Humble Pie

It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus!

I’m guessing we’ve all heard of eating humble pie…

Meaning:
To act submissively and apologetically, especially in admitting an error…
To be forced to apologize or to admit a fault…To “eat humble pie” is to be knocked off your “high horse”.

Origin:            In the USA, since the mid-19th century, anyone who had occasion to ‘eat his words’ by humiliatingly recanting something would be said to ‘eat crow’. In the UK they ‘eat humble pie’. This came from a meat pie made from the ‘umbles’ – the name given to the heart, liver, entrails, etc. of animals – what we now call offal or lights.

As unpleasant as this may sound right before lunch, there is a connection to our text…

The gospel this morning ends with these words:
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Some scholars interpret this passage to indicate that Matthew was writing to a community that found itself alienated from and competing with the synagogue.

In this relatively brief indictment, Jesus sums up what he views as the big problem that separates the Jewish leaders from a close relationship with God…Vanity, Hypocrisy, and Arrogance…

Some might even see this text as justification for anti-Semitism…BUT – If we look closely, we will realize that Jesus has great respect for the authority of Hebrew Scripture and the richness of Jewish tradition…What we really hear is that the vanity, hypocrisy, and arrogance that troubles Jesus are characteristics of ALL HUMANITY, not just the Jewish leaders…

The point of this passage is what it says about the true nature of discipleship, not the condemnation of any particular group or religion…What Jesus is telling us here is that if we really want to be his disciples, we must be ready to climb down off our high horse, chew on some humble pie, and submit to God’s authority.

If we look at this story from Matthew’s perspective – writing to a community that feels alienated from its religious roots – we might draw a parallel to our own culture…

Many people have become alienated from our churches because they have been hurt by the church or someone in the church…They have seen hypocrisy in church and suffered from the abuse of arrogant preachers and unwelcoming church members…People who are treated badly by their church feel betrayed by the one group that should have been safe for them and they don’t know where to turn.

As the church, we find ourselves competing with all sorts expressions of spirituality that are working hard to draw people into the latest spiritual adventure du jour…

The gospel today forces us to realize that vanity, hypocrisy, and arrogance often takes hold when we take our focus off of Jesus and try to make church about us and what we want…

True discipleship requires us to recognize who our father really is – the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…It’s about knowing whose we are and where we come from.

It means that we are all students of the Scriptures and of Jesus…
always seeking to learn more about what it means to be Christ-like.

Human arrogance stops us from growing in faith; humility opens us to the life-changing presence of Christ in our lives every day.

When we make church all about us and what we want, we miss the whole point…The church does not exist to serve us…We exist to serve the church…Worship isn’t about singing songs that make us happy…It’s about glorifying God…
Building a new building isn’t about showing off what a great thing we can do…It’s about offering more and better opportunities to reach people for Christ.

Can we hear the hypocrisy here…
To speak of glorifying God, while seeking self-promotion, advancement, and recognition
To speak of orienting your entire life toward God, while drawing everyone’s attention to “me”
To speak of responsibility for the people of God, yet being unwilling to share what you have to lighten the burdens of others

These issues were not and are not confined to any one group of people,
any one church, or any one religion…We know it and Jesus knew it.

The true measure of one’s faithfulness is found not in the words one speaks or the doctrines one accepts but in the orientation of one’s heart.

Is your whole heart and your whole life oriented toward God,
or is it aimed at something less than God?

Though people are unequal by many measures, from intelligence to physical strength, from social standing to material wealth, we are all equal before God.

Jesus calls out to us this morning to humble ourselves and recognize our equality before God…He calls us to set aside our personal agenda and learn how to live based on the life of the Messiah…Jesus Christ.

Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr writes:
“God is the common center to which all men are related; it is by reference to and in respect of their relation to that creative center that they are equal.”

I think it is dangerous for us to hear this morning’s gospel only within the context of Jesus’ criticism of the Jewish leaders of his time…We need to hear this proclamation as a reality check for our own lives as well…
We need to be sure we are taking our instruction from the right source – Jesus
We need to be sure we are following the right person’s example – Jesus

Matthew wants us to recognize hypocrisy in all its forms…
The first speaks one thing and does another…
The second behaves righteously, but for the wrong reason…
These are the ones Jesus calls out when he criticizes those who teach but do not practice and those who do all their deeds to be seen by others…

The cure for both varieties of hypocrisy is humility.

The humble disciple does not preach against the dangers of gambling while spending Saturday nights at the local casino.

The humble disciple does not offer to make a sizable donation to the church on the condition that we put up a brass plaque to mark the occasion.

The humble disciple doesn’t do the right thing to get noticed or to receive recognition;
the humble disciple does the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s why I think this text is talking about discipleship…

Jesus wants us to practice what we preach and stop worrying about who’s looking…

If we stop thinking about what makes us happy and focus on Jesus, we’ll end up being happy in God’s plan for us.

God’s plan for us involves our willingness to discover our true gifts and talents AND our willingness to return those gifts to God for the good of God’s people.

To do this requires us to be humble enough to realize that not one of us is better than or more deserving than another one of us.

Equality before God insists not only that the proud humble themselves, but that the marginalized take their place among God’s children.

Not everyone has the same gifts or fulfills the same role in the community, but we are all children of the same God and students of the same teacher.

Everyone has a role to play and everyone has gifts to contribute in God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.

Some of us are gifted to be leaders, others are gifted to be followers; some are gifted to be teachers, others are gifted to be students…

Humility allows us to recognize and accept our gifts in whatever form they are given.

It is clear from this morning’s gospel that we are all called to be of service and sometimes that means we need to climb down off our high horse and eat a little humble pie.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen

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