Proper 26 Year A: Proactive Humility

Micah 3:5-12
I Thessalonians 2:9-13,17-20
Matthew 23:1-12

Micah was probably not a popular person. We heard him in the first reading today telling the truth, and the truth does not usually make one popular. He was letting people know that Israel and Judah had not lived up to their vocations as examples of God’s love to the world around them, so they were to be chastened and reformed by being conquered by surrounding empires so that they would learn to trust in God alone, rather than in their military, economic, or diplomatic prowess. The people around him did not want to hear that news. They liked the other prophets, who, for a small fee, would tell them that everything would be ok. There preference for lies over truth doomed them.

We tend to be like those people. We don’t want to hear the truth if it makes us uncomfortable. But if we do not admit the truth, no matter how frightening it is, we are doomed, just like Israel and Judah. We can’t ask God for help when we never admit anything is wrong. Humility can only work in an atmosphere of honesty.

Jesus talks about this subject in our gospel reading this morning. The scribes and Pharisees should have been leaders of the people, but they had stretched the proportions of that leadership to the point where they expected admiration from others whom they considered to be less worthy than them.

The scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’s story needed humility, not because they were worse than the people around them, but because they were just as good as everyone else. They were loved just as much by God as the people around them were. They did good things as well as bad things, just as much as the people around them did. Because they did not want to admit that they were just like everyone else, they were doomed, because that was the truth, and just like the people in Micah’s day, when we don’t face the truth, we are doomed.

The truth is: we are all wonderful, beautiful children of God, and so is every one else. We are no better or worse than anyone else. We are all equally worthy of the love of God and the people around us. Anytime we act otherwise, we doom ourselves to life in the hell of our own lies. Admitting the truth of our infinite worth as God’s children is just as important as admitting the truth of our failure to live up to that vocation. Only when we admit both can we ask God to forgive us for failing in our task to be God’s image. Only when we admit those same truths about the people around us can we live with them in peace.

Our job is to be the Body of Christ; the presence of God to the world around us. We don’t always do that job well. We don’t always forgive others when they don’t do it well. We must confess both of those failures and get on with the job. The truth sets us free. Lies bind us. Humility is the only cure; admitting that only God can help us be who we truly are.   AMEN