By Lu Mountenay of Independence, MO, USA
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” —Luke 18:9–14 NRSV
In this passage, Jesus declares a major paradigm shift—we shall humble the exalted and exalt the humble. The powerful will change places with the meek. High is now low, and low is high. Jesus turns everything downside up.
In 2015 I went to a performance and seminar by John Bell sponsored by a Presbyterian church. I remembered him as the impressive keynote speaker at the 2013 Peace Colloquy, which launched our new hymnal. On the cover of the seminar program was John Bell’s biography. I was so proud to see listed with his many accomplishments “Winner of the 2013 International Peace Award of Community of Christ.” It impressed me that he considered my church’s award as something worthy of inclusion in his biography.
As the seminar progressed, Bell personified humility. He talked about how in singing we share our joys, but we also must share our sorrows. We celebrate our accomplishments, but even more important, our need to improve and develop as disciples of Christ. He gave many examples, using himself as the one who most often learned a lesson in humility.
Slightly ashamed of my earlier feelings of pride that day, I tried to follow his example. I tried to suppress my pride in our denomination, but it was hard. Talking with him after the seminar, he glowingly remembered the Colloquy, Community of Christ Sings, and the community itself.
Luke 18 is not the only passage in which Jesus disrupts his culture. In overturning the tables in the synagogue, Jesus reversed the state of affairs for all time forward (John 2:15) and in all the Earth. Where we once thought to invite our “friends…relatives or rich neighbors” to our banquet table, we now know to “invite the poor…, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:12–13). And, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:10–11).
What a great combination are the scriptures and Community of Christ Sings! “Let the king beware for your justice tears every tyrant from his throne…till the spear and rod can be crushed by God…and the world is about to turn” (“Canticle of the Turning” by Rory Cooney, ©1990 by GIA Publications, Inc., Community of Christ Sings 404).
Prayer for Peace
God of grace, forgive us for our pride of position or possession, for our inflated feelings of rightness. Help us use our gratitude for all we have to include and bless those in need. May we each turn from violence toward the peace of Christ.
Spiritual Practice: Welcoming Unity in Diversity
Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a large circle with your arms. See and feel the diverse people God invites inside the sanctuary of Christ’s peace represented by this circle.
Who is easiest to welcome? Whom do you struggle to include? Confess the dividing walls between you and people too different or challenging to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep us from loving one another.
Today, God, I will remember, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” —Jimi Hendricks