St. Margaret's - Humility

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 6, 2020

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Emmaus, PA

Reflections on The Season of Pentecost

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 6, 2020

By Mo. Laura Thomas Howell

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

I love the collect for this week! It offers a guarantee—and I am all for the security that guarantees provide, ESPECIALLY if the guarantee is coming from God. It gives me the confidence to focus on what needs to be done, instead of worrying “what if…” In this case, it’s a double guarantee: if we rely proudly on our own strength, God will resist us (terrifying thought!). But if we trust in God, and are clear that we rely on God’s mercy, we will never be forsaken. It seems to me that we are talking about the difference between pride and humility here.

I’m so tired of the conflict that swirls around us these days, that I decided to write to you about the collect– I just didn’t want to deal with Scriptures’ topic of conflict. But as I worked on this letter, I realized that pride and humility are important components of any conflict situation. One of the reasons that conflicts arise is that people (or institutions, or nations) believe they are right and that others are wrong. When each side’s position solidifies, insisting that the other capitulate, there is conflict.

Could humility provide a way out? It is particularly powerful in dealing with conflict because almost inevitably, everyone in a conflict is both right about some things and wrong about some things. Having the humility to recognize both the rightness and wrongness and express that respectfully can lead to defusing the conflict situation. Remembering that even when I am right, there are plenty of times when I
am wrong, makes it easier to stay humble.

Sometimes only humility can end conflict. When compromise cannot happen because one or both of the people who disagree will not budge, the choices become very difficult. Someone can give in, or fight back. Recognizing that the results would be intolerable, they could simply choose to walk away. Or the community could walk away, as Jesus recommends in the Gospel passage for today, when people are so proudly entrenched they will not even accept the wisdom of the church.

Walking away humbly is one way to end conflict. But what if you are called to stay and fight? Perhaps to see that justice is done, or because it is your duty? If God calls us to remain in a situation of conflict, very great discernment and the utmost in humility is required. One must be completely rooted in Christ so as not to get thrown off when people attack us personally. Keeping the eyes and ears of our heart open to the leading of the Spirit will save us from turning a job God has given us to do, into a personal crusade that must be won to satisfy our egos.

Humility is the key that frees us from the tyranny of always having to be right. Humility seems hard, because it goes against everything the world believes. But in truth, it is the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light. It dissolves conflicts, brings people together, and most of all, put us in the right relationship with God, who IS always right. In addition, we have God’s assurance that the humble ones who rely on God’s mercy will never be forsaken, even in the midst of conflict.

May the merciful peace of the One who humbled himself to come down to our level rest upon us!

Prayerful blessings on you all!