A homily for Trinity 15
“They said nothing, because they had been arguing which one of them was the greatest” Mark: 9:34
Just last week we came home from a few days away in Paris –
(hey, it was only for a few days!)
So I had that lovely feeling you get when you return home
from a big, international place like London or Paris
and Cardiff just feels like a comfy pair of slippers.
It doesn’t have a Belgravia or Montmartre,
but it’s our home, and I’m proud of it –
of its streets, parks, rivers, people
I cried, earlier this year, when I saw the film ‘Pride’ – the film about the gay community from London who supported the Welsh miners during the 84-85 strike. I cried at the very end, at the scene that showed all the miners coming with their bands and union banners to walk in the 1985 Pride march.
Yeah, I like pride, especially in people who’ve been humiliated or made to feel worthless or second best just because of who they are.
Charlie Marx once said, ‘the working class don’t need to be taught snivelling Christian humility. They need strength, self respect and pride’.
Yep, I know where he’s coming from,
I also agree with C S Lewis and the great Christian teachers
who say that the very worst sin,
the one that feeds and enflames all others
Hmm….can I explain the contradiction?
Well, I admit:
I don’t quack, but I do duck questions….
Like the word duck, pride is one word that has very different meanings.
Basically, there’s good pride, and bad pride.
The good kind is like when you feel an innocent warmth and admiration for your home, your family, yourself – it’s just having a deep, celebratory affection for these things. You *should* feel that kind of pride in the person God has made and adores – that’s you.
As John O’donahue says, always hold “you” – yourself- with deep affection.
That’s good pride. Bad pride is like a twisted version of that. It’s the pleasure at looking down on others on the basis of who you are, what you are, or where you’ve come from. Bad pride is all about ego, all about expecting great service from others; it’s always making everything in life a competition.
The best friend of bad pride, is false humility – thinking you have to beat yourself up or make yourself a door mat for Jesus. Bad humility and bad pride both want to keep you from God: one by telling you that you’ll never be worthy of Him; the other by telling you that you’re far too important for Him. Both are from the devil.
‘Ah, but I was so much older then – I’m younger than that now’ ~ Bob Dylan
So the disciples of Jesus were having an argument about which one of them was the greatest. (bad pride). Jesus, rolling his eyes, prays, ‘give me strength’.
Here, and throughout the gospel, Jesus says, “in my kingdom, that silly game is cancelled for lack of interest on my part. I turn it on its head: the greatest is the littlest, the last become first. You wanna be a leader? Then be a servant. You are never greater than when you are kneeling down, looking up to honour another soul. In fact, here’s a child. Hasn’t written anything, solved anything, fixed anything –she just gives love and accepts love -just because. Let her humility show you that your real life is never about competing, performing, comparing: no, it’s all about delight in the sheer, shared, fragile existence of yourself and everyone else.
That’s true humility, and it’s the friend of good pride. It teaches you that we are all naked underneath, that we are all little, that we all have an oceanic need for God and others. Humility will make you feel so much better about yourself.
In that crowd of arguing adults, the one closest to Jesus,
The one in His arms,
Is the littlest:
Humility teaches you that,
Humility will always lead you home.