Among spiritual qualities, why is humility one of the hardest to practice and yet probably the easiest to imitate? Why do so many politicians and clergy insist that they work not for themselves but for others—“not for myself, but for my country,” not for my own interests but for what’s right, not for me but for God?
Not long ago the local newspaper carried a story about a young couple traveling to visit relatives in a neighboring state. Having parked along the side of the road so the woman could nurse their baby, the man stretched his legs and admired the view of the river and a nearby bridge. Within minutes a state patrol car stopped to check out the scene.
I read this week’s lectionary passages last summer in the Urubamba Valley in my native Peru, and in my native Spanish: “Pero Cristo ya vino, y ahora el es el Sumo sacerdote . . .” At first I resisted the Hebrews passage, as I prefer Jesus’ concrete teachings to more abstract theological concepts. So, while leading a tour group across the Andes, I turned to Mark: “And man must love God with all his heart and with all his mind and with all his strength; and he must love his neighbor as he loves himself.”
I laughed out loud when I first heard Martin Luther’s explanation of how the Reformation happened: “While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with my friend Philip and with Amsdorf, it is the Word that has done great things. . . . I have done nothing, I have let the Word act. It is all powerful, it takes hearts prisoner.” When I was sitting there in Intro to Church History sessions, preaching and reforming sounded heady, or easy.