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Humility and the Good Scissors



I remember when I was growing up, my mom had a pair of scissors that were not allowed to be used by anyone but her. These were the GOOD scissors. You know what I am talking about.


My mom had a special place for her pair. They were stashed in the drawer of her make up table. One time, I did muster the nerve to use them. I made sure she was not home. I found them nestled in the drawer and used them to cut whatever project I was working on and then carefully slipped them back in place. I thought I was so slick.


Until she got home. Somehow, she knew that her GOOD scissors had been moved! How did she know?! I bet your family had a pair of the GOOD scissors. Or maybe it was the good something else that was saved for special occasions.


Like the GOOD dishes that were only brought out for important company or holidays. Or maybe your family had the GOOD silver. And when company came and stayed, we always used the GOOD sheets on the bed and the GOOD towels were placed in the guest bathroom.


Funny how we save the GOOD stuff to be used when we want to make an event really special, or maybe to impress someone, or maybe we save the good stuff as a way to honor our guests so that they know their visit is important.


And when we had company, our guests were always seated at the head of the table and were given first choice of whatever we were having for dinner. I was 12 before I ever knew that chicken had more than wings! That is what was usually left by the time the platter of fried chicken made its way to the children’s end of the table.


My mother was always a gracious host. The hostess with the mostest. She always laughed. And while she took pride in making sure our guests felt welcomed and honored, I never felt that she did any of this out of an exaggerated sense of pride. I never had the sense that she did this out of a desire to exalt herself, to get admiration or attention.


There is nothing wrong with wanting to excel and achieve and to be loved or admired. However, this need or act can be destructive and self-defeating when, in our desire to impress people and get their attention, we think less of them in order to exalt ourselves.


Our gospel reading from Luke challenges us to address this need to exalt ourselves for the sake of being loved or accepted, by being humble. This is like one of those paradoxical teachings of Jesus, for example, “Those who save their life will lose it” and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. In other words, Jesus is once more turning everything upside down.


Three times in the Scriptures we hear this teaching of Jesus. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever discovers humility will be exalted in the heart and mind of God.


If we are to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we are to learn this quality of humility. This really seems to be in juxtaposition to what our culture teaches: be proud. Be first. Be successful. This is the American way to reflect our success.


And these qualities are important. But so is being humble. Humility does not mean we must feel inferior or put ourselves down. It does not mean that we must compare ourselves to others and come up short. Nor does it mean to be timid or to be afraid to speak up and speak the truth.


Anglican author C.S. Lewis wrote, “… humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” What a great mantra for us as leaders in our community and in our church. Confidence and humility are not opposites. They coexist in great leaders. In great humanitarians. In great Christians.


In my research this past week, I came across a woman named Vani Kola, an Indian venture capitalist and the founder and managing director of Kalaari Capital, an Indian venture capital firm in the early stages of development. She was listed as one of the most powerful women in Indian business by Fortune India in 2014.


The 57-year-old businesswoman believes that 'confident humility', even if it may sound like a paradox, is a deep self-awareness of strength and weakness. While confidence is about having the conviction in what one knows, humility is about accepting what one does not know or understand.


I think she has hit the nail on the head.


The Hebrews thought that they had all the answers: follow the law. Certainly, their interpretation of the law is to be righteous.


Many people today feel the same: they have all the answers. They are quick to quote scripture to point out who is living righteously and who is not. Holding tightly to what they believe is the correct interpretation of what God through Jesus wants from us to be righteous. But with everyone feeling that they have all the answers to bring us into unity, we seem to be moving further and further apart.


We have watched this struggle play out presently in our Christian institutions, presently reflected in the division within the Methodist churches, just as in our own during the Lambeth Conference. Good people trying their best to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.


Time after time in scripture, Jesus teaches either through words or actions, what is really important: inclusivity. Loving others who we may not want to include on our own guest list.


In Jesus’ time it was those considered unclean, physically or spiritually. Today, our culture’s list of “the other” is a bit more extensive: Drug addicts, Immigrants, strangers, and people who do not speak and look like us; homeless, the LGBTQ+ community, political rivals, those who have hurt us in the past. The list continues from broad labels to those that are specific to us specifically.


St. Augustines is in a time of transition: a time that we all will be given the opportunity to evaluate who we are and what we want. Last week in my sermon, I made a reference to finding out what our WHY is and how we plan to then achieve it. To do that, we will need to take a deep open and honest look at who we are and where we want to go. Do we want to change? Will that mean that we will need to be more inclusive not only of others who do not look like us but maybe do not act exactly like us? Who are children of God?


Your vestry has voted to begin a survey utilizing the company Holy Cow that will help us do just that: to ask questions, to begin holy conversations that will help us to follow God’s path for us as a church and us as individuals. To deepen our own faith and to help lead others to find and deepen their own.


This is hard but important work. This is kingdom work. And it will take humble leadership. Being open to different, open to listening, open to consider something that may not be familiar. At the same time, being accepting. As our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says, “to be accepting and affirming of the other, of all children of God.”


Amid all this, we will have our stewardship drive led by Kim Bragg. And she and her team will challenge us to put our money and our energy where our hopes and wants are. Again, kingdom work.


We will be busy for the next few months. Finding our way, planning our course, and reflecting the leadership of our faith. Answering the call to step up to lead when your vestry and team leaders ask. Following what God has asked of us: to share the good news. To love one another. To support each other. To have a presence in our community as a leader as well as follower of our faith, and to put our faith in the Lord.


Amen


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