June 24, 2018

The Outsiders – The Humble

Luke 7:36 to 8:3

Carla Wilks

The scripture that was associated with today’s theme of The Humble, was puzzling to me at first. On my first few times reading it through last week, it seemed to me more fitting for the theme of two weeks ago, The Worthy. The woman in the story breaks in to a dinner party, interrupting the festivities to enter, kneel at Jesus’ feet and weep. Her tears flow onto Jesus’ feet, and she washes his feet with the tears and pours oil on them. Then she dries them with her hair. This is something that at the time, if you were being a really really good host, you might anoint your guest of honour with oil. It would be considered quite extravagant treatment to your guest. But here is this woman, she is one of the ones in society that is seen as an outsider, as not worthy, and Simon, the host of the dinner party knows it and points it out to Jesus. Bursting in on a party in the way that she did, did not seem to be a very humble act, so it was puzzling to me as to why this was considered a story representing humility.

Then it struck me how in vs 44, Jesus reminds Simon that Simon is the host – but that this woman is treating him with more hospitality and generosity than Simon is. In humility she kneels before Jesus, knowing who he is and seeking his forgiveness. It was in opening herself and approaching him with humility, that he sees her in her vulnerability and forgives her. Simon doesn’t understand how Jesus can show such mercy to her, this woman, who in his eyes, was certainly not worthy of Jesus’ time and certainly not worthy of his forgiveness.

But as he often did – Jesus has an unexpected response – he said she had a lot in her life that needed forgiving – and so she had shown great love to him by her actions.

Recently a friend of mine has been at a very low point in his life – he is not someone who has ever been part of a church or believed in God, but he was at a point where he felt like he had exhausted all of his options for help, so he said to me, well, maybe it is time to ask God for help. I’ve tried everything else, and I don’t know what else to do.

The very next morning he told me that he had an unbelievable experience, and wanted to tell me about it. He said that what he believed to be the face of God came to him when he was thinking about his place in the world. So he asked God what he should do with his life and where he should go. When I asked my friend what kind of feeling the experience left him with, he said it gave him patience and a sense of peace. It seemed to me that once he got to the place where he felt he had nothing more to lose, like the woman in the scripture, he knelt at Jesus’ feet, and opened himself to the awareness of God. He emptied himself of any preconceived notions of faith, and that opened the door and allowed for something that was exactly the kind of guidance and understanding he was looking for.

I know that when I have found myself in situations where I am feeling overwhelmed and am not sure what to do or how to begin, I pause and open myself to the awareness of God. If I am intentional about this and leave some space, then often I am left with a sense of peace and an understanding of the next step that I should take. It is in kneeling at Jesus’ feet that we are reminded that we are not in this alone.

In addition to the emptying type of humility, the other aspect of humility in the story is that of selfless giving. The woman gave of herself in generous hospitality to Jesus. In my spare time, I’m a long time Girl Guide member, and over the last three years I have been the District Commissioner for the Burnaby Glens District. Our district has eight units and part of my job is to screen new leaders, and make sure that all the units have leaders, and that all the leaders have the training that they need in order to make the kids’ experience the best one possible.

We have some pretty fabulous women who are leaders, women who selflessly give to the girls in their unit. Most of them are leaders because they want to help provide a good experience for the girls and believe strongly in the ideals of Girl Guides. The welcome in Girl Guides is as broad as the welcome we have here at Mt Seymour. Anyone who identifies as a woman or a girl can be a Girl Guide, regardless of financial means, physical or developmental ability, and we are to do our best to make accommodations for that to happen.

This winter our Pathfinders, which are the group age 12 to 15, were going for a weekend camp to Hollyburn. Our rustic cabin on Hollyburn mountain has no plumbing or electricity. All the water used comes from melting snow on the wood stove, and all the groceries and supplies have to be hiked up the mountain and down again. It is a steep, icy mountain path from the parking lot. It takes a fair bit of planning to get a camp like this together, with all the safety forms and preparation for the girls. This year, there was a Pathfinder who has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches, and she wanted to go to camp. So the leader set out to make that happen. She contacted me for help and I put her in touch with the appropriate people at the provincial Girl Guide office who could best answer her questions regarding inclusivity and accessibility, and how we could make camp happen safely for this Pathfinder who would not be able to climb the mountain without help. She also was in close contact with this girl’s parents and physiotherapist to learn more about her level of ability and set up extra support who could work with her one-on-one to get up the mountain.

I was so impressed by this leader. She works full-time, is a mom and already spent a lot of time planning this camp, and now also was spending just as much time again, contacting various people in order to facilitate this one girl getting to camp. The leader did not do this for any personal gain. She did it because she believes in the ideals of Girl Guides, and wants all girls to have the opportunity to participate fully. She gave selflessly of her time for the benefit of the one girl in her unit, but this also in turn benefitted the rest of the Pathfinders, in experiencing from their Guider the value of each one of them, that each one of them is worthy of their leader’s time and dedication and that no matter their ability or status, there is an equal place for them in the unit.

This morning we recognized some people here at Mt Seymour who humbly give of their time to help our children feel part of this community and know that they are important and with them create a community of generosity and nurture.

There are many people here who give hours of their time to make things happen around here and do not do it to seek recognition, but do it in service, as if they are humbly kneeling at Jesus’ feet. A few that stood out for me around here this week as I have been thinking about this topic have been the ones who have adopted a section of garden out front and spend hours keeping it beautiful… the quiet knitters of the beautiful prayer shawls that bring comfort to others, so that they know they are wrapped in God’s love and held in the prayers of our community… the folks who just automatically come in and make tea in anticipation of any meetings, to foster a feeling of hospitality and welcome… the dedicated volunteers in the thrift shop who are not just here for the task at hand but also for the community that they help create… the hard working Council, who do important work on your behalf to ensure that Mt Seymour keeps running smoothly.

As with the woman in the story – it is in humble service that she has found a deep connection with Jesus in the way she needed it. She showed him love, and she received his compassion in return. Sometimes it is in the act of letting go that we can truly be open to receiving God’s love and compassion and open to accepting it through the love and care of others.

The invitation I leave with you today for the coming week is to take note of one of those people in your life or in your community who humbly serve or who give selflessly for the benefit of others. Your task for the week is to say thank you, or show your appreciation in some way for their humble generosity.

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