmed me; stopped me dead in my tracks.  It was stated so truthfully so evident as I had never heard before, “It is not our ministries who make Christ present, it is the present living Christ that makes our ministries alive.”  It’s nothing that I, we or us, do to make Christ alive, the Christ is the reason we are.  I had been looking at it the wrong way.  A better way to say it might be who came first me or Jesus.  This made me think.  It made me reform again as we are called to do; to form and reform; again, and again; as the Church; in the Church; the living church.  The problem was me; I still had power; I still thought for some odd reason I did something; I hadn’t fully realized true grace.  The true grace that Paul was speaking of. (the reason why) A grace that is formed through reliance; A total reliance; a reliance that does not come from anything we do; but a reliance that is built on the true faith of the Christ; in the Christ; and through the Christ; for all the Son of man did and does for us all day every day in our lives.  A reliance that is not a hard yoke to have but had only through the practice of Love and faith.  This yoke is made for all of us, all of us to have. “To participate in Christs ministry means that we share in his life.”  We are alive and acting in the Christ in all we do.  What does that mean; that means the Christ is alive in us; (The reason Why) that those two sets of footprints have become one, that there is no more me alone; no more you alone; that you don’t even have to try to feel him, he’s already there.  He’s been there the whole time!!  This has been said many ways; many times, as it is spoken in the Bible, yelled from the mountaintops, and whispered to you at night when your asleep.  This calling is for us not to be concerned of when the time is for the coming of the Lord; but to know that everything is going to be ok.  To know that it was always going to be ok; no matter what. This knowing, this confidence of course is faith.  A faith that is shown to us by our father in the love and grace he showed to us through the coming of the reason why’ Jesus the Christ.  A faith that we can emulate as we are shown to emulate the actions of our Lord and Savior.

In looking back at the first reading today, we have to look at the Old Testament to get a better grasp.  In the old testament the conception of the Day of the Lord is quite common and all the pictures and ideals that go along with the day of the Lord has been attached to the second coming.  All time was divided into two ages.  There was this present age which was wholly and incurably bad. Then there was the age to come which would be the golden age of God.  In between these times was known as the day of the Lord which would be a terrible day.  It would be a day in which one world was shattered and another was born.  Even though the writers of the New Testament paralleled this idea with the second coming of Jesus the Christ;  Jesus himself said that no one had any idea when that would be except God.  Who are we to be God?  This scripture goes on to say that we are called to be the church; to be upright in all our endeavors and to encourage others to do the same.  As it reads in 1st Thessalonians verse nine “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ and in verse 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  This is not a sentence of death as the second coming of the Lord but more as reason to live and live on in the grace of the Christ.  This grace seems to flow through all us, living and breathing in us as the Holy Spirit.  That there is no concern, but to be, to do and to live in this grace so freely given to us by our Lord and savior.  The power of what we are.  This glorification of God.  The Glorification of all that God is; to live in the Christ. As the baptized actions of Love.  The Love that is eternal; divine; pure; the truth the way and the life. The reason why!!

 

Recently I ministered at a celebration of life for two men that I have known for a number of years that recently passed away.  When it came to the time of others sharing about the two men as always it was awkward, at first, for someone to approach the Pulpit, but as the first person came and spoke of the men, then it became easier for the others.  They spoke of them as saints.  As people that went out of their way, beyond themselves to be of service to others.  These were not men that practiced a Godly life, or even dressed the part. But they were men that went out of their way to serve others.  They served to the best of their ability, that others may be shown the same Love that they were shown.  That Love that surpasses all things; Gods love.  They took their lives and their work in a Godly way.  As Court liaisons they helped men in trouble with the law find ways to start over.  From the long term incarcerated to first time offenders they helped men to become alive again. To live again; as we are called in the same manner to live again, no matter what age, no matter who we are to live again every day.  fresh and new in the Christ.  In the living baptism of the Christ.

In the year 1873, on the day of January 2, in Alençon, France A baby was born to the parents, Marie-Azélie Guérin and Louis Martin.  Marie and Louis were normal parents that lived a good life that wanted their children to live that same life.  They were very devout and as soon as their young daughter was baptized she saw the greatness of God.  She was, as it was said, to become empty of all that she was and to become filled with the Christ.  That there was nothing left of her only him.  This was a total commitment she made to God; to Gods love and to become that love more and more for the rest of her life.  She became a Carmelite nun and lived on to be the action of the Christ in all that she did.  She died at a young age from tuberculosis, but because of the life she led she was never forgotten.  She lived out her vocation to the fullest not because she was scared of the end, but because she was; she was alive; reborn again and again.  Even when she  was sick and knew she was dying she never flinched in service to the novices she served or to any other of her duties.  This service, as she is known for coining the Phrase “ The Little way”  was not anything that was seen by many; and even in some people’s views, looked down upon as weak.  But in her heart she knew she had been called.  Called as all of us are called; To be the best we can be at what we are and who we are; the best at what our callings are.

