What Would Jesus Undo? Arrogance – By Rev. Michael F. Bailey

What Would Jesus Undo? Arrogance

Rev. Michael F. Bailey

September 20, 2015

James 3:13–18

As I mentioned last week fall is my favorite time of the year. I detest being in super hot or super cold weather. In the fall the temps are just right for me! I love this time of year when you can sleep with your windows open. Soon, the leaves will change color, and I read and saw in the news media that an academic predicted this year will bring some of the most beautiful leaves. This is also the time of the year when country churches, charities, and volunteer fire departments hold their fundraising barbecues. I scour the paper and try and figure out the best, most traditional locales, figuring that if they’ve been doing these for more than 50 years they probably know what they’re doing! I consider it a personal ministry of mine to support these events. School has started back and church gets going in full swing. After up-and-down attendance—up to the mountains and down to the beach—in the summer, worship services rebound. Fall is a favorite season for many of us.

Turn to a neighbor and share with them your favorite aspect of fall.

One of the other things I love about fall is that football returns. College and university football is my favorite. (How about those Heels and my father’s alma mater, Ole Miss!) I’d say that I watch a fair amount of it, but my bride might chastise me a bit for fibbing in church by saying a “fair amount;” she’d say I watch a lot. I also watch some favorite pro teams. Now, what I’m about to say, I say at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, but please understand where I’m coming from: I grew up watching pro ball in the era of fine UM laymen coach Tom Landry. He expected and received complete uniformity from his team: no unique uniform accessories, no showboating. Also, when I first started watching pro ball Vince Lombardi was in his last years of coaching. One of his mantras was when you score a touchdown, hand the ball to the ref; act like you’ve been in the end zone before and expect to get back. Here’s the curmudgeon bit: that’s changed hasn’t it? It seems that some players practice their end-zone dance moves and signature celebrations more than their pass routes! While it can be entertaining at times and really has nothing to do with eternity, it bothers me. (Am I sounding like Andy Rooney?) It took a whole team to get the ball in the end zone from that anonymous center who snapped the ball, that left tackle who blocked well, the quarterback who threw or audibled at the line of scrimmage. It’s almost as if there’s a “look at me, I did it on my own” kind of an attitude. I mean, last week a Panthers corner scored, mounted the football like a horse, whipped the air and cantered about the end zone. Wouldn’t it be strange if we all did that! While we have this great choir who prepared for worship, our wonderful music staff, our building team, our great ushers, our acolytes, our crucifer, our associate pastors all working together for worship, what if I did a Lambeau leap into the choir loft! How would that be? I know it would wake them up. Or if your dentist did a little dance after filling a cavity? Or on and on!

It just seems to me a bit arrogant, these end zone dances. But could it be that end zone dances are emblematic of a challenge in our culture that has far more serious consequences than a celebration—something Jesus would undo, namely, arrogance.

We’re on our next-to-last sermon in our series under the big title of What Would Jesus Undo? During this month we’ve asked you all to think of those problems in the world that God has laid on your heart and write these prayer concerns on the prayer wall/chalkboard in the gathering space. Go by there and see the broadness of concerns God places in the human heart and know that God’s concerns are even greater.

And together in this series we’ve looked at how Jesus would and will undo favoritism and toxic talk. This week we consider arrogance. As Louis and I worked on this series we choose “arrogance” asthe word that best sums up the whole list of attitudes James teaches us are un-spiritual and devilish. Hear them again: bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, boastful, false to the truth, disorderly, wickedness, partiality, and hypocrisy.

Sadly such words describe so much in our culture today, don’t you think? Some politicians of all stripes, persuasions, and parties act as if they’re above the law; some forms of paternalistic patterns are imposed on society by folks who know better than those “beneath” them how those folks should live their lives. Some branches of science, uninformed by theology and ethics border of fulfilling the fear of the Trinity in Genesis 3:33, after the fall, “They have become like us;” in a word, gods unto themselves. And there is certainly a tendency on behalf of our culture to think that the “market on truth” has been cornered and a particular position is so “right” that other points of view aren’t even considered. Arrogance all of it!

And what does it result in? James in subsequent verses says bitterness, conflicts, and disputes—all the result of what James terms following earthly, worldly wisdom and ways. And Jesus would and will, one day, undo arrogance, and we can have a part, of course starting with ourselves.

James gives the foundation of undoing such in our lives in the next chapter, 4 verses 7 and 8. “Submit yourselves therefore to God; draw near to God and God will draw near to you.”

That’s the key to ending arrogance in the human heart: Submitting to God. And this submitting isn’t limited to just time in the sanctuary for one hour a week but in every dimension of life.

Submitting involves an understanding of our position in the universe relative to God. It means recognizing God’s power and the relative powerlessness of humanity. It means recognizing God’s limitless knowledge and perfect ways and the folly of our own course in life and our limited knowledge.

And it’s all about trust, isn’t it? Trust that God will draw near to you as you draw near to God. Trust that God is with you even when you can’t feel it.

And the result is wondrous. James says this is receiving wisdom from above. Hear some of the ways he describes such a life, of receiving wisdom from above in contrast to his description of worldly ways and wisdom. The submitted life, receiving wisdom and nearness of God is marked by wisdom, understanding, goodness, gentleness, purity, peacemaking, willingness to yield, fullness of mercy, good fruits, impartiality, authenticity, righteousness,  and peace.

What a life! What an opposite picture than that of arrogance in living.

This week, as in week’s past we have prayer reminder wristbands around the church, which serve to remind us of “what would Jesus undo? This week let’s pray that we’d be open to practicing Christian humility in a world full of arrogance.

Join us next week for our last in this series as Rev. Timberlake preaches in the sanctuary on “What would Jesus undo? Indifference.”

Sharing Starters

  • Share with your group your favorite thing about fall.
  •  Share with your group, if you’ve ever seen it, your reaction to end zone celebrations by individuals.
  • Share with your group some examples of arrogance you see in the world.
  • Share with your group ways that are helpful for you in submitting to God.
  • Share with your group ways that are helpful for you in drawing near to God.
  • Share with your group about the person in your life who most exemplified Christian humility.