Luke 14: 1, 7-14
September 1, 2013
TEXT: "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who
humble themselves will be exalted"
There is an episode in Luke's Gospel in which someone asks Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" (Lk. 13:23). Judging by our own experience, we can almost hear what was going on in the questioner's mind. "Saving me won't be any problem for God. It's easy for God to see I'm on the inside track. I'm one of the good guys. But all those others out there. It's easy to see that not many of them are going to make it. I'll ask Him, 'Lord, will those who are saved be few?'" To which God's answer might well be, "Fewer than you think, 'FOR ALL WHO EXALT THEMSELVES WILL BE HUMBLED" (Lk. 14:11).
"Who is the Mysterious Spirit that evokes tenderness and forgiveness and hope in us? Who is the Mysterious Spirit that conceived the delicate wonder of childhood, the sensuous warmth of mature beauty, the gnarled gray wisdom of age, the endless mystery of life-and-death, tears-and-laughter?"
I don't know," he says, "but I trust this love, I sense this Presence, I have felt the power." Here is a modern man who has begun to take that inward journey toward a glimpse into the "Mystery of Life" itself. And it's a good look he's taking because he has undertaken the journey in the spirit of deep humility. Only a deep sense of awe and wonder and reverence for the "Ultimate Mystery" can open up for us the saving glimpse of God's goodness we receive from Jesus -- the Good News of a Gracious God who is for us and who invites us to begin experiencing eternal life with Him now.
A man went into a seafood restaurant and asked for a lobster tail. The waitress smiled sweetly and said, "Once upon a time there was a handsome lobster..."
The romantic poet, Gerard de Nerval, used to stroll around Rome leading a live lobster on a leash. To puzzled observers he explained, "I like to stroll with him because he never argues and he knows the secrets of the deep."
"No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him," the Apostle Paul has written (I Cor. 2:9).
That deep secret remains hidden from us, there can be no argument about that. God has given us a glimpse. And it comes to us, the New Testament writers tell us, not from the lobsters of the deep, but in the experience of loving one another. The joy that is always present in our expressions of unconditional love for one another is our best foretaste of eternal life with God.
To get a good look into the mystery of what your life is all about, take that inward journey in an attitude of total dependence on God. Humbly acknowledge your own insufficiency and you will begin to see what God wants you to see. You will see all you need to see in order to sustain your faith and hope in the promise of God. And that's no "Lobster Tale."!
There is the story of a preacher who once told a group of retreatants that their salvation depended on their good looks. They were incredulous. "Didn't Our Lord preach against such vanity?" they asked. "Didn't He say, 'All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted'?" Whereupon, the preacher smiled and explained his position in the form of a little homily that went something like this:
"Look!" says the Apostle John in the opening chapter of his Gospel, "behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn. 1:29). (Take a good look and He will show you the way to your eternal fulfillment in the life of God).
"Look!" says the Lord Jesus, "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sew nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ... Therefore do not be anxious, saying 'What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?' ... But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all things shall be yours as well" (Mt. 6:26,31,33). (Take a good look at your lifestyle in the light of this instruction to seek first the Kingdom of God.)
"Look!" says the Apostle Paul, "Look carefully, then, how you walk, not as unwise persons but as wise ... Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:15,17). (Take a good look at Jesus' life of loving service to understand what the Will of God is for your life. And be sure to look carefully. Your salvation depends on those good looks.)
Things happen to us -- beautiful things, terrible things. We need time to reflect on them, arrange them on the shelves of our minds, learn from them. We need quiet time for serious self-reflection.
In recent years, some members of our Society have become more aware of the benefits of solitude, as various forms of meditation have gained popularity. But the majority of us are still hurried, harried and "too busy" for self-reflection. Actually, the problem is not lack of time, because we all have 24 hours a day. It is really a matter of priorities. The things at the top of our list of priorities get done; the things at the bottom are neglected. So if the need for self-reflection becomes a high priority, we won't have to "find time" for it, we will "make time" for it and let something else go.
As for the "How?" of reflection, each of us must shape our own pattern, our own time, our own place and way of evaluating our lives and revising our goals. Why not mark some dates and times on your calendar? Surely your time for self-reflection deserves equal billing with the committee meeting, the beauty shop or the automobile tune-up -- even the TV shows you think you can't live without.
Take some regular time alone for a good look at yourself and what you're doing with your life in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Once a day would be best. Once a day, why not take the opportunity to rescue yourself from the worry and anxiety that robs life of its joy, robs you of your sleep, drains your energy and vitality, contributes and causes many forms of illness?
Once a day, why not just bring everything to a screeching halt, and take a quiet, serious, good look at yourself. Your good looks could be your salvation!