Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a diversity training session for my job at Westmoreland State Park. Visiting the Potomac River shoreline is a homecoming for me. My family and I used to live in Sandy Point in a house owned by Joseph J. Roane, a prominent African-American of the county. I attended Cople Elementary School for Kindergarten and first grade. The park was a hop-skip-and-jump from where we lived. So, my parents took us there frequently (my brother was born not long after we moved to the county).
I arrived at Westmoreland about an hour early so I could visit the Park Manager, my former boss Russell Johnson, and sneak in a hike. Big Meadow Trail is a favorite of park guest as it leads to the Fossil Beach section where the occasional Megaladon shark tooth can be found. I like everything about the trail as it straddles a ridge above a small stream. As the hiker descends from the hill, the stream becomes tidal in a marsh choked with tall grasses. Arriving at the beach, two high cliffs can be seen both up and down river. With icicles on the washed up trees on the shoreline, digging for fossils was completely out of the question. I did get a few good landscapes images and some much-needed exercise. So, the hike was well worth it.
I don’t think I can go into much detail about the training. But, it seemed that everything I learned related to the topic of my talk at the West Point Ministers Association’s MLK Day service, radical humility. A major part of my job as a Ranger is to welcome and treat park guests and fellow employees with dignity and respect. By doing so, we promote a friendly atmosphere and experience for everyone. Dignity and respect for others is rooted deeply in one being humble to all. The great humility of Jesus Christ, as described in Philippians chapter 2, brought the hope of salvation to all who were lost. His humility led to the horrific death on the cross. But, it also gave Him the Name above all names.
Unfortunately, it is easy to lose sight of the need for humility as it is so easy to embrace pride. Of course, it can be a good thing to love one’s country, ethnicity, organization, and religion. All good things can be, and are often, wasted when we put such earthly boundaries above the expansive mercy that the Lord has called us to emulate. The Jewish scholar Saul of Tarsus was sent through the northern Mediterranean to share the Gospel taking all sorts of attacks and difficulties as a humble sojourner whose true home is not of this world. It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul has been so greatly honored with some of his letters making up so much of the New Testament. Bishop Basil of Cappadocia was a leading teacher of Christianity in the fourth century and applied the monastic life of compassion and community to the general body of believers. He taught the virtues of simple living by example; taking only what he needed and giving the rest to those in need. The Church calls him, “the Great.” And how humble was Macarius the Great of the Desert Fathers? Despite all who came to him for advice, the monk began his morning prayers with:
Oh God, cleanse me, a sinner, for I have never done anything good in thy sight. Deliver me from the evil one, and may thy will be in me, that I may open my unworthy mouth without condemnation …
There is no greatness without humility. Paul went beyond ethnic boundaries and received beatings. Basil gave up the pursuit and maintaining of personal wealth to help others live better. Macarius didn’t let his world renown holiness go to his head. This narrow path walked by these great men leads to the only kingdom Jesus spoke up for, the kingdom of heaven. We serve the God who opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5 & Proverbs 3:34). Let’s walk likewise.