Readings: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

18th after Trinity,  4th October 2015

Preacher: Ian Leitch


Some years ago I used to worship in a church that had a quotation from the Psalms written

around the outside of its east end, as many churches have. It was the opening of Psalm 115,

which runs: {“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name be the glory (Ps 115:1)”}.

The people who commissioned and built that building recognised that, in the words of our

epistle from the letter to the Hebrews, it is {God, for whom and through whom all things

exist (Heb. 2:10)}. The placement of that quotation is a statement of their relationship with

Him. But it is much more than, because a church building points to a living church

community. And the purpose of that (and every) church family is to point to God in every

aspect of its life.


The Latin inscription around the outside of east end of our church contains two verses from

Psalm 148. They translate as: “O praise the Lord of heaven; praise him in the height. Young

men and maidens, old men and children, praise the name of the Lord”. The verses may be

different, but the message it conveys is the same – that the members of this church seek to

live lives that put God first and give praise to him through their daily activities. Praise is not

primarily about what we do in our services, nor what we say. We give praise to God in the

way we live our lives day-by-day when we walk in the Way of our Lord. That quotation is

an announcement to our parish that we, as committed Christians, seek to make our lives

point to Him and to give glory to Him.


Of course, it is a universal experience that as soon one tries to make one’s life point to God,

one can no longer put self first. For every Christian must inevitably be so. God can be in no

place other than first. Throughout life we all observe that the most miserable people are

those who are anxious and worried about their own dignity. But in a life of faith the first

sign that our lives point to God is the humility that claims nothing for self. Yet in today’s

society the prevailing culture that tells us it’s normal to be selfish – one is expected to look

out for Number One; humility is made to seem like some kind of personality disorder.

Yet walking in the Way of Christ means modelling ourselves on Him, and Jesus lived with

great humility. He lived a life of service – healing and teaching. He mixed with the poor and

the outcasts, as well as the leaders of society. He emptied himself and suffered death on the

Cross for us. His humility made a huge impact on his followers. Nearly every New

Testament writter – whether by Peter or Paul or James or John – speak of his great humility,

as they urge early Christians to model themselves on Christ.


Jesus both lived and taught the way of humility. {Whoever humbles himself will be exalted

(Luke 14:11}, he told the people. We heard Jesus teaching about humility in this morning’s

Gospel, when he corrected the disciples saying, {“Let the little children come to me; do not

hinder them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you,

whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mark

10:14-15)}. Parents had brought their little children to Him. Nothing unusual in that – it was

the custom for mothers to take their children to the rabbi on their first birthday for a

blessing. So we are talking about very little children – the gospels use the word for “babies”.

And Jesus holds up those babies as an example to his disciples.


So what was it that Jesus saw in those babies that so commended them to him. Was it their

total innocence? I think not. The first century did not see children as little cherubs – that is a

much more modern notion. Jesus had grown up with younger brothers and sisters; I’m sure

he would have known all about the Wailing Ones and the Terrible Twos through to the

Stroppy Sevens and so on. No I don’t think innocence was the quality he identified.

From birth all babies are totally dependent on their parents for everything – even the most

basic of needs. In those days they were even more dependent; they were, in effect,

possessions of their fathers. Indeed, they were not even accepted into the family without the

father’s say so. And they remained completely subject to his authority for the rest of his life.

In the first century no-one thought about the Rights of the Child or recognised the child’s

needs as paramount. Such ideas were quite alien. Babies instinctively put their entire trust in

their parents. As they grew into adolescence and adulthood they came to recognize that they

depended completely on the good will of their father and they learned to identify themselves

with him. For us, humility must mean a total acceptance of our complete dependence on our

Heavenly Father – the {God, for whom and through whom all things exist (Heb. 2:10)}.


That kind of humility is the foundational virtue for the whole Christian life. Without an

acceptance of our complete dependence on God, we will not see the sinfulness of our own

lives and be enabled to seek forgiveness. Only with humility will we understand how much

we depend on his love and mercy. Humility has a willingness to forgive others, as God

forgives us. Humility seeks to serve others and gets down low to lift others up. Humility

looks to the needs of others and gives time and effort to help with those needs. Only

humility can express that self-giving love that is characteristic of our Lord.


Humility is neither about denying the distinctive gifts that God has given each of us, nor

boasting about them either. Archbishop William Temple said, “Humility does not mean

thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your

own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about oneself at all”. Humility starts with the

recognition of the perpetual presence of God – and our complete dependence on Him.

If we walk in the Way of Christ and seek his humility, then, whatever we do throughout our

life, our prayer will be, {“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name be the glory”

(Psalm 115:1)}. Amen