Where Pride Ends and Equality Begins

Back last January, I was visiting a friend in a poor, rural, and hot part of Ecuador. He is a pastor in a large, very dynamic community, with a lot of activities and groups and events. One night, I got an invitation to head out at mid-night: we were going to a birthday celebration.

In this particular group, when someone in the group has a birthday, everyone gathers together and shows up at their home at mid-night to surprise them with a little birthday celebration. So, at about quarter to midnight, about 15 people had gathered down the street from the birthday woman’s house, getting the plan together. There were musical instruments and digital equipment and a cake and drinks and other things. So, at midnight, we quietly made our way to the house, and someone knocked on the door. Fortunately, the daughter was in on it, so after she answered the door, she went and got the mother. As soon as she appeared, the surprise music and celebration began. (I guess the neighbors didn’t mind!)

Since it is a very hot climate, we all spread out outside socializing, and the cake was served and music played, and a video projector setup and photos of the birthday woman shown. Finally, at one point, a woman went around giving everyone a rose, and after that, the tributes began. Each person had to get up in front of everyone else and make a personal tribute to the birthday woman and give her a rose. Everyone, from the guitarist to the family to the friends to the priest to me, the newcomer. It all felt like family, and as my friend and I were leaving (the party was going to go til about 3am), I thought how this group would all do the same birthday celebration for each of the members. That’s a lot of midnight parties!

And as we walked, we passed by a cemetery. The outside gates of the cemetery had a cross and also the following words:

“Here ends pride, and equality begins.”

When John the Baptist came, he came so that the mountains would be made low and the valleys filled in, that roads would be made level. To be a follower of Jesus, to be a member of the church, pride has to die and we see all others as equals, as brothers and sisters in God’s family. That is what is symbolized in baptism: our pride goes to the grave.

So that equality can finally begin.

Our society is caught up with positions above and below, with mountains and valleys. Who is above and who is below. Who has more and who has less. Who is competent, and who is not. Who wins and who loses. Who lives better, who knows more, etc. etc. etc. In the church, in the workplace, in schools, and homes. We have to have degrees and titles and certificates and social media presences and other apparatus – or at least associate with those that do have those things – to make us look more like mountains than valleys.

To climb the mountain of pride.

But at the end of this life, everyone – everyone – eventually ends up in the same place. Humbled, as a clump of bones, ashes, and dust. We are all equal.

Did you ever notice that Jesus didn’t have a title. He didn’t have a degree or an office. He called himself the Son of man, which could really be better translated as the Son of Adam. Which is to say, he’s a human being like you and me, and we’re all a family of brothers and sisters. Nothing else.

Jesus invites each of us to follow him into the cemetery, to death. Death to climbing the social and financial mountains. Death to titles. Death to putting people above or below. Death to social media posturing.

Because in following Jesus through those gates of death, the real party begins: the joy of true life as brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Where pride ends, and equality begins.

For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants,
heirs according to the promise.

(Gal 3:26-29)


Amazingly, this is THE 500th REFLECTION that I’ve posted on A Living Monstrance, going back over 10 years to March 2008!! It’s incredible to me to think about that, as when I started, I had no idea how long it would go or what it would turn into. I hope they’ve been some source of consolation and/or inspiration for others (as I don’t hear much from readers here, I don’t know).

I’m still aiming to publish 3 volumes of collections of these reflections, including a re-publishing of the original Flowers in Winter originally published in 2010. So, I hope to make progress on that this month before I return to Ecuador in November…

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