Walk Humbly with your God
I want to begin with some very familiar words.
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Let’s stop there for the moment and just consider those words.
How many times have you prayed the Lord’s prayer?
I think I must have said the Lords prayer hundreds if not thousands of times. As a young child these words were a part of every assembly on every school morning,not to mention twice on a Sunday and weddings and baptisms and funerals.
But what do these words mean? If this is a prayer then what are we expecting to happen when we pray
‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’?
What would the answer look like?
Are we expecting that in some miraculous fashion God will intervene in human history and make everything right?
I also suspect, that when we read ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ we tend to think globally. ‘God we want the world to reflect your will’. And that is a good prayer.
However, the world is smaller than the globe. The world where I want God’s will to be done is also in this country, in this county, in this city, in this town, in this church, in my family even in my own life.
In every aspect of our living we want Gods will to be done and his kingdom to come.
Can I get and Amen?
So, let me ask again, how is God’s kingdom going to come and how is his will going to be done?
I don’t think God is going to reach down and fix things any more than he already has.
The means of God’s kingdom coming and his will to be done has been entrusted to the church.
What does God’s kingdom look like? Well it looks a lot like Jesus, and more it looks like a world that acts justly, loves mercy and walks humbly with God. Or as Jesus put it one that loves God and loves their neighbour, whomsoever that neighbour is, as themselves.
When we pray, Father Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, I think there is a response from above that says ‘Amen, get on with it’.
So often we miss the point that we are to be the answer to our own and to one another’s prayers.
We have already looked at what it means to Act Justly – to know and to do what is right. We looked at what it means to Love Mercy, to love with the love we have been already shown and to forgive with the same generosity and grace that we have been forgiven.
Every time we act justly and live lives that love mercy we are showing the evidence of God’s kingdom and his will right here and right now. More than that our actions and words reveal God’s kingdom, they build God’s kingdom.
And today I want to take this further and ask what does it mean to walk humbly with God and why is that important in building the kingdom of God?
A few years ago, one of my teachers at college John, told us a story about the day he visited a huge rubbish tip outside of a favela (slum) in Brazil.
On this day, on this rubbish tip, he met a group of young children who were holding a bible study. They had found parts of a Bible on the tip and now every day they were studying it together.
Their method of study was simple but effective – they would read a passage and then ask, ‘who am I in this story and what does that mean’?
As John sat there with them that morning in the heat and the stench of the tip they began to read the story of the good Samaritan.
At the end of the story the leader asked the question ‘who are you in this story’?
John told us that in his mind he reasoned that he might be the Samaritan or maybe the inn keeper or even the donkey carrying the injured man. But he told us that somewhere deep within he heard a voice that said, ‘keep quiet John, say nothing and listen’.
Each of the children sat there that morning answered in the same way ‘I am the person who was beaten and left for dead’.
That was their world view – They were the victim. John said he realised that coming from a western world view we are in our own minds those who solve problems who fix things – we are the ones with power. In that moment he learnt what it was to walk humbly.
But what when you have now power? When you cannot fix things?
I love this picture –
I’s called ‘Begging for Change’. Originally it was done by and Australian artist called Meek but made famous after it was reworked by London based Banksy.
It is easy to go for a quick fix, sticking plaster approach, to throw a few coins into a cup when what is needed is empathy and humility and change.
Not so long ago a church Pat and I belonged to were beginning the process of planting a new church in Todmorden. The first meeting was a general get together at the town hall to explore the possibility. I will never for get the comments that were made that evening by the local residents. With almost one voice they said, ‘we feel abandoned’. Abandoned by the council, by government, by the church and even by God’.
That is such a strong word and not one we expect here in the UK. Abandoned.
That feeling that no matter how loudly you raise your voice no one will care, no one will listen.
The dictionary definition of mercy is: –
- Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
- Kindness that makes you forgive someone, usually someone that you have authority over:
The problem with this definition as I said at the time is that it is built on power. I have the power to act in mercy.
Remember last time I said to you if you want to really annoy God then don’t pass on the forgiveness you have received.
I like this picture –
There was once a man who was shipwrecked on a desert island. After many years he was rescued. His rescuers noticed that over the years he had built three buildings.
“What is that first one”? he was asked
“That is my house” he replied
“What is the second one”?
“That is my church”.
“And what about the third one”?
“Ah”, said the man, “that is the church I used to belong to”.
Did you know that there are over 30,000 different denominations of the Christian church worldwide?
Do you know why? Because at some point someone was certain that their view point was more biblical than the church they attended.
