Season 4 - Week 1
“"...they will inherit the earth."”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Lately I find myself reflecting with fondness and regret on my earliest days as a youth worker. It was so much fun playing silly games, hiking in the woods and experience deep worship together. I loved caring for teenagers through their moments of crisis and discovery. What I don’t miss were the many times I felt overworked and alone, resentful as I stayed to clean and lock up or waited for the last student to leave. The epitome of this was the Saturday I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to pick up a rental van in time to meet young people at 6 a.m. to drive four hours to an all day event, which ended at 10 p.m. After we finally arrived back at the church at 2 a.m. I had to clean the borrowed van before returning it. Exhausted, my head finally hit the pillow at 3:30 a.m. Three hours later my alarm rang so I could wake up to preach, (sleep deprived) in two Sunday morning services.
“What a servant!” is what I’m sure I told myself, “Always ready to be present for students and willing to do the humble jobs.”
Thankfully, since that time I’ve grown in self-awareness. Looking back I can see that much of what I thought was humility may actually have been pride. I spent many hours with teenagers, not just because I cared, but also because it gave me an elevated sense of power and importance. I was the indespensible helper and I needed to be needed. And maybe I was left alone cleaning the van and locking up the building because I was too proud and independent to ask for help.
There are a lot of misconceptions about humility. Some people think meekness means letting other people take advantage of you, always saying “yes” or taking the serving position. What we see in the life of Jesus is a flexibility that comes from true humility. Jesus did come as a servant and poured his life for others, but he also let others serve and care for him. He asked for a drink from the woman at the well. He dependend on friends for funds, food and shelter as he travelled. He even let a woman of questionable reputation wash and pour perfume over his feet. He invited people into a community of interdependence, where everyone had something to give and receive.
We often see the well known account of Jesus washing his disciples feet as an incredible act of humility— The great rabbi taking up the towel and basin to do the lowest work of a slave. But what the story actually reveals is how the disciples were stuck in rigid, false hierarchical thinking. They resisted having him wash their feet because they divided the world into greater than and less than, the helpers and the helpless. Jesus easily and naturally chose to ask for help AND to wash their feet because he saw the equal dignity and worth of all. He affirmed that we are all beloved beings made in the divine image. We all need help and we all have something to give.
I’m still learning to shift from the inflexible posture of the indespensible helper to being part of the beloved, interdependent community that will inherit the earth.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What might this reveal about your tendency to divide the world into greater than and less than? What might be your next step towards interdependence?
Next time you're serving somewhere, take some time afterwards to reflect on what motivates you to do it. We're sure there'll be plenty of great reasons which you should celebrate (humbly!) but do you also become aware of moments where you become the indispensible helper that Mark describes?
O Lamb of God, who, both by your example and precept, instructed us to be meek and humble, give me grace throughout my whole life, in every thought, and word, and work, to imitate your meekness and humility. Mortify in me the whole body of pride; grant me to feel that I am nothing and have nothing, and that I deserve nothing but shame and contempt, but misery and punishment. Grant, O Lord, that I may look for nothing, claim nothing; and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you.
Let me never speak any word that may tend to my own praise, unless the good of my neighbour requires it; and even then let me beware, lest, to heal another, I wound my own soul. Let my ears and my heart be ever shut to the praise that comes from men.
O giver of every good and perfect gift, if at any time you please to work by my hand, teach me to discern what is my own from what is another’s, and to render unto you the things that are yours. As all the good that is done on earth you do it yourself, let me ever return to you all the glory. Let me, as a pure crystal, transmit all the light you pour upon me; but never claim as my own what is your sole property.