This is our Thanksgiving; our thanksgiving to God.. The definition of thanksgiving, of course besides the day that is always on a Thursday and is celebrated by eating way to much and suffering from the reality of tryptophan, which was always my fathers excuse for napping after Dinner, no matter whether we ate turkey or not, is actually defined as “the expression of gratitude, especially to God.”  This seems to bring this celebration to a new light.  As gratitude is defined as  “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Thanksgiving seems to be built around love, the action of God and all that God is.  To glorify him in all we do; as the people I spoke of earlier that led their lives no matter whether they knew it or not in this glorification of God.

This celebration of gratitude is a celebration of life itself in everything we do and everything we are.  The action of Jesus glorified in us; through us in all our actions to be the best we can be at what ever it is we are called to be. The reason why

Matthew 25, our second reading today, seems to solidify this Godly action of Thanksgiving.  More than that it shows us the great adventure that life truly is and can be if we simply follow him and live in this grace so freely given.

The parable of the talents has somewhat been a little misinterpreted as the word talents has seemed to become in modern day as a form of currency.  The Talent was actually not a coin it was a weight; and therefore the value of it was dependent on whether the coinage involved was copper Gold or silver.  The most common metal used at the time was silver and the value of a talent of silver was about 300 dollars.  Of course when we look at this parable the first thing we focus on is the useless servant.  This is somewhat thought to be and could be looked at as the Pharisees and the Scribes with their attitudes towards the law and the truth of God.  The servant buried his talent in the ground to keep it the same as it was; to give it back to his master exactly as it was; of the same context; same old same old.  Their idea was to keep the law the same.  As William Barclay states ”In their own phrasing they sought to build a fence around the law, any change, any alteration, anything new was anathema.” Or  something that was to be vehemently disliked.  In all true reality he is saying this is why they are condemned.  This seems to verify our action of the church as reforming.  As a Church of change and renewal, not one that buries its head in the ground.

As the servants that received different amounts of talents, one receiving five, another two and another one; we as people of the God all have different callings in life; different gifts, different ways of serving the lord.  We shouldn’t bury them in the ground, but use them to the best of our abilities.  We are to live life in the Christ to the fullest we can. Honing our skills as the Beatles did in Hamburg.  Or becoming the best we can to be of service to God and to others as Augustine of Hippo was.  Or in the humblest form, a servant of all others as  Therese of Lisieux.

May we be called to live the adventure known to us as life; life in the Christ.  To live in thanks for all that has been given to us; that the true servant of God is one who does not give up; but lives in the Christ to the fullest; the best they can.  This is not perfection; rather it is gratitude. The reason why.

We don’t do these things because of anything we do; but rather what Jesus does for us.  This is the gratitude; the reason why. Thanksgiving.  Our missions, our Jobs, our callings, are not based on us, but rather what God is in us and through us.  We as people of God are called in the Holy Spirit to be the best we can, at everything we are. To be adventurous, not to sit; to let the world go by; but to be apart of it as it changes in us and through us; as it changes us; changing the church; building our faith; renewing our reality of grace; growing our faith as Gods people.  The fire that burns over our heads and in our hearts. The reason why, the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost; Happy Thanksgiving; all gratitude to God.

 

 

11-12-17 A WEDDING STORY

A WEDDING STORY

Matthew 25: 1-13

 

So many wedding customs have changed or been altered or neutralized over time that yesterday’s traditions don’t always apply to today’s weddings. Sure some brides still plan to carry “something old, something new, something borrowed, or something blue” to their wedding, but original meanings of dress colors and of bridal veils have largely been discarded. Jesus, in his day, new exactly how Jewish weddings were carried out and we’ll hear about those in a minute. But just as an example, listen to what was written in the book called The Amish Wedding by Stephen Scott in the section called “The Wedding Season:”

Farm work, religious beliefs, logistics, and tradition all play a role in limiting wedding dates for the Lancaster Amish. It is inconvenient to hold weddings before the last of the harvest work is completed. After Christmas, severe weather can make travel difficult. A full day is needed to prepare for a wedding, and making these arrangements on a Sunday would be considered sacrilegious. That leaves out Monday. Many weddings are held on a Tuesday; but Wednesday is out because people in a Tuesday wedding would be cleaning up from the previous day and those preparing for a Wednesday wedding could not attend on Tuesday. Thursday is a good day, but a wedding could not be held on a Saturday because there could be no clean up on Sunday. As for Friday, weddings simply have never been held on that day.  [Good Books, PA, p. 9]

 

Isn’t it interesting how customs change and have gotten started! For example, it is also said that the custom of using a string of XXXXs for kisses when ending a letter came from one of three understandings:

