Proper 20 (2022)
The last few days have captured my attention as the world responded to the death of Queen Elizabeth. One particular video caught me off guard as the new King Charles III processed through some random city in the UK and a sole heckler yelled derisions.
Almost immediately, the crowd drowned out this man’s voice with solemn, clear tones of “God save the King”. I would wager that an abundance of people in that cry had a myriad of positive and negative feelings about their new monarch, yet they had an overarching ethic, rulers deserve honor.
Today, we learn an overarching lesson, Christians live peaceful lives because we value dignity. We believe that we belong to something, Someone, larger than our differences. There is an overarching worth to everything we do and everyone of us because of the God who loves us.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
...Dignified in every way
...Dignified in every way
Rightfully, at the heart of many divisions and conflicts today is the idea that someones dignity is being harmed or eroded.
In my interview for CLC some 5.5 years ago I sat in that little room and the question was asked- or something similar- what is your weakness. Aside from my many weaknesses I despise being treated as ‘less than’. I hate a lack of collegiality, that someone would think they are superior to me. Mind you this does not mean that I need to be the best but I have a very real sense that I, and everyone else is somehow, worthy, valuable.
It is this idea of human worth, human dignity, that is currently being redefined. Our readings today have been weaponized against the church as misogynistic (they’re not) and patriarchal in the worst possible way. The church should not denigrate standing. What we want to do is anchor dignity in a more resilient way.
There is not a mutual exclusive in the way that our church body operates.
Praying in public does not at all render one superior or more dignified. In fact, Paul makes the point at this end to shore up the equal rank of men and women.
Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Man may pray aloud- but woman gave birth to God. Mary is the mother of God.
Our dignity and worth is tethered to the work of God and Jesus Christ.
Christians are people who see Human dignity, value, and worth, as inherent.
Christians respect all people simply because they are people and our God became a Person.
This renders peace. Let me show you how.
A simple example. A few weeks ago I was talking with a new friend and it came out that we both have the same piece of niche exercise equipment. Now immediately I felt very much like an insider, like everyone else at this event was somehow less. THEN my new friend bemoaned getting old and how his split time was eroding. I also lamented age and my diminished times due to age. Dignity still intact - you know where this is going. He let slip what his new 2 minute time was and I am not going to tell you the time but it was 50% faster than mine.
If we believe that our dignity is tied to how we express ourselves or our utility in this world, then we are constantly set up to be worthless or arrogant. Perhaps, this is why we seem to value people at the beginning and end of life differently.
Paul here tells all people to do something radically different. Because our dignity is tied to the God who made us and not rowing or child bearing or grades Paul says - hold back.
Don’t display all of yourself. Why? Because there is one God and I am not it.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
I am not, you are not, the mediator of between God and man, not even between humans. Jesus is that person.
We do not earn dignity. We are dignified because we are made in the image of God and God became one of us. God lowered Himself to our stature.
The word ‘Dignity’ in greek is the word semnotes, and it’s root is in the word sebo- meaning ‘reverence’ Think about how we receive communion here - we come forward, we bow- reverence the altar where God is present. Then we kneel in an ultimate act of submission. All of our individuality is still present but it is now in service to the King and simultaneously uniform with all the other believers.
In a world that says there is one imperative: ‘be authentically, fully you, whatever that may be’ one has to ask, ‘How is that working out?’ One doesn’t need to look far to see the objectively diminished health of our fellow creature. According to the CDC Life expectancy is dropping and not just because of COVID- cirrhosis, suicide, heart disease, and overdoses- all are higher.
Here is what God wants for us: God is the one...
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God wants all people. The heckler, you, even me. God wants them.
What comes next in the reading is a sort of simple setup for how the church operates in its present time. Yes, Men you can do more than what is asked of you, Yes, women you can do more than is asked of you. Yet, when we come together we all recede so that the unity of the body may flourish.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
Men should live and work so well that their hands are clean enough, holy enough, to lift them before the assembly and nobody will fight or argue about their qualifications, ability, or stature.
likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
Women should live and work so well that they need no additional embellishments. Does Paul tell them to sell the braids or pearls? Nope. He only says they’re unnecessary.
He reminds us that what is impressive is faith, love, holiness, self control. These virtues transcend any expression of self or gender role. The poor and rich, young and old can all portray these virtues.
Here’s a prime example:
Many mornings I stand out front at the Preschool and high five kiddos and joke with parents. What’s interesting is that almost every year the first day everyone shows up in their back to school best -parents included. Cars are usually washed and kids have clean, new, everything. What is impressive though is the family that rolls in on week 7 with kids in tow - maybe the adult hasn’t showered and cheerios are falling out of the back of that sweet sweet minivan but what is on display is the love of that family. The way they care for each other and are patient, humble.
What is impressive is quietly painting the toenails of an elderly woman in a nursing home. What is impressive is giving cribs and strollers away and not requesting a receipt, what is impressive is the addict not taking a sip.
Isn’t this exactly the picture we get of Jesus on the cross? Just as our dignity is tethered to God’s glory, the dignity of Christ is tethered to our fallen humanity. His crown was of thorns, His cologne was the stench of death and blood, and His coronation address was one of mercy. He does not debase His captors nor draw attention to Himself. Instead, He pleads with the one who will raise Him up - His heavenly Father.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Friends, we commit our spirits, our bodies, our very lives to the one who created us, redeemed us and will raise us up on the last day. Our roles on earth and here in His church are quiet, humble and small because our God is so grand and yet - He too became small for us.
God is glorious and good. He has made you good- not because of the work of our hands but because of His hands.