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Friday, 27 February 2015

Our measure of greatness

Sermon Summary for Epiphany II 2015
presented by Fr Matthew Kirby
 
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." Romans 12:6-21 (KJV)

"Mind not high things"

This means do not follow after fame or be ambitious for greatness and great deeds to feed pride.

Next clause refers either to associating with the common folk and poor OR being content with humble tasks. Either way, it is opposed to vainglory: the desire merely to impress people, often based on empty achievements, often aimed at those with status.

Does this mean we are not to aim for greatness at all.
Is the ancient virtue of magnanimity closed to Christians?
No.
 
Previous verses in today's Epistle demand fervency, hard work, and the full use of the spiritual gifts God has given us. In other places St Paul commends those who aspire to be bishops "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." (1 Timothy 3:1) and tells Christians to earnestly desire the greater gifts "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31), but to excel most of all in love. And Jesus taught that much is expected of those given much in the Parable of the Talents (Link to: Matthew 25), and that we are not to hide our light under a bushel "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:15-16).
 
So, we are called to greatness.
We are to aim to be great in love and good works. And we should even aim to be all we can be in using our gifts: to be the best pastor, prophet, server, musician, artist, administrator, or whatever, that we can be. So, when we are told not to mind high things, it cannot mean "be content with mediocrity". No, it means that we are to be the best we can be, achieve as much as we can with what God has given us, but we are:
 
1) Not to have an unrealistic, dishonest perception of what we are and can do.
 
2) Not to have as our primary goal the pleasing of man, the praise of an audience.
 
3) Not to value the appearance over the substance, the response to the work done more than the successful doing of the work.

Let us aim for greatness in goodness and in the quality of our service, our ministry, whether the job be big or small, glorious or unknown; and care less about the look of it to others.
   
  
 
 

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