  • From universal illiteracy, in that many people who could not read or write signed their name with an “X.”
  • From the sign of St. Andrew, St. Peter’s brother, and the patron saint of Scotland, who is said to have been crucified on an X shaped cross. A kiss with an X was thus a pledge in the name of St. Andrew.
  • The X is the Greek letter Chi, the first letter in the name of Christ the Lord. (That research was discovered by author Tad Taluja and recorded in his book, Curious Customs. Harmony Books, New York, 40)

So friends, I tell you today that Christians over the centuries, who have longed for the return of their Lord, would cry out “Here Comes the Bridegroom, not “here comes the bride!” And “here comes the bride,” is a song title falsely attached to the Bridal Chorus from Wagner’s “Lohengrin.”  As my Princeton preaching professor explained in his book: That march “was never intended for use in a religious ceremony. The so-called Bridal Chorus, from Wagner’s Lohengrin … occurs in the opera after the wedding in an atmosphere of distrust and hatred that ended in death and separation.” The groom dies and the bride weeps, all to the chorus with the ironic words, “faithful and true.”  [Presbyterian Worship, 1980, John Knox Press. P. 85]

 

Customs have been distorted from their original intended use in many areas of life.  So, then, it should not surprise us that the Jewish wedding guests of Jesus’ day would likely not have cried out “Here comes the bride!” but rather, “Here comes the groom!”  Well before a wedding, the father of the groom would speak to the father of the young woman whom the groom’s father had chosen for his son. The two fathers would negotiate the bride price, which the father of the groom would pay to the father of the bride for the privilege of having his daughter’s hand for his son. It would be a high price. The bride would them go about selecting her bridesmaids and preparing to wait; and to wait; and to wait. They would need to be ready, and there would need to be enough oil for their lamps so as not to disappoint the groom and his entourage on his return.  When would they return? Who knew? They had to wait while the prospective groom and his father talked to him about his readiness to be a husband, a provider, and perhaps later, a father. The father of the groom trained his son in the ways of marriage while they worked together to build a room on the father’s house where the new couple would live. Only when the father decided his son was ready would he release him to return and get his bride, day or night!  If the bridesmaids were not prepared to go at that time, they would be left behind! So the parable is not about waiting like statues with lamps burning for his return; it’s about wise planning and being alert and ready for his arrival so oil supplies were there and at least one lamp was left burning to light the lamps of the others.

 

Why all this talk about weddings? Because Jesus’ parable seems like that’s what it’s about, but it’s about more. You’ve heard of the church being called “the bride of Christ” before?  Last week, for example, we sang “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is his new creation by water and the word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride.” Did you hear it? The church—the company of the faithful—has traditionally been referred to as “The Bride of Christ” so that a parable like this will describe more than wedding customs. It describes how the groom—Jesus—will return for his bride—the church—at a time unknown by anyone except his Father. And when he returns, he will take his bride to the room he and his father prepared on the father’s house. It’s described in John 14. The father will have paid the bride price, and we will live with Jesus in heaven.

 

So, when will Jesus come again? Paul attempted to comfort the Thessalonians about meeting the Lord in the air, but that was said to a group of people who wondered what would happen to their dead and buried relatives if they died before the time of Jesus’ resurrection. The parable Jesus told us gives us better insights about “the Day.” (The Day of the Lord.) I’ve been getting another wave of literature in my mailbox and on my desk sent by well-meaning people, telling me that their careful and scholarly unpacking of Scripture has revealed the time Christ will come again, and it  is soon! But here’s the point; they don’t know. You don’t know; I don’t know; only the Father knows when his son will return! But is it a warning, or a reminder, to be ready because Jesus will return at an unexpected hour? Yes. And we should heed that news carefully. Until then, we prepare our lamps and keep them at the ready by:

  • Reading God’s Word and being in constant prayer;
  • Spreading the word that Jesus came to earth and he will come again to judge both the living (the quick) and the dead, according to the Nicene Creed and according to 2 Timothy 4:1.
  • Confessing Jesus as Lord and finding the peace of God that passes all understanding.

So how long will you live? How long will I live? God only knows! We are urged to live each day as if we can see the light of Christ returning for us! When that happens, the faithful and true Church—the bride of Christ—longs to hear the voice of an angel, calling down to us from the Holy City, exclaiming, “Here comes the groom!”

