Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Greasy poles and other humiliations

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity.

Why on earth would anyone want to climb a greasy pole? There are, apparently, greasy pole climbing competitions around the world, probably in the same places as cheese rolling and dwile flonking. It seems an easy enough concept to understand, try to get to the top of a pole that’s been greased: the one who gets nearest to the top wins! We use the image of the greasy pole to describe the way that some people strive for promotion, power or influence. Look at the boy in the packing room planning his way to becoming CEO of the company. See how he plots every move that he intends to make, and figures out every hurdle he has to jump.

What does he hope to gain?


Our Lord would have seen nothing wrong in seeking leadership in society or in a company. Things need to be in good order: after all, God created order from chaos! He bids us render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, that is, to observe the order of society and the government, but also to render unto God that which is God’s. We know that everything is God’s and of His own Creation do we give Him and that includes ourselves. We obey governments because that’s what God wants us to do.

Christians are to see leadership as a duty and service, not as a privilege and right. Christians are not to see leadership as an opportunity to enforce their own wills upon others.

[PAUSE] Our Lord scolds the scribes and Pharisees for using arbitrary laws to enforce their own power and their own prestige. They command things because they can, not because it’s good. The only reason why they will not allow healing on the Sabbath day is because they command it. When Our Lord confronts them with the sheer emptiness of their commandment, they cannot answer Him. All that awaits the scribes and Pharisees is a humiliating slide down the greasy pole.


Humiliation brings everyone down to the same level, or up to the same level. Humiliation really means being brought to ground level, or indeed up to ground level! God has created each of us to play a part in His creation and this means being grounded in that very Creation. We exist because of Him and for His good pleasure. Any rank or value we put upon things is arbitrary and will pass away when we die. This is because the values that we have belong to us and are not necessarily from God. If we truly seek God’s values, then we must seek the truth about Creation. We might seek to make things holy for ourselves, separating them from others by our own values, but God truly makes things Holy by separating them out for Himself. We are all called to be saints, all called to be holy, but our holiness depends only on God and not on our rank in this life.


Our Lord reminds us that we will be seen for what we really are. If we think we’re anything more than a child of God, then we’re going to be severely disappointed!

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