Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sleeping through humility

Sermon for the third Sunday after Trinity

All good parables start with a king, don’t they? A powerful king sits on his throne surveying his wealth and power. He has conquered five new cities to the south and repelled the rebels. He has acquired an oil field in Texas. Gold has been discovered in his territories. The neighbouring kings bring him tributes of the finest treasures that they possess. His has three sons and seven grandsons who sit with him watching him govern the might of his kingdom. This is the world he has made for himself.

All good parables have a begger, too. There is a beggar who sits at the church door. He manages to get enough money for food. He listens to the church music during the day. He has made friends with the regulars that walk past the church daily. At night, he can usually find somewhere protected and quite comfortable to sleep. This is the world he has made for himself.

Who’s happiest?


At night, the king dreams restlessly. The rebels take back control of the cities. The oil field runs dry and the gold mine has only fool’s gold. The kings are plotting against him. His family plot his overthrow. This is the five hundredth night in a row. Will he ever get a good night’s sleep?
But the beggar, in all his poverty, is sleeping well, isn’t he?

No. At night the beggar dreams restlessly. His past is still with him. His demanding of his birth right from his father; his running away from all who love him; his squandering the money on a life of wine, women and gambling. He dwells on these from day-to-day. He has them in front of him all day, and at night, his failures whisper in his ear. He can’t go back. He just can’t.

As the king suffers sleepless nights worrying about his wealth, the beggar suffers sleepless nights taunted by his personal failures.


Both the beggar and the rich man have to live in worlds that they have created, and they let these worlds define who they are. They are both enslaved and devoured by the weight of what they have added on to their very selves, materially, mentally and spiritually. Their world eats them up leaving only a façade, a shell drunken on worry and concerns from the world. Both men need to find the joy of humility.

Humility isn’t about being the lowest of the low. It’s about realising that, despite those things we’ve done with our lives, they need not define us. We do have a hand with God in our creation, and we’re not finished yet. Every day, our decisions and interactions with God and the world around us shape us more, but so many people leave God out of the equation – and that includes Christians.

Humility is about accepting the truth – the truth of how our desires to build our world enslave us and stop us from being truly alive; the truth of our failures which haunt us and stop us from growing. We cannot allow either of these states to make us drunk with worry and concern to the extent that we forget God and forget who we are. Humility says that, although we have a hand in who we are, God is the Creator, first and foremost.

St Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”


We need to look at ourselves critically, but honestly in the love of God. We must take responsibility for the way we shape our lives but trust in the knowledge that, with God with us and as we participate faithfully in His life and love, all that happens will work out to our good. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

Both the king and the beggar need to learn humility. The king needs to see who he is without the riches. The beggar needs to see who he is without his self-inflicted poverty. Such realisations can only come about by letting go of the vision and realising the truth in God. Kings and beggars are equal in the offer of salvation that God extends to them with pierced hand.

Our growth in this life is turbulent and unsettling, but that is the price of transformation. To find true joy in Our Lord, we must learn to accept that we need to change and alter the course of our lives towards Him: that transformation causes distress and turbulence in our lives. There will be sleepless nights of realisations, but bringing them to God in an honest prayer, we can trust Him to bring us to perfection, no matter who we may be.

How are you sleeping lately?

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