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                 November 12, 2017

11-05-17 EXAMPLES OF HUMBLENESS

EXAMPLES OF HUMBLENESS

Philippians 2; Matthew 23: 1-12

 

One of my colleagues in Port Orange is the Rev. Jeff Summers. Really! He is the Pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church. I like him and have enjoyed his stories. If you can believe it, while I was working on my doctor’s degree at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, he was working on his degree there too! So the directory listed Jeffrey Sumner from Port Orange Florida and Jeffrey Summers from Port Orange Florida! One time I asked him what church he served before coming here. He paused for a minute, and then said:

“Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains Georgia.” “Oh do you mean ….” I started to ask. And he interrupted and said, “President Carter’s Church.” He went on to tell me that Plains is a town of about 700 people, and the church has a membership of less than 200. But when Jimmy Carter is in town, he teaches Sunday School! This happens many Sundays of the year and there may be more that 400 people in attendance! Jeff said the former president is just as devoted to Jesus and to the Bible as you might have heard, and he is one of the most humble men he had ever met. He builds Habitat for Humanity homes and shakes the hands of the new residents, the same hands that have shaken hands with Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama. He has the hands of a carpenter; the hands of a good neighbor, the hands of a disciple. And at age 93 he still builds, teaches, and travels.

 

Who do you know who has those traits of humbleness? I know that Jesus, in Matthew 23, was talking especially to scribes and Pharisees, but I’d image he had to teach that trait to his apostles too! They were from different walks of life and could certainly have gotten impatient with government and taxes and waiting as we do! Getting 12 men to be humble and not compete with one another can be quite a task! In fact even after Peter, James, and John came down the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before them in Luke 9:46, “an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Then, if you can believe it, immediately after Jesus gathered his apostles for the Last Supper, “A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” {Luke 22:24] Come on men! Do Jesus’ teachings not sink in?  Who among us, even today, continue to push to be first in line for food, or for recognition, or in traffic? Even the 12 had trouble assimilating this teaching.

 

Have you thought of a person who is a good description of humbleness? Maybe he or she is one of your balcony persons, that is, ones who have gone before us; one of the saints who is joining us for this communion today?  The one that comes to mind for me was my grandfather. He and his three brothers owned a men’s clothing store. They were equal partners, but when the man who tailored the new suits for their customers died, they searched for a new tailor and found no one. My grandfather said he had watched the tailor do his work, so he would learn the skill. While his other brothers were in front selling clothes, he learned the art and skill of tailoring. He would sit at the back of the store, in the corner between shelves of shoeboxes, at a heavy table with a built in old, heavy duty Singer sewing machine. The tools of this white collar business partner became scissors, different colors of thread, a thimble, a hot dry iron, and a bowl with water where a roll of cloth he sewed together could be dipped in to dampen the fabric and make the iron crease pants nicely. I spent hours back there with him; and we would talk. He was his church choir director for decades, a Shriner, and 33rd Degree Mason, but he never talked about what he was doing. He just did it; and he gave generously to his church and to many charities. He died at 99 years and 10 months. I think of him as we celebrate those who are in their nineties today! What a man; what a friend to others; and what a follower of Jesus.

 

The apostle Paul had his life changed by Jesus when he appeared to Paul, then Saul, in a vision; after that, Paul so admired Jesus. One of the qualities that he most admired, and most promoted, was his humility; his humbleness. He wrote a piece of poetry that some think could even have been a first century hymn. He wrote it to inspire a group of new Christians and others deciding whether or not to follow Jesus. First he wrote: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Then he wrote:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he  humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2: 3-8)

 

Of all the leaders in the world, or in your school, or in your Google searches, or in your books, this is the one we will want to emulate. He was born into humble, even rude surroundings according to Luke 2:16, where a feeding trough for animals—a manger—was his baby bed. And his mother Mary showed such humility when she, perhaps overwhelmed with the news from an angel, said “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; let it be according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38) We will find out why we will want to have those qualities when we gather at the river in heaven that flows by the throne of God; when we gather with the saints by the river; saints who didn’t get there by pushing or shoving or blowing their own trumpet, but ones who got there by choosing Jesus as their Savior, and thereby finding the grace of God. This is the Lord who invites us to dine with him today; and when we do, we may get a foretaste of being with him in glory.

 

Let’s look at one final biblical example; of the choice God made for Moses over his brother Aaron or his sister Miriam. He seemed to be free of arrogance and God knew his heart. This is what the Bible says about Moses and his humility:  With every instance according to Numbers 26 and 27, Moses took each case of justice before the Lord, finding the answer, and giving out the decision. After leading the people for 40 years, he still relied on God! From the beginning went Moses humbly and rather reluctantly accepted God’s call to deliver his people from slavery—a Herculean task. He said to God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Who indeed; the man of God’s own choosing; Moses; and the man of God’s own choosing: Jesus; and perhaps preachers over the years, and church members, or people on the streets serving meals, building Habitat homes, or helping men or women turn their lives around.  Are there things you can change in your life to live more like that? As Jesus said: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled. And those who humble themselves will be exalted.” There could be a place for you, by the river … that flows by the throne of God.”

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          November 5, 2017