So many texts to choose from this week! Even more if you observe Reformation Sunday. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what holds all the texts together. This week I see a very clear thread of humility. In one way or another each of these texts reminds us that God is God and we are not. This is good news. We don’t need to be God. We don’t need to be perfect. We need to be humble enough to recognize our true value and take our place in the universe so that God’s glory may shine through us.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Often we are made to believe that self-deprecation is a virtue, called humility. But humility is in reality the opposite of self-deprecation. It is the grateful recognition that we are precious in God’s eyes and that all we are is pure gift.” Humility teaches us to accept God’s perception of us (and the whole of Creation) rather than be fooled by our own limited perspective.
For Reformation Sunday:
God, grant me the humility
to see the word you have written on my heart
and trust your claim on my life
to remember in all times and places
that you are my refuge and strength
and if I turn to you first, rather than last
I’d save myself heaps of trouble
to know that I cannot earn your love, grace, or forgiveness
you freely offer these to all;
my works need only reflect your love
to trust you’re the power of your great love
to save even my very human self
to forgive every time I fail to serve you
to shower me with grace, especially when I am lost
God grant me the humility to trust that your vision of humanity
is far better than my own and
your love is more than I can ever imagine.
For the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25):
God grant me the humility
to recognize your restorative presence
especially when all I can see is brokenness
to understand your answer to the prayers of my heart
particularly when I am unaware that I need your salvation
to hold onto your impartiality in world
that favors wealth and privilege;
my place is with those who seek justice
to accept that your love for Creation is a gift
given to us all
to awaken us to your abundance,
and our need to seek your ways rather than our own;
you are our hope
to name this yearning deep in my soul
as a longing for you that nothing else will fill
to respond to your claim on my life with all that I am
for you alone can save me from my own self-absorbed ways
to remember that you are not fooled by my fancy words
or my elaborate actions;
you know my hearts better than I do
and wait for me to acknowledge my need for you
with a repentant heart and love for all my neighbors
God grant me the humility to take my place
in the on-going story of your love for all of humanity
Where is the Holy Spirit leading you this week? Please share your thoughts that we may share encouragement and wisdom on the way to the pulpit this week.
Photo: CC0 image by Susanne Jutzeler
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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11 thoughts on “RCL: Humility”
I am being led to talk about confession, about the role of honest self-reflection and self-knowledge in the presence of God in the life of faith. I have found that Confession has an uneven place in my tradition. I had a worship and liturgy prof who suggested we overdo it sometimes (some years later I attended a seminar she led looking at shame and guilt). I had a bible study participant tell me that there were weeks he could leave after the prayer of confession having gotten what he needed from worship that day.
My sermon title is “Confession — Good for the Soul?”
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thank you for the Henri Nouwen quote. I have been playing with the idea of humility all day as I do sermon and worship prep. Good to see someone else on the same page!
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Glad it was helpful!
I think this will be part 2 of a mini-series on prayer, last week having been part 1. Confession as freedom. Humility as connection to earth/source. If the printed words of the prayer don’t have personal resonance, consider praying on behalf of others who need the freedom confession gives but don’t know if, or know how. The Nouwen quote is perfect.
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Nouwen almost always has something perfect to say for a pastor who is stuck while sermonizing 🙂
I’ve written a little more about the gospel text and humility if anyone is going in that direction. https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com/2019/10/23/something-about-bees-glass-and-humility/
Thank you! I’m leading a brief ecumenical (Protestant) service at a hospital tomorrow morning, and plan to read your reflection for Reformation Day (with attribution, of course). Perfect brief reflection on the theme of the day without turning into a sermon. Love it!
Hope all goes well with you service.