One of the books on my book shelf is by a theologian called Peter Enns.
I had been wanting to buy this particular book for some time then whilst we were visiting some friends in Northern Ireland we happened to find a “Christian” book shop.
Like most men I wandered around for half an hour before I went to the desk to ask if they had any books by Peter Enns. The man behind the counter frowned at me and in his best Irish brogue said, “we don’t stock him anymore, he used to be sound but now he has left the path.” By which of course he meant that Peter Enns no longer subscribed to their particular brand of theology. Such a threat was Mr Enns to their thinking that they had removed all his books (even the ones they previously agreed with) from their shelves.
The book ironically is called ‘The sin of certainty’. It’s a great title and really sums up the idea of walking humbly with God. The humble man recognises that he might not be right and even if he is, he will walk with humility.
Did you ever get into trouble for not being a bad looser but a bad winner?
Evangelical Christians can be the worst winners.
Over the decades I have been a Christian my theology has changed. In some cases, it has been tweaked here and there and in other areas it has undergone a total rethink. I have grown and as I understand more I continue to learn.
Peter Ennis in his book recounts how his theology was thrown a curved ball whilst watching an in flight Disney film.
Bridge to Terabethia
I really don’t think we can fully understand the pressure and religious turmoil that the early church went through. The church you and I are now a part of started as nothing more than a handful of people who formed what was an obscure sect on the fringes of Judaism.
Here are a group of Jewish believers who are about to have their world view shattered as God reaches out way beyond their comfort zone and into to the gentile world. As God includes those who they would naturally, and in their minds, biblically exclude.
God has to take Peter onto a roof and it takes three visions before he gets the point that all are to be included. Do not declare unclean what I have called clean. But biblically the animals that Peter saw were unclean and forbidden for him to eat.
Jesus had to confront the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus and then it would take a further three years of study before Paul was ready to teach that God really does include the gentiles.
The physical words of the Bible may never change but our understanding of them does.
Once the bible was used to justify slavery and the oppression of women. Thankfully there were those who were prepared to challenge those views to say there is a different interpretation. The words are the same, but our understanding has changed and continues to change. The Word of God is not some dead dusty text but living and active.
We no longer think, well most of us I presume, no longer think that the sun revolves around the earth, but when Copernicus first proposed the idea that the planets revolve around the sun he was branded a heretic.
For some people, any rereading of the bible will always be a challenge and it scares them. That’s OK but over 2000 years our understanding has changed anyway.
Humility is empowering for change.
It prevents stagnation an allows for progress and growth.
It stops us charging in as the fixers and makes us engage as listeners and become partners. It is John learning to keep quiet to hear the world view of those children.
By listening we learn, understand and grow, but for some even the task of listening is dangerous.
Before Pat and I visited Cambodia we thought it would be good to know a little about the country and its religious culture. So we started reading about Buddhism. I found that actually Buddha was an ok guy with great wisdom.
“One teacher experiences the truth of the teachings and hands it down as inspiration to his students. That inspiration wakens the student who passes it on further. The teachings are seen as always up to date, they are not though of as “ancient wisdom”.
It’s like a recipe for bread, each baker must apply his general knowledge of how to bake bread, but each time it is cooked it is completely fresh.
That knowledge helped us when we were there to actively engage with people. They were genuinely surprised that we knew about the Buddha.
But we also heard of evangelists who visited the country with the same gospel message they give in the west. They assumed the people would know the bible story, they don’t even know who God is let alone Jesus.
When the Apostle Paul visits Athens he knows the Athenians know nothing about Jesus, so he starts not by quoting the bible or words of Jesus but by quoting their own teachers and philosophers.
Even if you believe you are right, walking humbly allows you to join the conversation. The opposite of humility is arrogance which shuts down the conversation.
To walk humbly with God is always to have the thought that actually God knows more than I do, and I maybe don’t have all the answers.
To walk humbly with God is to recognise the God-ness in all people. It is to be a disciple, that is one who learns, to learn you must listen and critically evaluate what you hear.
To walk humbly with God is to recognise that we can learn from children on a rubbish tip in Brazil, from a Buddhist monk in Cambodia or from my neighbour.
When I was first asked to bring this series of sermons to you, my brief was something along the lines of ‘how do we help the church to reach out into the community together’?
The answer is to allow the words of Micah to reach down deep inside of us and then to become a part of the life of us as individuals and a the body of Christ, the church.
To be a people who are known to
I genuinely think a people like that are attractive and affirming and I think a people like that will find that God’s kingdom does come, and his will is done, here on earth as it is in heaven.