Last Sunday I preached about pride… and I needed it. For the past month or so I’ve been worried about potential success. What if the book does really well? What if all that attention actually comes? Am I mature enough to handle it? I’m not sure I am. Pride has always been my besetting sin; the self filled with self. For most of my life I’ve already thought that I’m right most of the time. Will success make that illusion even worse? “Coram Deo” I need to remember this Latin phrase, “Before the face of God” If I really strive to live my life before the face of God, then I’ll be ok. Because before Him I know nothing… before him I recieve all of the attention I need, from the only source that matters, in a way that just right for me… before him I am humbled, and filled with gratitude for everything that is good and right in life… before Him I realize it’s all his. It’s kind of ironic as I think about it… to protect myself from getting to proud about a vision that “see’s God’s presence in all things”, I need to be aware of God’s presence in all things.
Often I wonder about the legitimacy of so boldly citing God’s truth wherever it’s found in the world. Not that I’m worried about the truth being true, or that it’s source really is God. My concern lies with how the truth you pull out of the world relates to what’s left behind. Sure, you can “cherry pick” truth out of any situation, story or circumstance, but what about the not so good stuff that remains? Isn’t there a risk of baptizing it as true as well? Or at least sanctifying it by association? I think there is, and we need to be careful that we don’t let it happen unknowingly. But what if God’s truth is there in the first place for that exact reason?
A few days ago I read Jesus’ parable of the Shrewd Manager. It’s all about a guy who’s been padding his expenses, discovers he’s been caught, and then cuts deals with all his suppliers to put himself in good stead with them for when he gets fired. Jesus tells the story, has the master in the parable commend the manager for his shrewdness, and then calls his faithful listeners to do the same; ie: be shrewd like that too! Jesus seems to “cherry pick” this tiny bit of savvy business acumen out of the middle of a whole lot of unethical and illegal activity. Out of the midst of lying, cheating and stealing, Jesus exegetes and extricates some godly business truth. While his move still leaves me a bit confused, the fact that he did it then, gives me comfort that he still does it now.
I just saw this image in an old TIME LIFE book. The caption read, “A six year old orphan from Austria ecstatically embraces a brand new pair of shoes just given to him by the Red Cross.” It’s a powerful image, and in my mind it’s a parable; The parable of the prodigal son…
When that self-orphaned prodigal came home again, his gracious, Red Cross-like father embraced him, and gave him a new pair of shoes. Surely he felt like the boy in the photo. Surely this is the same parable. Surely Christ has authored both stories.
And the images became this Easter Sunday sermon;
This morning I was struck by the horribly deceptive and debilitating irony of self absorption. As people become more and more self interested, oriented, and centred, they become less. In the futile attempt to fully find themselves, be themselves, meet their own needs, to matter; they actually end up losing themselves. The more one thinks about oneself, and acts in selfish ways, the less value and impact that person’s life has in their world…
Isn’t this so tragically ironic? And isn’t this a parable of our human condition; especially as it plays out in our narcissistic , consumeristic, ‘self-help’istic western culture? Acting in ways to ‘benefit’ self even as we diminish ourselves? And then, as we increasingly diminish, desperately engaging the spiral with even more myopic energy? It’s insane. And then, adding irony to irony, becoming increasingly less human, less valuable, less worth the respect of others as a result.
It’s happening everywhere… in peoples’ marriages, friendships, communities, and spiritual lives.
Think about the people who’ve had the greatest impact in this world; in your life. They flourished because they helped others flourish; helped you. It wasn’t about them. They engaged in the most counter intuitive kinds of lives – not seeking self – and then found themselves.
Surely Jesus had it right when he said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.”
The gospel of Luke 17:33, New Living Translation
“Let your life go [into me]…” was his inference of course!