“We bow before you today in humility, with thankful hearts”

Post 8 of 28

I remember as a child hearing the name “Mother Teresa” but knowing little about her story or her ministry with the Missionaries of Charity.  I remember seeing her on television, an occasional story about her ministry in India among the poorest of the poor, and obvious world-wide fascination—love, perhaps—for the dedicated woman of deep faith.  When she died at the age of 87 in September 1997 in Calcutta, I remember a global outpouring of mourning over the loss of this woman whose life had touched so many others; even those she never met; even those who never came closer to her than a television screen or a newspaper.

 In Colossians 3:12 Pauls tells the faithful of one of the first church plants in history to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  We do this because, as “God’s chosen people,” they were “holy and dearly loved.”

 In the garden, after Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden tree and realized they were naked—a clear reference to shame that is quickly understood throughout Asia and most of the Eastern world—God is said to have been walking in the garden.  When this happens Adam and Even—apparently unlike previous occasions—hide from God out of their shame. 

 God immediately knows something is not right, but when God is told what has happened, God does not respond in anger.  No, instead God makes clothes for them, covering their nakedness and shame. God’s solution comes in the form of skins, meaning that a sacrifice of life was needed in order to provide the skins with which the clothes were made.

 Without going too far beyond the scope of the Genesis story, I think we can see that God’s solution for our sin and shame also required the sacrifice of life on the cross.  And in the same way that Adam and Eve put on clothes to cover their bodies, we too are asked to put on new clothes…to put on a new life…to become something new.  We are asked to put on the clothes of…

  • …compasssion
  • …kindness
  • …humility
  • …gentleness
  • …patience

 Mother Teresa is said to have offered a few ideas on how we can practice humility:

  • “To speak as little as possible of one’s self”
  • ”To mind one’s own business”
  • “To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully”
  • “To pass over the mistakes of others”
  • “To accept insults and injuries”
  • “To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked”
  • “To be kind and gentle even under provocation”
  • “Never to stand on one’s dignity”
  • “To choose always the hardest.”

As we approach the throne of God in humility and gratefulness, we might translate some of these into something more like this:

  • Take time to be still and listen
  • Focus our thoughts on the business of God—God’s plan, purpose, and mission
  • Allow the Holy Spirit access to our hearts and minds—to examine, search, and perform a deep-cleaning where necessary
  • Forgive others and seek reconciliation as quickly as possible
  • Love, pray for, and bless those who would not—and do not—do the same to me
  • Persevere in difficult times of trial, testing, disappointment, and failure
  • Always, and in all situations, reflect the grace, hope, peace, and love of Christ
  • Remember that on my own I am not good enough, smart enough, or strong enough.
  • Be willing to do that which is hard, unseen, unrewarded, and undone by others

 Finally, as we bow before God in humility, we do so in gratefulness to all who shown such humility, grace, forgiveness, peace, and love to us.

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” 

 ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Letters and Papers from Prison”