Sermon – 09-01-19 – Proper 17 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Proverbs 25:6-7; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14
Sermon Title: “Humbleness and Success at Work”
Okay. Maybe 85% of us do not go to paid work anymore. Let’s call this sermon “Humbleness and Success in Daily Life.”
On this Labor Day Sunday, Peter Somebody is saying to himself, “Thank you, God, that I don’t have to face that arrogant so and so tomorrow. I am really going to enjoy my vacation day tomorrow. Who does he think he is? Always bragging! Always insisting his way is the best way. He started with our company 2 weeks before I did so that gives him some false sense of being in charge of me.”
People, did that ever happen to you! It has happened to me at least once, maybe more. Life in a certain job would have been so much better if I had been the one to start three weeks before the other person. But, then again, I need to remember that there were times when I was the one to start a bit before another person. Was I kind? Was I humble? Or was I pushy and arrogant in wanting things to be done my way without trying an alternate way?
Maybe you are in a volunteer situation where you started just a little bit after another person and that person insists in a bossy way that things shall be folded a certain way, or put in a drawer in a certain way, or refrigerated while things are still hot when you are sure that is not good – that food that is hot should sit at room temperature for awhile.
Maybe you are a man and you are volunteering other than in a kitchen. You know how careful you always are with your tools. When they are not in use, they have their own spot for storage even if you know you will use the same tools tomorrow. You are always careful about cleaning your tools to keep them working well. It happens that you are a humble person but you did start doing this volunteer repair work before your work partner did. So by right, you could be in charge. But, remember, you are humble! Do you grit your teeth and pretend you don’t notice how your partner leaves tools lying anywhere uncleaned at the end of the day? Do you drive your car faster as you drive home to get rid of your annoyance over the tools? Do you growl at your spouse when you enter your everything-in-place home? Do you either spoil the evening meal as you complain or as you clam up and refuse to be civil all because you were too humble at work.
Sometimes being humble is a liability. Sometimes we need to be creative and learn how to express our feelings in a less than sandpaper way or even an explosive way. Starting comments with “Have you thought about cleaning the tools?” or “Did you notice that these cleaned tools are working better than the uncleaned tools?” If we are the actual manager, we need to be humble in a more forceful way. We could say, “We need to clean the tools at the end of the day and store them in their designated space.” If we have a really arrogant person on our hands, we may need to back our statement with an either/or ultimatum. But we can do this without sounding like a mafia boss. How do we accomplish this style? How do we control our tempers? Well, we ask God to take charge of us. We practice. Get it wrong. Ask God again. Do it better but not real well. Ask God again. Much better now. We are getting the knack of being firm and humble at the same time. Arrogance has become lost – our own arrogance and, little by little, the arrogance of our fellow tool user.
Then we are asked to co-teach a Sunday School class with another person. We would rather do it ourselves because we are good with children. We don’t like to spend the extra time to explain and convince the other person how we think things should be done; how we should relate to the students. We don’t know the other person well, but then again we have not tried. The convincing point is that we need two adults in the room at all times, even if there is only one child. So forget doing it ourselves. How can we control ourselves? How can we get over this strict method of doing things? We could go to a counselor. That is a fine idea. We could explain the whole situation and our own self-determined nature to our heart’s content. However, ultimately, it is God who needs to be the counselor to retrain our bossy and selfish nature. It is God who will have us gradually learn to know Person B. We learn that Person B is very lonely. We learn that Person B has some good ideas for teaching the lessons. We learn that Person B is good at following us as we teach and organizes and cleans after us. Perfect partners. We even notice how Person B genuinely loves the children and is super kind while enabling the children to be the best they can be. Wow! When God helps us to be humble, he goes all the way! Be careful!
Yes, be careful what we ask God! The last verse of the last hymn today goes like this: “Work shall be prayer, if all be wrought as you would have it done; And prayer, by you inspired and taught, shall then with work be one.” Work and prayer, partners in life! We pray as we work. We become aware that the co-worker with tools has a disabled child at home who needs an unusual surgery. His whole mind is consumed with how can they possibly manage this challenge. We learn that the person in the kitchen never had a mother to teach her when to place food in the refrigerator. This person was lucky to have food. None of it was left to even think about what to do with it.
Take the lowest seat at a dinner. This next idea is extreme but we might consider taking the least desired seat at the high school football game. Then there is no place to go but “forward” when there are empty seats. However, if one of our grandchildren is playing, forget this idea. But hear this: “Take the front seat in church.” You will gain favor with the pastor. Here is another directive straight from the mouth of Jesus, so we believe, “When you are hosting a gathering, invite the people who cannot return the favor.” That is why we have food pantries and community meals. We can go and mingle with people who cannot return the favor, at least at the present time. We are invited to community meals – not to sit at head tables but to sit with the humblest of humble. To sit and mingle is a great gift of humility. We never know what we will learn and how Christ will look at us from the eyes of the new sister or brother. That is reward enough but know this: We will find our reward at our resurrection into Christ’s glorious heaven. So we read in Luke 14:14.
While we wait for that day, let us “Trust in the Lord with our whole heart and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge him and he will direct our paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6