Sunday, February 28, 2010

Goodbye to Sinful Pride

This is a draft of this morning's sermon. I'll try to edit it later.
Purple. Purple can be the color of repentance—but this dirty purple cloth stands for pride.
Purple is the color of pride because a long time ago only the most wealthy and the most powerful could afford it. The purple color came from crushed shells, crushed like people are crushed when they run into this sin. People all over the world are crushed by powerful proud people… so much suffering, slavery, prejudice, persecution, hatred—people not thinking of others but only of themselves and their own advantage—when we were in Puerto Rico after Christmas I started reading this book “Caribbean”—it’s such a beautiful part of the world but so much war and killing and slavery and suffering… so much comes from pride.
Pride likes to be in control. Pride likes power. In the Garden of Eden how did the devil tempt the man and the woman? It wasn’t really about eating the fruit… Genesis 3:4 says that the real temptation was to be like God, knowing and deciding for ourselves what is good and evil--not needing to listen to God anymore, to be strong and wise and good – and in control. Like God.
Pride keeps me from seeing the truth. I don’t need to learn any more. I don’t need to listen. Pride says “I have my mind made up—don’t confuse me with any more facts.” When I have suffered in my life for a long time often it’s because of pride. People who love me try to tell me I am wrong about something, but when I am proud I keep on going no matter what they say. Pride keeps me addicted. Pride does not let me seek a cure.
Someone has said that it’s insanity to keep doing the same things the same way and expect a different result—I wonder if it’s less insanity and more just being stubbornly proud.
So who is proud in our gospel today? The Pharisees—who lived holy lives so everyone would know how good they were—and King Herod. King Herod’s purple purpose was stay on top, to stay in power, to stay in control. And you don’t need to be a king or queen to relate to that. How often do I want to stay in control? Like I’ve said before—we don’t look at sins to point at other people—we look at them so you and I will personally go to the cross. So you and I will know the price Jesus paid to release us – me – and you – and you – to release you and me from my terrible pride.
You and I – we’re always wanting to be in control.
Pride is the original sin. But what God wants… what God wants is for us to let Him be in control, to let God see us and take us as we are, to admit that we are weak and foolish and full of sin, to let ourselves be gathered by God like a mother bird gathers the little chicks under her wings.
Look at verse 34 of our gospel lesson… “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” says Jesus. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her little ones under her wings, and you are not willing!”
When Jesus says this he’s not actually talking only about a particular city. There was violence in Jerusalem again earlier today… It's impossible to think about Jerusalem in Israel and not be so sad over the division there… and the wall that is going up between Israelis and Palestinians.
Suzanne Guthrie writes: “In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace… Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is the whole Earth. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.” War comes from pride. Patriotism can be good, but it can also give me lots of reasons not to think that maybe, just maybe, there are parts of life where I am wrong.
We are Jerusalem here in Dassel and Cokato—and when we are divided there is this same sadness, and this same yearning God has to gather us all under his wings.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her little ones under her wings, and you are not willing!”
You and I don’t like to be dependent like a baby bird, with our ugly little mouths open waiting to be fed. We want to think that we are good and loveable –
• We are sometimes like Narcissus, a handsome young man in Greek mythology. All he could think of was himself – he couldn’t get away from his reflection.
• And we’re sometimes addicted to being respectable – addicted to thinking that we’re really good people doing the best we can. We say “no body is perfect” but inside, we think we’re doing pretty well, and, after all, we’ve been in this town for generations and gosh darn it, my great-grandparents built this or that church or were charter members.
But when you or I are proud, we are not willing to be gathered under Jesus’ wings – under the wings of the cross --+-- like a bunch of poor, frightened baby birds.
Is that why we don’t have people lining up for prayer ministry during communion on Sundays, because we’re just too proud?
Or, is it pride that keeps us from being desperate like Abraham who cried out “O Lord God… all is lost… I don’t see how your promises are going to come true.”
Is it pride that keeps us from following God, so we look up like Abraham, see the stars in the sky, and hear God say, don’t be afraid! Look! See the stars… look… how many are there? That’s how much I am going to bless you and those who come after you—as many as the stars… “So shall your descendants be.”
There is a glorious future when we give up our pride and come to the Lord.
So, it’s time to just give it up.
It’s time to quit hanging on to anything besides the goodness of God—the goodness of God we see on the cross, where Jesus died for proud people like me.
Are you stubborn? Are you self-reliant? Have you been in a position where the people who love you have been trying to tell you something but you just won’t listen?
I’ve been in a situations where dear God-loving friends have told me to just give something up and I am so stubborn. I’ve been in situations where I have suffered so much because I just won’t learn.
When that happens, God leaves me alone… Verse 35 gives us the terrible truth—God can just leave me to suffer… “your house is left to you.” Go ahead and live like you want to… go ahead and suffer… you won’t see me until you are willing to say “Blessed—how wonderful it is to give up control to the Lord.” Someday we will learn that we’ve been proven wrong. Someday, one way or another, we will come to our knees before the Lord, and when we live and die in trust, he will save us… even from our pride.
In the newsletter this month I put in a piece written by my daughter’s friend Gintare… She writes something like this: Going back is not my number one preference. I would rather keep on going—even if when I do I arrive at a dead end. But when I decide, humbly, to turn around and get back to the place where I did make the wrong turn, my Savior Jesus will be waiting for me there, to reaffirm that I am his beloved child, and that he still delights in me, no matter what.
So we take our pride, bring it to the Lord, and huddle, like little frightened birds, under his wings.
Pray for the removal of pride.

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