Sermon for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 17, Year C

August 28, 2022

Proverbs 25:6-7                                 Psalm 112                            Hebrews 12:1-8, 15-16                   Luke 14:1, 7-14

          Humility is the word for today.  In both Proverbs and Luke, we are told we should not enter into a room and make our way to a place of honor.  We should, instead, wait to be invited to stand before the king or to be seated at the place of honor at a banquet.  In other words, we are to be humble and assume we are not the most important person in attendance.  A quick online Google search of “humility” offers this definition: “a modest or low view of one’s own importance, humbleness.”  Then it includes this quote: “he needs the humility to accept their way may be better.”  Out of curiosity, I also search for its opposite and the first word I found was pride.

          Proverbs is one of the wisdom books found in our Bible.  It was written to teach youth how to be wise in the ways of the world.  Many of us; however, learn more about how to get along with others from our mistakes than we do from books.  The Rev. Robert Fulghum published a book title, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  Though he was a Unitarian minister for a while, he is much better known for his writings.  In the introduction to this book, he speaks of a practice he had of writing his personal credo each year.  As the years passed, he said, it got shorter and shorter until he realized that what was important to him were the things he learned in kindergarten. 

          Among the lessons he learned were: share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours, say you’re sorry when you hurt someone, wash your hands, flush, warm cookies and cold milk are good for you, live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some, take a nap every afternoon, when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.  The list goes on, but I think we can all see the wisdom in his list.

          As I was re-reading this list, I thought that holding hands and sticking together was a lesson many of us have forgotten.  We live in a world that is divided. And, we often forget that we cannot accomplish near as much when we try to do everything alone.  We can do so much more when we hold hands and stick together.  Something else he didn’t list, but I think is important for us to remember, is that the journey may be as important as the destination.  Working together can bring us closer to one another – even if it is not the most efficient way to do what needs to be done.  Sometimes detours can be delightful.

          When our granddaughter Clara visits us, we make a list of things to do.  Periodically we revisit our list and mark off things we have done.  Making a list and checking things off is something I do at work – it’s a grown-up tool that we use to keep ourselves focused on completing our tasks.  An afternoon nap and milk and cookies are seldom included on our lists.  Living a balanced life is not either – we don’t include drawing and painting and singing and dancing, unless, of course, we are an artist.  The balance between play and work tends to get lost.

          Personally, I tend to work, work, work, then escape for a week or two on my bike where the destination is not as important as the journey.  Motorcycle rides are not my only way to achieve balance; family vacations and time with friends also helps me to return to work centered and refreshed.  Naps, too, are good on Sunday afternoons and sometimes even on a weekday.  How do you achieve balance in your life? What does your journey through this life look like?  Are you going through life alone, even when you’re surrounded by people?  It is easier to do than you might think.  It is, however, more difficult to separate ourselves from others when we hold hands and stick together.

          Jesus teaches us to be humble – not to assume the place of honor is set for us.  To be humble is to assume that our way is the not necessarily the best way – others may have a better way of doing things.  Being humble means, we do not need to be the leader.  We might lead at times, but we are also willing to hold hands and stick together and let others lead us. 

          Holding hands and sticking together is what makes a church a community.  Another lesson we learned in kindergarten is wonder.  “Remember,” Fulghum says, “the little seed in the Styrofoam cup.  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.”  Being the church requires that we recognize this to be true.  We must establish our roots if we are to grow – and we must remember to share everything and play fair. 

          Christians learn the importance of following.  We follow Christ.  Today, Jesus shares a lesson on humility because he understands it is a lesson many of us forget as we get older.  To follow Jesus, we need to do more than simply follow.  We must play well with others and share everything we have – not only with those in the church community, but with others who are in need.

Before I close today, I want to remind you of another lesson we learned in school.  It is simply the importance of teachers.  Teachers play a vital role in getting us where we need to be and doing the things that need to be done. 

          School has resumed and students everywhere are being taught valuable lessons about how to get along with one another. Yes, they are studying the scientific method, history, math, grammar, and learning about the arts.  They are playing, too.  Teachers are a gift to us; they share everything.  They model for us what we need to learn in addition to what we learned in kindergarten.  They model leadership which seeks to bring out the best in others.  They model humility by seeking to serve rather than earn top dollar. 

          So let us thank all of our teachers who taught us and are now teaching our children life lessons about getting along with one another and on seeking knowledge AND wisdom.  Let us now pray for teachers and students everywhere that this year may be a year of growth and learning. 

          Loving and gracious God, we give you thanks for the dedication of our teachers and the opportunity for students to learn. We pray this school year may help our students grow in wisdom.  Help us, too, to remember the lessons we learned as children that we might share everything, say I’m sorry when we hurt someone, and find balance in our lives.  Then help us, we pray, to holds hand and stick together on our journey through life.  Heal the divisions that separate us and teach us to be humble and recognize that others may have a better way of doing what needs to be done.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.