Ego Issues

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place.’” – Luke 14:8-9 (NRSV)

The Apocryphal Sirach offers the same truth without dressing it up in a parable: “Pride was not created for human beings” (10:18).

Sirach crushes any hope of wiggle room that we might be tempted to insert into Jesus’ parable. “Jesus said I shouldn’t place myself with pride in a place of honor, so let me just scoot down to the end of the table, where someone might notice me and invite me to a better seat. Surely it’s not pride if I conveniently position myself so that other people make a fuss about me.”

But no, according to Sirach. Pride was not created for human beings.

Period.

Not even for those who cloak their pride in humility and bad seating.

For whom then—or for what—was pride created?

Perhaps for the sun, which knows its work in creation and performs it faithfully. Perhaps for the tall sycamore, which is unafraid to shed its own skin for the sake of growth. Perhaps for the red-tailed hawk, which soars and dives with unwavering confidence in air currents it cannot see.

Perhaps most of all for the Holy Ego that has committed itself to an eternity of love.

God have mercy. In my not-so-secret heart of hearts, I want a better seat, or at least a better cushion for my seat. Teach me peace, not only humility, and I will boost your pride with praises.

written for the Daily Devotional

Learn Your Lessons

Gimel
Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.

Daleth
I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.

– Psalm 119:17, 25 (NIV)

Through my earbuds plays the wisdom of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” about setting boundaries after a bad relationship: “One: Don’t pick up the phone… Two: Don’t let him in… Three: Don’t be his friend…”

One, two, three.

The psalmist prays in an acrostic format, with one letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning each stanza’s lines: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, Dalet.

A, B, C.

Given the complexities of the world, given the complexities of our lives, given the complexities of faith as we mature and ask hard questions and wrestle with God: it’s no wonder that sometimes we need simple tools and elementary lessons to keep us grounded.

One, two, three. A, B, C.

In Sunday School when I was a child, the foundational lessons were built into our songs: “One, two, three. Jesus loves me! One, two. Jesus loves you!”

In the days of memorized catechism, it was a series of questions and answers: “What is your only comfort in life and in death? What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” (à la the Heidelberg Catechism)

In Psalm 119, twenty-two letters shape the psalmist’s prayer, but it can also be a string of beads or the fingers of a hand or the hours of the day that help us pray. It can be the simplicity of a rhyme or the faithfulness of a sunset that teaches us of God’s love. It can be an earworm or an alphabet that keeps us honest about our relationships with God and with one another.

So long as we learn the lesson. So long as we keep returning to it, by whatever simple tools we find most useful for the living of these complex days.

A: All that I am is yours, O God.
B: Be present with those who suffer, O Christ.
C: Call us beyond our egos and out into the work of love, O Spirit.

written for the UCC Daily Devotional

Communion

Come, sister: sit with me to watch the wonder of God dazzling within us like sparklers against the night sky. Come, brother: tend the fire with me into the wee hours as we spin tales of God’s mystery and chide one another to courage. Come, friend: the wait will not be so long if we sing of the goodness of God that knows no limit or hindrance. Come, family: break open the bread of miracles, pour freely the wine of delight, and we will marvel to find God with us while we wait for the new day.

sisters

on Genesis 18:14 — “Is anything
too wonderful for the LORD?”