Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stand with the sinners

Luke 18:9  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
Luk 18:10  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' 13  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14  I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

The self-righteous Pharisee thanks God that he is not like those who belonged to the group of ‘excluded people’ called am-haaretz  “or even like this tax collector”.[1] His is a prayer expressing gratitude that he is superior to the local sinners. Oh, and he also inserted a bit of a brag about how faithful he has been in keeping the religious rules.  He epitomises the lurking temptation within all of us – to think of ourselves as ‘better’ than others. And so we join churches, wear religious clothing, sing our own special God-songs, and talk our religious language: all to show those who are not in the religious club how well we know God, and how little they do.

Jesus-followers choose to sneak into the back of the church in order to stand alongside those who hesitate to approach God because they know that they are aliens in the household of God. Our correct place is alongside the thieves, rogues, adulterers  and anyone else who longs for a touch of God’s love.
And to love being with them.

Ordinary 30 / Pentecost +23
52 True Humility
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 317.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

[1] Tax collectors in the time of Jesus were considered sinful because they worked for the Roman Empire and handled money that bore the head of the Emperor. On both counts this disqualified a religious Jew from worship in the temple – not only because it violated the command about “no graven images”, but also because co-operation with the oppressor was guaranteed to exclude a Jew as a traitor.

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