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Pentecost 20 2011 Sermon
Corby Varness

Jesus has had it with these religious leaders!  The Pharisees, the Sadducees, everyone was trying to ask him just the right trick question to catch him up--to show that he wasn’t really the messiah.  He has passed each test they’ve given him, silencing these leaders.  Now he turns to his disciples and the crowds and sighs.  “Look,” he says, “the scribes and the Pharisees should be respected.  They speak with the authority of Moses so you should do what they teach, follow their rules.  Just don’t follow their actions.  It’s the same old thing: do as they say, not as they do.”
“They ask too much of you, they expect you to be perfect but they don’t think they have to meet the same standards.  They act like they are the most holy, showing off in their fancy religious garments and praying so loudly.  They always want to be the most important person in the room.”
“But you are not to be like that.  You don’t have to be up on a pedestal.  You have only one teacher you need to listen to.  God is your father, and I am your teacher.”
“Do you want to be special?  Then step down.  Be a servant.  If you brag about yourself, you will be humbled.  But if you are content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”
If you brag, you will be humbled.  Boy, isn’t that true?  You know what the most humbling thing is for me?  Being a parent!  When Jeff was a baby; the second I bragged; “Oh, MY baby sleeps through the night!”, he would be done with that.  Or, if I bragged that he was so well behaved, he would immediately turn into a hellion.  Oh, parenting is a humbling act.  I also suffer from the sin of pride over my son - he is a good boy, a smart boy and I am so proud of him!
James M. Barrie says that ‘life is a long lesson in humility.’  I’m finding that aging is quite humbling as well.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder what happened?  Who is that old lady?!  So I’ve learned humility over the years but when I was young, it was a different story.
I grew up in the middle of the women’s lib movement.  Remember: ‘I am woman, hear me roar’?  Humility was the last thing women were taught.  I had one job where I was paid much less than the men doing the same work.  I was told that they needed more money because they were married and had children to support.  I didn’t need to be quiet and humble in that situation.  I needed to roar about my equal abilities so that I could get equal pay.  
But, in church every Sunday I was reminded that I was to strive for humility.  It was a confusing time.  Maybe the answer to finding the right balance lay in what Rick Warren said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  Remember: ‘All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
I am a lay preacher standing here before you today.  I am exactly like each of you.  I have no more status or importance than anyone in this building.  I love that about our church.  I’m glad that I’m not standing high above you, wearing elaborate robes, preaching down to you.  We are lucky that our St. Mark’s clergy is at the same level as the rest of us.  I hope that there is never a time in our church that someone thinks he or she is more important or better than anyone else!
Here is a joke:  A bishop, a priest, and a janitor were in a great European cathedral.  The bishop approached the altar, threw himself down on the floor and declared in a fit of humility, "Lord, I am nothing! I am nothing!" Then the priest approached the altar, threw himself down on the floor and declared in a fit of humility, "Lord, I am nothing! I am nothing!"
The humble janitor was moved by these extreme acts of humility, so he approached the altar, threw himself down on the floor and declared, "Lord, I am nothing! I am nothing!"  The priest turned and furiously hissed into the bishop's ear, "Who the heck does he think he is?"
The priest and the bishop weren’t exactly practicing the humility they preached, were they?  Do as I say, not as I do.  Jeff is learning to drive now and I find myself driving with more care than ever so that I can model safe driving to him.  No more fussing with the radio, talking on the phone, eating while driving.  Do you think he has forgotten the last 13 years of my bad driving habits?  I hope so!  Now I am trying to practice what I preach.  I think that I fail every day.
The Rev. Dr. Kris Lewis writes: “No matter how badly we fail to live out our discipleship, to practice what we preach, God's love and God's grace are still there for us, still hold us and comfort us and sustain us.  We will always have yet one more more chance to get it right, to embrace Jesus' call to be servants, to see our neighbors at every turn, to see them and to love them, unselfishly, unreservedly.  That's what Jesus teaches over and over again--and Jesus never fails to practice what he preaches.”