Nowadays, most people might not have a sermon given by a preacher, as a major part of their thinking and moral decision making.
Times have indeed changed. But where do we go nowadays to be challenged with a new way of thinking? In his book, 'Chase the Lion', Mark Batterson shares a story about Rosa Parks. Sermons that inspire never go out of style.
Remember Bishop Curry’s sermon in Westminster chapel this summer during the royal wedding? It gave us a glimpse of the gospel in common speech. Solid, eloquent and yet visceral.
Back in 1954, in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon titled "Transformed Nonconformist."
"The Christian is called upon not to be like a thermometer conforming to the temperature of his society," said King, "but he must be like a thermostat serving to transform the temperature of his society. "I have seen many white people who sincerely oppose segregation and discrimination, but they never took a stand against it because of fear of standing alone." He continued.
On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus just five blocks from the church where King delivered that sermon. When the white section of the bus filled up with passengers, the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks to give up her seat in the colored section. Rosa Parks politely refused.
Parks later described her attitude. "I was just tired of it." It wasn't a physical tiredness; it was a moral tiredness. "The only tired I was, was tired of giving in." Rosa Park's stand against racial segregation led to a court battle, which led to a citywide boycott, which led to the United States Supreme Court ruling segregation unconstitutional.
Preaching can and does change lives. For the better. That’s why we do it.
Mark Batterson, Chase the Lion (Multnomah, 2016), pages 121-122
Two people meet at a coffee shop. We shall call them Fred and Pete. They are opining on matters far and wide. Complaining about politics and changing culture. There is plenty of talking and not a lot of listening.
The ancient Greeks called it Hubris.
Hubris is described as pride, overconfidence, or arrogance.
Humility, by contrast, is the ability to listen, learn from others and even serve others. It is the ability not to think less of self but to think of self less.
We acquire humility from our teachers, coaches, and parents.
Though education presupposes humility, it can also morph into pride.
Augustine wrote, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues. In the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue.”
Healthy social dialogue requires more humility and less hubris.
C.S. Lewis, in ‘Mere Christianity’, goes even further when describing hubris or pride: “Anger, greed, are mere fleabites in comparison,” writes Lewis. “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind."
We can easily recognize hubris in others but not so easily in ourselves. I confess that I can be arrogant about a subject on which I’m well informed and therefore not so ready to learn from others. Hubris shows itself when we fail to listen to other perspectives.
Jesus taught that humility is the key posture in knowing God. “Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.” (Matthew 11:25,26, The Message)
In 1969, an experiment in human behaviour was conducted using two vehicles. One car was left out on the street in the Bronx, New York, and the other in Palo Alto, California. Both cars were arranged with their hoods open and license plates removed. The car in upscale Palo Alto neighbourhood was left unharmed. The vehicle in the more run-down Bronx neighbourhood was quickly vandalized. The theory goes like this – in a very nice neighbourhood people will want to keep it that way - but in a run-down neighbourhood people care less. What’s one more broken window? Then the researchers broke the window of the car in the upscale neighbourhood. Quickly that vehicle was vandalized too.
The theory developed that something that’s left broken gets more broken. In fact, New York City used the theory as a strategy to lower crime. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he tells of subway trains that got sprayed with graffiti. They were immediately pulled off the tracks and painted. Cleaner and well cared for subway trains served to instill pride and care for the city, and crime rates began to decline.
Little changes can make a big difference. All citizens can contribute to taking care of our beautiful town. Picking up a plastic bottle discarded on the street will encourage someone else to do the same. To leave it, will encourage someone else to also walk by. That’s the power of community. The theory seems to work at home too, in our yards, and with our vehicles. The same is true with our lives—take care of the little things before they become big. And that’s the story of the broken window.