August 2016

August 2016

"I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are . . . humble (in spirit)"
Isaiah 57.15 NRSV

One of the spin-offs of repetitive prayer is that, now and then, the familiar words suddenly glow with a new warmth and a fresh perspective is revealed. I was reciting the daily office of Evensong recently when all at once I stopped in verse two of the Magnificat. The words "he hath regarded the lowliness" held me in thrall as I began to realise their profound significance.

It often seems that our lives are dominated by those who wield political or financial muscle in this world, or who seem frighteningly to have endless resources of the surrogate power (so-called) of arms and explosives. In the Bible, beginning if you like with the story of David and Goliath, there is a consistent message about the counterfeit nature of what we often think of as power. 

This month's Saying is another reminder that, first, God alone is All-Power ("I dwell in a high ... place): and, second, that God's primary concern is for the weak and vulnerable and power-less members of his/her human race. God is not in any way impressed or fazed by powerful people, nor by destructive bullies who wield explosives while calling on His Name ("Not everyone who calls me 'Lord' will enter God's kingdom" Matthew 7.21).

God regards the lowliness. He has regard for those who are self-effacing and unselfconsciously humble, those known as "the poor in spirit" in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.3). Whatever your gifts or status, whatever influence you may have over other people, whatever pride you may take in your achievements, it is your lowliness that God affirms and responds to. Perhaps this is why those "the-prince-and-the-pauper" -type stories like Cinderella are so well embedded in popular culture. In spite of God's own nature and status "dwelling in a high and holy place," supremely powerful and all-embracing, God's abiding characteristic is "regard for the lowliness." This fact, as much as anything, affirms the authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus, lowly-born, true friend of the outcast. Without lowliness there can be no true holiness.