Today’s society places a high value on how successful a person is. We often measure people by how much stuff they have, how high they have risen in their profession, or how important their work is as compared to the work of others. It seems to me the theme common to all of today’s readings is God’s reminder to us to always be humble.
Jeremiah’s letter to those sent into exile from
Psalm 22 has the phrase we all know so well from the words repeated by Christ during the Easter story, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words first appeared in this psalm, and the psalmist makes many references to being despised by others and subjected to many trials and tribulations. However, the psalmist notes that God does not disdain the weak and the afflicted. In fact, God cares for those most in need, and it is through the strength manifested in this care that the rich and powerful are often brought to their knees. We are reminded that it is all right to be less than perfect because there is really only one all powerful being. God does not forsake those who turn to him in humility and obedience.
The reading from John relates the story we are so familiar with of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. The important part of this story is that Jesus did not raise Lazarus just because he had the power to do it. That would have been for his own glorification. Instead, he raised Lazarus in recognition of Martha’s humble faith and her witness that Jesus was indeed “the resurrection and the life.” He raised Lazarus as an example that, with faith, all things are possible.
I have gone slightly out of order by saving the passage from Romans for last because I especially like this passage. It reminds of what I truly find most appealing about the Episcopal Church and, in particular, our own congregation. The welcoming nature we show to all: the poor, the rich, the fallen, the pious, the young or the elderly, single-married, divorced. It seems we are a microcosm of the society of the world around us. The passage from Romans uses a grape vine as a metaphor for Christian society. If one of us is holy, then we all are holy. The stem does not exist without the root to support it, and the root does not survive without the branches to feed it. John cautions us not to set ourselves above the others who have come to Christianity after us. He refers to the kindness shown to us by God and reminds us that such kindness exists because of the kindness we ourselves show to others. We should accept others in our midst who are perhaps less than perfect when measured by our human and thus imperfect measures. For Christ died to redeem us from all of our sins. He knew that we were all imperfect, but he gave his life that we might all become perfect. How can we ever repay such a debt? I would suggest it is repaid one small step at a time, starting with being humble and recognizing we are all equal in the eyes of the Lord.