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Ascension Sunday – May 13, 2018

Philippians 2:1-13 and Luke 6:43-45

Today, it’s a triple recognition day, Ascension Sunday, Christian Family Sunday and Mother’s Day all rolled into one—what a day to celebrate indeed! This past Thursday was Ascension Day. This is when Christians celebrate that Jesus ascended to the right hand of God and God is preparing to send the Holy Spirit down to be with us by Pentecost, which happens next Sunday. It’s very appropriate to read a passage that focusses on Christ leading a life of emptying himself. Having completed that throughout his life, Christ ascended to heaven and now every knee should bend and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The life, suffering, crucifixion and death of Christ brings a person to a halt when we think of what this means for our human existence. How do we gratefully respond with our daily lives? The impact of Christ on Christian families gets expressed in many ways. But how do families get held together?

Isn’t there a “cement” that invariably holds families together during a huge variety of circumstances? The rough and tumble of life never ceases. I think the act of motherly self-sacrifice is this cement. If there is one member in so many families, and so many configurations of life together, then this one mindset is what stands out. “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). How many mothers are there that give of themselves without even remotely considering to receive in return?

The humility of mothers is everywhere. It’s not just mothers who have given birth to children but there are those who are foster-mothers, adoptive mothers, spiritual mothers, mentor-mothers, aunties, even sisters that are like a second mother, including nannies. Today we give recognition to all these women. This of course leads to the question as to how many people it takes to raise a child? Some say it takes a village.

In Africa, as my wife Carina and I raised three kids, there’s something that was and still is ingrained in South African society. Most households hire an African woman to take care of the many chores in the house; from washing dishes, doing laundry, vacuuming to name only a few. It’s a very colonial type of thing. Of course, it is something that we aren’t as familiar with in Canada. Our daughter Carin was a tiny newborn baby and our servant Gertrude would take on an additional nanny-role by carrying Carin on her back, wrapped up in a blanket…she was a wonderful help in the household when my wife was doing many other things in and around our home and in the community and congregation. Carin still fondly remembers Gertrude. Gertrude’s daughter later had a baby, and guess what she was named? “Carin…!” Gertrude, was giving away of herself, to the huge benefit of us and especially our children. They still love her dearly. In fact, the bond of love still exists as our whole family fondly thinks back to the days when Gertrude worked for us. 

Jesus’ whole ministry can be described as humble. His mind was unpretentious and He never put Himself above anybody else. Each person He encountered had value and was looked upon lovingly. Jesus did the greatest act of humility by becoming the least to walk among mortals notwithstanding his divine character. By walking the way of the cross, Jesus lived with even lower recognition and by dying innocently on a cross, the humility came full-circle.

This ladder portrays humility. Each step in the ladder to godly understanding is one less pride point. The more pride points shed, the higher you go up the so-called hierarchy. Mathematicaly, each rung represents a net zero sum of a person’s humility and pride. The closer a person gets to the top, the closer they are to knowing God, of course never fully knowing God. 

Today’s passage written by the apostle Paul describes the humility that Jesus made real by being fully human, while at the same time not clinging to his heavenly origin. 

What does all of this mean to us in our daily lives? For one, our individual needs and wants are secondary to our faith in, and worship of, Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, we strive for a better life and do things to improve our lot in life but we do not do this at the expense of others. We are always aware of those who are less fortunate, we don’t walk with superiority. We walk in humble ways. As well, we aren’t a bunch of uniform people who all think and act in the same way. But we do not allow our preferences and biases to divide us. 

I think the message today is a reminder, through the huge example of Jesus Christ, to walk humbly, to be a servant.  We also take time to celebrate all types of mothers who continue to be true and authentic examples of humility. We believe in the one Jesus Christ as our Lord, ascended into heaven and opening up the way for us lowly humans to take part in the glory of God. 

 

Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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