Summary: Independence Day 1988: Arrogance breeds blindness to our own sin, numbness to the needs of others, and a denial of relationships. The Father's Table is about mercy and grace for all.
You have heard him a thousand times in the TV commercial, warbling away in that gravelly voice with an accent I hear only when I go back to Kentucky. He is singing in the shower and flaunting his huge schnozz at the camera. "0 Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way".
And we laugh at the obvious bragging in his little ditty, but the truth is that a good many of us are right there with him. "O Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way."
Now I don't suppose I do know anybody who would seriously insist that he or she is perfect in every way. Most of us realize that that claims too much, that even if you believe that about yourself, you'll never get anybody to agree to it. No, we might not join Vern in his anthem, "Perfect in every way." But we do sing it, many of us, in one way or another. It's a disease, you know; it's a disease that is so rampant it ought to be included as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control. It's the disease I call elderbrotheritis.
Elderbrotheritis may not be found in your medical books, and I suppose it isn't in the dictionary, but believe me, it is real. There is an epidemic of elderbrotheritis, affecting saint and sinner, church member and professional atheist, Americans of all descriptions.
Elderbrotheritis is in my heart, for example, when I look at somebody on the street and say, "I'm so glad I'm not like that guy."
Elderbrotheritis is in my neighborhood when as a community we say, "Yes, I know you have to have a halfway house someplace, but not in my backyard; it will run down property values to have those people here."
Elderbrotheritis is in my church when my church prays, "Lord, if … if …by any chance, we may have committed a sin or two this past week, we ask you to overlook it."
And elderbrotheritis affects my country when my nation forgets its revolutionary roots and says, "Keep your Cubans and your Haitians, keep your radicals and your illiterate; there’s only enough for those of us who have worked hard to build America."
Elderbrotherisitis: a heart disease that they cannot treat in the cardiac ward, a disease whose principal symptom is that it becomes hard, exceedingly hard to be humble, because lurking down deep there is the assumption that we are perfect, or at least close enough, in every way.
The most important case of elderbrotheritis on record in the medical journals is recorded for us by Dr. Luke in his gospel. Dr. Luke reports his case rather fully and describes for us rather graphically the symptoms of this dread and sometimes fatal illness. Dr. Luke is very careful in just a short space of words to picture for us what it is like for a person or a church or a nation to find it terribly hard to be humble, because they have a galloping case of elderbrotheritis.
Listen: "Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command." I never disobeyed your command. "Lord, it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way." Do you know about the fellow who was given a medal for humility? The trouble is that when he wore it out on the street, they took it away!
Spiritual arrogance may take many forms, but at the basis of each one of them there is always the assumption that sin is not really my problem, it's always your problem. I never disobeyed your command, or if I did, Lord, it wasn't a big one. It wasn't very important. Lord, I never killed anybody, I never stole any money, I didn't run around with somebody else's wife; Lord, I never disobeyed anything important.
But our God says, "You have elderbrotheritis, and it is blinding you." For our God says, the commandments begin, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The commandments include, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." The commandments insist, "Thou shalt not covet." And if we say that we have not disobeyed these, and disobeyed them every day, then we are blind. We are sadly misinformed. And it's hard to be humble when you have elderbrotheritis.
Churches get this disease too, you know. Churches and denominations begin to sound off about how God has blessed us and has judged everybody else. And there is a blindness that keeps us from seeing how far we are from our God’s intentions.
And nations get blindness. Nations get elderbrotheritis. This nation of ours celebrates its birthday with fireworks and se1f-congratulations, and not too many years ago taught its children in schools that we had never fought an unjust war, never oppressed anybody, never violated the rights of minorities … a galloping case of elderbrotheritis, hard to be humble. We are always in danger of being blind to our shortcomings.