Romans 1:25 tells us that idols are not sinful things, in and of themselves, but good and basic things made to be ultimate things. The good and basic thing elevated into an ultimate thing is God’s gift of free-will - our personal freedom. Christianity has a very different understanding of personal freedom than that of our culture.
No matter how it manifests itself, pride is the most isolating of all sins. It distances us from God and a right view of him. It distances us from others because at its core, pride is by nature competitive. It wells up in us as that deep, primal refusal to concede or defer anything to anyone. It leads me to look at my neighbor and see him as a competitor. Ultimately it is enmity. It makes me suspect my neighbor, distrust him, and compels me to critique him with a measure I would never use for myself. In the end, I condemn him in a way that makes me appear or at least feel superior to him. The ultimate end of pride is loneliness and isolation because it kills community and destroys intimacy.
Preaching from Mark 8:27-9:9, we consider that God's no in Jesus is saying no to yourself. Jesus says, if you want to follow me, stop following you. Refuse to find your life, who you truly are, in anything but me. Stop looking for it in what you do, in what you’ve accomplished, in what you own, in how people feel about you. Lose that life, which is no life at all, and you will find your true life in me.
Prayer is a source of life for us, so that even if we struggle, it is like the one who has difficulty breathing, she still struggles to breathe. She doesn’t just give up on breathing because it’s too much trouble. She will breathe until she can breathe no more. So let us be people, let us be a church, who prays until we can pray no more.
On the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, our curate, Sean Ewing preaches on authority using the appointed Gospel lesson from Mark 1:21-28.