"From the Pulpit" - Reflections on the Weekly Texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church
Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The 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. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But 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!’ 14I 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.”
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.
So which of the two men in our parable from Luke today do you most identify with? The Pharisee, leader in the life of the temple, learned scholar of the Hebrew bible (OT), righteous and upright man before God, faithful in his giving according to the Law of Moses, and more. Or do you more identify with the tax collector? A thief, a scoundrel, one who cheats his neighbors out of their hard earned money in order to stuff his own pockets as he collects tax money owed the Roman empire. Neither? Both?
The Pharisee, the leader in the temple, by his own words, clearly needs no one. He's gotten what he's gotten by his own effort. He's done it on his own, if you will, with no help from anyone, including apparently, God. He has no need for God since he's done things by and for himself in his life.
The tax collector, on the other hand, facing the altar inside the temple just like the Pharisee, comes with a heavy heart. His conscience has gotten the better of him perhaps, as we confesses to God his sinful life and work. He clearly feels he needs God's help here in this confessional scene. Maybe he realizes how his work has hurt others in his community. Who knows? But he clearly is carrying the weight of something on his conscience.
These are two extreme examples at the opposite end of the spectrum in the realm of God's mercy. On the one hand, the Pharisee shows no dependence on God. He can do just fine on his own. At the other end, the tax collector clearly is throwing himself at the mercy of God, needing God's forgiveness so that he can go on with his life, hopefully restored in that relationship.
Which of these men - extreme examples of where God is in their lives at this particular time, does God show mercy on? Here's another one for you. Which man is worthy of God's grace and forgiveness? Hmmm. In my message tomorrow, I'll try to show that despite both men having God in very different places in their lives, receive God's forgiveness, despite neither of them being worthy of it.
This parable is a reminder that wherever we are on the "spectrum" here, using the two men above as the extremes on either end, God shows favor on us. Not because we're worthy of God's favor, but because we are all beloved children of a loving and caring God. Made right with God not by anything we do, have done, or will do, but solely because of the love of God for us in Christ crucified and resurrected. I'll use an little joke starter tomorrow in my message, "Say, did you hear the one about the two guys who went into the temple...?"
Hope to see you Sunday. If you're reading this and haven't been to church in a while, why not give it a try. Reconnect with some of your friends. Say hello to the pastor even. Come and be fed by God's word in both Word and Sacrament. See you tomorrow at 10 am. Deal? Deal.
1. Book of Life - Beginning this Sunday, we'll have a "Book of Life" sheet in the lobby of the church, where you can list your loved ones deceased (at any time.) On Sunday, November 6th, All Saints Sunday, we'll lift up the names of those you wish to remember during worship.
2. Piano and Organ Recital, Saturday, November 12th 3:00 pm - Join us on this Saturday to hear a 75 minute organ/piano recital by one of the really great church musicians, Nancy Trievel, Pastor Greg's musician at his former congregation in Reading, PA. "Nancy is one amazingly gifted musician", Pastor Greg said recently. "You will be amazed at what she brings to the keyboard", he added. Nancy and her husband Steve, will be in the Vero area for a few days, visiting PG and checking out the area. Proceeds from a free will donation will go to support Lutheran Disaster Response.
3. PG Sermons on the church website - Check out some of my previous sermons on our website, www.livinglordlutheran.com. You'll see manuscripts from recent sermons under the DOCUMENTS tab on our home page. I'm beginning to post videos of my sermons as well, tour You Tube page. Watch for more on this. You can also give online at our home page. Just click the "Give" button.
4. Reformation Sunday - Next Sunday (30th) is Reformation Sunday. Wear your reddest red's. AND, we'll be welcoming some new members to our little community of faith. Join us.