Sunday, 23 September 2012

oh Lord, it's hard to be humble...

I have been pondering the texts for today.  The OT text highlights the impossible ideal of the capable wife.  An 'interesting' one to think on for preaching - where to go with that, I wonder!?   
However, what has caught my attention is the combination of the gospel passage and epistle.  Jesus and the disciples are on their way to Capernaum.  As they walk he tells them of his coming suffering and death.  Later, in Capernaum, Jesus quizzes the disciples on the content of their subsequent conversation.  You can almost hear the awkward shuffling of feet in the embarrassed silence that ensues - one of those classic 'tumbleweed' moments.  Given what follows, somebody must have finally 'fessed up: we, as readers discover the topic was a discussion on who was the greatest, of jockeying for position, of pecking order and power.
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
A child is brought into their midst and a lesson is given:
notice the overlooked, the least, the powerless - and welcome them....

And then the epistle... 'the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy'... and 'Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you'.
'yield', 'submit', avoid partiality - the privileging of the prominent/ the powerful over the unimportant/ the powerless...

At various stages through the week, the word 'humility' has been quietly rolling about my inner landscape, particularly in connection with ministry.  I have mused upon ego and arrogance, power and privilege, have thought about service and self-importance.
What is it to be humble?
And what is it to be humble when you can't keep your head below the parapet due to being in a position of leadership?
As I've thought about this during the week, I decided to do a wee bit of 'googling' - combining words like 'christian service' 'humility' and such-like... I kept hitting sites talking about 'servant leadership'.  It is a phrase that has often bemused me.  Whilst it is a very sincere and deliberately intended oxymoron, meant to make one stop and go 'ah', the phrase works on another, perhaps unintended level.  In my own mind, that there needs to be the word 'leadership' at all in there makes me smile.
Truly, it is hard to let go of the ego, even when trying to talk about a life lived in loving service. 
Indeed, oh Lord, it's hard to be humble...

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