It’s hard to be humble – sermon Luke 18.9-13 (The Message)  – Oct. 23, 2016

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(sung w/ piano & guitar) Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble  

When you’re perfect in every way.

I can’t wait

To look in the mirror.

Cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me.

I must be a of hell of a man/nasty woman.

Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,

But I’m doing the best that I can.

 

Mac Davis made this a pretty famous country song in 1980. Anybody else remember this. Well if you didn’t before worship today, you just might when I’m done. Because this is a refrain that will be song, hopefully by more than just me, throughout the sermon.

 

Since I do not really willingly listen to country music, there’s got to be a reason that’s more important than giving you something to get stuck in your head. So what’s going on in this song?

 

He is singing about how good looking he is, and perfect, and how that makes it hard for him to be humble, but he’s doing it so well. So he sings about how, though it’s hard, he is just so humble.  

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble    

When you’re perfect in every way.

I can’t wait

To look in the mirror.

Cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me.

I must be a nasty woman.

Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,

But I’m doing the best that I can.

 

If you noticed I made a little change in the song, which you can do as well if and when you feel like singing. I changed that line because I really think I’m not such a hell of a guy, but more a “Nasty Woman”.

 

Just one example— the other day, I was driving down on the south side of Milwaukee and a pick-up truck pulled right in front of me giving me plain view of his bumper, and the several stickers on it. And of course, because I have such superior driving skills, I could read those stickers, instead of keeping my eyes on the road. The one that really got me going, was: “the Constitution: frustrating Liberals since 1776”.  

 

And I smirked, and I shook my head, rolled my eyes. I couldn’t help myself; I pointed it out to Nathan, and we bust out laughing because why? Well, we didn’t have a constitution in 1776. In 1776 we had a Declaration of Independence. I knew that the Constitution came later, that it was some time in the late 1780’s. And, even though I had to ask my son Nathan what year the Constitution was signed (1788). I obviously knew better than whoever designed that bumper sticker, whoever sold that sticker, and the yahoo who bought the sticker and put it on his/her truck. My knowledge of history, specifically I knew my American history better than the person in the truck. I assumed I knew even more about the Constitution than those who blindly seem to worship it. O Lord, I just give thanks that I am not like that guy

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble    

When you’re perfect in every way.

I can’t wait

To look in the mirror.

Cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me.

I must be a nasty woman.

Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,

But I’m doing the best that I can.

 

“I’m doing the best that I can”. Sounds a bit like the Pharisee in Jesus story doesn’t it? I really like how the Message translates this part: “The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’” He’s doing the best that he can, and he’s pretty darn proud of that.

 

 

Now a days it seems like this has become a civic virtue—feeling superior to those we do not like or more acutely these days—those we do not agree with. There’s a good theological term for this condition it’s called being “self-righteous”. And though Jesus doesn’t use that word in Greek, or Aramaic, or even in (as some believe Jesus spoke and wrote) English—not even King James English—American English.

 

The pharisee in Jesus’ story is so proud that, well that he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do. He uses his prayer of thanks to God for all that he himself is doing. What he’s really doing is, get this, using his prayer to separate himself from those around him. Our translation says he poses, I like that. The Greek says he stands apart from those around him. So he poses above the (hoi poloi — Greek for the people).  

 

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble    

When you’re perfect in every way.

I can’t wait

To look in the mirror.

Cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me.

I must be a nasty woman/a hell of a man

Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,

But I’m doing the best that I can.

 

Those, however, are definitely not the words of the tax man. To know this guy is definitely not to love him. He is despised by his people. The tax guy wasn’t just the man who took their money, but he gave it to the Romans—the foreigners who had literally invaded and were occupying. He is, in the words of candidate trump, one “bad hombre”.  

 

And here’s the kicker. He’s the one who goes home justified; the who who is reconciled; the one who God is basically cool with. Not because he is good, or does good things, follows the 10 commandments, not because he acknowledges and is a realist living the mantra might makes right. That one is not the guy who spends his days and nights following commandments—the pharisee, but it is the tax man-the sinner.

 

What did he say, how did he impress God with his prayer? What did he say?

His prayer to God is: “give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’” He has no trouble being humble. There is not a smidgen of self-righteousness in those words.

 

I have to admit it, this is the person who is missing in our world today. The one who doesn’t use others to raise himself or herself up. Who doesn’t have to put another person down to prove themselves. In our country full of fear, and lacking in love. In our country where all of us think we are better because we are righter. Instead of singing: it’s hard to be humble. Jesus tells those who were so self-satisfied, those who were smug, their words should be Kryie eleison, Greek for: Lord have mercy.

 

Already some people are both: looking ahead to after the election and are talking about what will come next. We as a nation will go nowhere unless we do some real reconciliation. Reconciliation does not come from a happy dance at the goal, from taunting or ignoring the “loser”. That just leads as Jesus says today: “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face”. We in our coutnry, in our relationships, even with ourselves need to stop looking down at others must look at our world, at ourselves and with others, and pray: Kyrie Eleison—Lord have mercy.

 

 As I’ve come to realize, what if my eyes nose weren’t up in the air, my eyes reading bumper stickers, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so damn proud of myself in that moment, just so eager to get home to post what I saw on Face Book. Obviously I am not perfect in every way. No one is. So Kyrie Eleison—Lord have mercy. The best thing is that we can hear Jesus’ words that we are loved and forgiven, and with the bread from the plate and the cup we are freed to continue to move closer, to see one another, to be and live reconciled—so no more, Lord it’s hard to be humble. Let our words, the song in our heart be. Lord have mercy, Kyrie Eleison. Amen.

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