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  • February 13, 2008


    Yesterday I was privileged to preach at Wesley Seminary.
    The occasion was the service for the Week of Prayer for Christian
    Unity. The theme was ‘Pray Always.’

    The presider was Dr. Deborah Sokolove.
    The choir was awesome–and the participation excellent.
    The dramatic presentation on First Corinthians 13 is
    something I will have in mind whenever I read this passage–which
    is often.

    As always, all at Wesley were most hospitable.
    [as they were the day before]

    What follows are a few of my reflections:

    A Meditation on Love and Humility

    I. We are all creatures of habit. One example: We see in our congregations that people tend to sit in the same seats—as we might do here at Wesley. Habit can be hard to change. Today I am offering a few reflections on our grace-filled habits–the virtues of love and humility.

    II. The theme for this year—the 100th Anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity—is “Pray Always” [1Thess 5:17]

    A. St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians and us in a rather poetic passage to give ourselves over to continual prayer—with the joy and thanksgiving that comes with it.

    B. Continual prayer is something I have been working on—trying to give everything to God, living the life of the Spirit in depth. Prayer is the fruit of the Spirit. We need to ask the Spirit to inspire us with what to say and do.

    C. I have not succeeded completely—though I do know that at times during the day I do turn to God. I am more than occasionally forgetful of God. I can go on automatic pilot.

    D. I have those ‘parts of me’ that resist God. [90% for God, 10% for Crossin] Some folks I don’t feel like loving.

    E. I will know when I have made a little progress when in my spare moments I begin to pray. My default mode might become prayer—my loving relationship, conversation and friendship with God—my loving response to the presence of the Spirit.

    III. The well-known passage from Corinthians, which we have seen enacted, describes the central virtue of Love—which as many have noted is a description of Jesus Himself.

    We accept the guidance of Christ’s Spirit—the Spirit of love and of beauty [the beautiful art here at Wesley is to lead us to God.]

    • Love expresses itself concretely in daily living—in practicing the virtues such as patience with others and with oneself [we are so slow to change] and gentleness toward all—we are made in the image of God [every congregation has characters]
    • A critical virtue for growing in love is humility—Ultimately, humility leads us to deeper loving. Love unites all the virtues.

    IV. Humility.

    A. Jesus gives us the example of self-giving service—St. Paul is urging the Philippians to do the same rather than merely pushing their own agendas in the community.

    B. What is Humility? We ourselves need this humility of Christ. It is a gift and we need to ask for it. We will be asking for deeper humility throughout our lives.

    My own meditations lead me to stress some key elements:

    · Humility flows from the gratitude that we should have for the gifts that God has given us. Our lives can become permeated with gratitude and thus with joy. Humility is quietly joyful.

    · My meditations lead me to conclude that humility is realism. It is a realism about who we are. We have talents and gifts from God and so do others. We need to identify our gifts.

    · We also need to identify our limitations. We do not have all the gifts. Others have these gifts. All the gifts are to build up the Body of Christ, which is the church. These others are with us in following Christ and we rely on them. Insofar as we come to Christian unity, to full communion, we will begin to see the fullness of the gifts that God intends for the community.

    · We do not fully understand the humility of Jesus. Yet through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have learned a few things. We can learn from the Jesus who humbled Himself in making our discernment of the right path.

    · Ultimately, as we consider humility we are confronted with the mystery of God. We can say many true things about this mystery. We can find these truths in the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils of the church.

    · Yet as I have gotten older, I have come to realize even more the limitations of human understanding. We are encountering the mystery of God. We can always understand this mystery more deeply. And we can always love God more completely. Our view is quite limited.

    · Thus in our dialogue with our fellow Christians we may come to more comprehensive ways of seeing things. Others can see more clearly than we do into certain aspects of Christian Faith. As we seek to empty ourselves and live more in the Spirit, we may come to see the limitations of our own point of view.

    · I believe that we will always have something to learn from one anther.

    V. Conclusion

    · Ultimately I conclude that we need holy men and women to lead us to Christian unity.

    · I am confident that God has sent and will send us such holy people. Our task is to seek them out and to listen to them. These good will guide us into the unity that Jesus wills for us (Jn 17: 17-21).

    · We ourselves must take seriously our own call to become like Christ. God may be giving us special graces for the good of the ecumenical movement.

    · In the Spirit let us ask for a deeper listen to the holy ones around us. And so that we might become holy ourselves–sharing in the humility of Christ.