Sep 2, 2019
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
You’ll find something interesting about military members who return from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sometimes it can be pretty severe, causing a person to be unable to function well because of their experiences. Sometimes it’s a mild case that just causes a few hiccups and peculiarities in their behavior. One of those peculiar behaviors can be seen in most of those returning from combat zones.
I admit I’m one of those trying to recover from some of the things I’ve seen in some of those places the Army chose to send me over the years. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always know what will trigger those memories, but one thing that I really don’t like and most of my military friends who have been in combat share my aversion. I don’t like to sit with my back to public doors. I want to see the exits when I’m in public.
In restaurants, I prefer booths against the wall, and I want to face the entrance. In theaters, I like the back rows. They are high, and I can see everyone else in the place. I’m not very good in large crowds and tend to creep to the edges, not into the middle. I get anxious when I end up in positions that put me in opposition to my preferred spots. I’m working on it and know the likelihood of something happening is slim, but still, the brain works in strange ways after facing some of those past experiences.
What’s really fun is putting a bunch of us in a room together and watching to see who gets the prime seats first and watching the reactions of those who didn’t quite get there in time. I know my PTSD is not so severe as some of my buddies and in those instances try to make sure their needs are met, but I can’t say I’m always comfortable with the idea.
The lectionary from Luke chapter 14 reminded me of those seating peculiarities. Jesus told a parable about a wedding feast that goes like this:
Now Jesus told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of hone, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you. ‘Give you place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”¹
I remember in one of my dad’s pastorates one of the ladies in the church told us how she “humbled” herself. She had hair down past her waist when she let it down. Of course, she would never do that in the church in those days; she always had it tied up in a bun. But every week, she let her hair down and dunked it in the commode to show God she loved him. We didn’t ask if she flushed first. Sometimes when you stood too close, I’m not sure she did.
And I’m not sure why she felt the need to tell us how humble she was by trying to flush her hair down the toilet. I’m not so sure God really cared much about that. And I’m sure he didn’t care about her proud attitude of her faithful ritual. My dad usually had a hard time keeping a straight face when she proudly announced her weekly ritual. The kids sitting around the church didn’t even try. We giggled and laughed as you would expect.
I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant by taking a lower place and being pulled up to a place of honor. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t want us to stuff our heads in toilets to let him know we were humble. That’s pretty ridiculous in my book. And for all of us who heard it and knew her, we knew she took a lot of pride in her ridiculous ritual. She wouldn’t miss that dunking for anything…even her son’s graduation! Can you imagine? I don’t think God can either. He did make an incredible zoo.
We should strive toward a life of humility, though. Jesus is described as humble. He was God but didn’t flaunt it. He could have. He could have grandstanded and shown off a lot more than he did. We have a few instances where he did some amazing things. Feed 5,000 men plus their families with a boy’s lunch. Make new eyes for a blind man. Fix legs that had never walked. Raise kids from the dead. Call a man out of the tomb who had already started to smell in the Mideast heat. Yep, those are pretty outlandish kinds of acts. But in most of those instances, he told them not to tell anyone. Just go about your business. Leave my name out of it. Give praise to the Father, don’t mention me. And I think he meant it.
Of course, it didn’t work. People saw those miracles or the results of those miracles and wanted to know how they happened. And the recipients couldn’t help but tell their stories. Jesus was at the center of every one of them. He didn’t ask for recognition, but he got it. In fact, he got so much of it the religious leaders decided he needed to die. Interesting how it was okay for them to break the rules because they thought he was breaking the rules, huh?
So what does it mean to be humble? Jesus knew he was the son of God. God gave him an incredibly important mission. Yet he was humble. We define the word as having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance. If we look at some synonyms of the word, we find these: meek, deferential, respectful, submissive, diffident, self-effacing, unassertive; unpresuming, modest, unassuming, self-deprecating; subdued, chastened
But he was God incarnate. How could he be meek and submissive and modest and unassuming as God incarnate? I think the answer lay in his relationship to the Father. Jesus was fully God but set aside the glory of heaven to dwell in this space with us. He assumed the same flesh and blood we have and leaned on his heavenly Father for actions that seemed so miraculous.
He told us we would do more than he did after he returned to the Father, and he sent the Comforter to be with us. The same power that raised him from the dead is available to us to do the work the Father has in store for us. What is that work? Redeeming the world through him. We are instruments of his love, and we can tap into the power source, his spirit, to enable us to fulfill the role he planned for us.
But we must remember it is not us. Paul reminds us, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” That is true, but I must remember it is through him, not through me. Jesus fed the 5,000 through the power of the triune godhead. He raised the dead by the power of the triune godhead. He rose on Easter by the power of the triune godhead. Our finite brains can’t really wrap our minds around what that means. God is one, yet three. He did all those things recorded in the gospels and empowered others to do incredible things recorded in Acts and the epistles.
When we accept Jesus as Lord of life, King of all, the creator who brings order out of chaos and forgives us for our sins, he empowers us to do the works he set out for us. Will we do the kinds of miracles recorded in the New Testament? Maybe, maybe not. For sure, we can love those around us with a love that transcends that which the world knows or understands. We can demonstrate God’s love to those around us and cause them to wonder what happened to us to make us different from the rest of humanity.
I mentioned at the beginning, a lot of soldiers end up with PTSD as a result of combat. I’m appalled at what humans can and will do to other humans whether in combat, as terrorist acts, or just through plain acts of evil. I’ve seen some of it that I would like to forget but know I never will. God destroyed humanity once with a flood because all our thoughts and intentions were evil from the time we were youths.
Jesus’ death and resurrection changed all that, though. He makes it possible for our minds to be transformed and for us to begin a better journey. One filled with his love for one another. One that because of his empowerment, can show the world a piece of the new heaven and new earth that awaits his adopted children.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
¹Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.