Friday, October 2, 2015

The humility of faith. . .

Sermon preached for the Mid-Week Eucharist using the propers for St. Michael and All Angels. . .

    Who says Pastors have no power!  By pastoral decision we rolled back the calendar to Sept. 29 so we could remember St. Michael and All Angels – all by the magic of a Pastor’s pen!  But then when you might have expected to hear the Bible talk about angels, the Gospel for St. Michael’s Day talks about children – in a mirror to what Pastor Ulrich preached about last Sunday.  So maybe another Pastor and another stab at it and we might learn something here... or maybe not.
    A child is a picture of humility until the kid opens his mouth.  Ask him.  He will tell you he is the smartest, fastest, strongest, boldest, best looking, etc. of all.  Nope a child is hardly ever humble about himself.  But there are those who are genuinely humble – who seek not their own will nor their own way but who serve at the pleasure of God and do His bidding.  A child is not humble but the myriad of angels who serve the Lord possess proper humility – something mostly beyond our reach.  We are too wrapped up in ourselves.  Even our humility is arrogant.  But not the angels.  They have no identity apart from God’s will and ways.
    They are examples of those who do the Lord’s will without question or pause.  Their joy is the joy of the Lord and their sorrow is His sorrow and their purpose is His glory.  Even at our best we are not like them.  They wait upon the Lord and watch over us.  They rejoice every time a sinner repents.  They spoke to Mary at the conception of Jesus. They sang while a world slept and God delivered His own Son of a Virgin.  They served the Lord in His weakness in the desert after Satan had tempted Him in every way.  As the Psalmist says, He has given His angels charge of you.  Not authority to bark orders to you but to care for you and fight on your behalf, hidden and unassuming.
    For some strange reason we want to become angels.  In the great mythology of spiritual but not religious, we become angels when we die.  Nothing could further from the truth and nothing could be further from what we want and desire.  Christ died for sinners and not for angels.  Why would we want to give up the most precious gift of all to become those who rejoice with but not as a sinner who repents, who rejoice when the Gospel is preached but not to them, who are ecstatic when you commune upon the Lord’s body and blood but never eat or drink, who love to watch as those outside are catechized into the faith but not them, and who are happy when you pray but they do not.
    Why would you want to be an angel when you die?  The work of the angels is to rejoice over you, sinners who repent, the dead made alive, the lost found, and the dying led to eternal life.  You are called to a different humility.  You are called to the humility of faith, the absolute trust in the Lord and in His Word that only the Spirit can give and whom the Spirit gives even to children, sinful, goofy, and self-absorbed though they are.
    For the angels the grace of God is a gift meant for another, that they can never possess or know like sinners who rejoice in sins forgiven or the dying who rejoice in eternal life or the lost who rejoice to be found again, or the weak who are made strong.  Yet they are not sad that this grace is given to you or to me.  They rejoice in it.  So don’t pine away to be an angel.  Instead rejoice to be what you are.  And rejoice that God has assigned His angels and given them charge over you.  And try as best you can to be truly humble by being truly faithful.  The best humility is not to pine away to be something you are not.  This is what the angels teach us. They are content for who they are and for you and me as sinners redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus.  It is enough for them.  Now let it be enough for you... and for me...  Amen.

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