Monday, October 24, 2022

A Letter While I have Covid


Luke 18:9-14

Proper 25 / Year C

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Well, I had a wonderful time on my pilgrimage.  Portugal and Spain are lovely countries and I so enjoyed walking with friends, new and old.  Last Monday I started to feel a little sketchy and then tested positive for Covid on Wednesday.  So, I am not with you again today.  I am so sorry.

Please  allow me to share just a few brief thoughts about this morning’s interesting parable. 

Have you ever known someone you would describe as contemptuous of others?  Perhaps you yourself are this person.  I know it doesn’t take much for me to look at other people and rate myself as vastly superior to them.  As you might guess, this happens most often at Wal-Mart.

Some people who are contemptuous use this as a defense mechanism to mask how poorly they actually think of themselves.  Others actually are better than everyone else around them—smarter, richer, healthier, more talented.  As the saying goes, for them it is hard to suffer fools.

The Pharisee in today’s parable seems to fall into this second category.  His self-assessment is spot on.  He is better than all the other people he names in his prayers.  When he leaves the Temple he goes with what he brought – a self-satisfaction he has made himself to be who and what he ought to be.

For the tax collector it is different.  He comes to the Temple wearing his brokenness and his pain and self-loathing on his sleeve.  His heart is wounded.  His soul is grieved.  He can barely look up to God, let alone come into God’s presence.  Still, he manages to utter one of the most powerful, poignant prayers found in all of Scripture: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 

This man stands naked before God.  He hides nothing.  He does not pretend to be someone he is not.  There is no weighing of the scales to determine if he has done anything at all to merit God’s favor. 

But something miraculous happens.  There, in the Temple, he experiences God’s indescribable love.  It is a love which cannot be earned, only embraced.  The tax collector discovers that God’s world is a world of grace and goodness and it comes to each of us as gift, not through merit. 

After saying their prayers, the Pharisee and the tax collector leave the Temple.  One is satisfied he has done enough to be considered a good person.  The other has been bathed in the riches of all that God showers upon his children. 

Which of these would you rather be?