Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
The lectionary reading places us with Jesus as he tells a story about two men who go to the temple to pray: a Pharisee (a member of private party within the Jewish culture, composed of persons who sought to attain complete righteousness before God by keeping strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and the many traditions which had grown up over the years), and a tax collector (a Jewish person who was paid money by the Roman occupation authorities to collect taxes from the Jewish people – and who was thus judged to be a traitor to the Jewish nation). There were certain times – early in the morning and at 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon – when persons would make their way to the temple to pray, and in the story Jesus tells, both these men choose to pray at the same time of the day.
Jesus turns our gaze first towards the Pharisee –– as he stands apart in a place where he will not come into physical contact with anyone, but where he will be seen as he prays
“God, I thank you that I am not like the other people:
thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this
tax collector. I fast twice a week (only once was required);
I give a tenth of all my income.”
Now Jesus invites us to turn and look towards where the tax collector has chosen to stand: far off, by himself, away from other people. But, unlike the Pharisee he is not standing upright, but is bent over, his eyes downcast as he beats his chest in sorrow and remorse and says:
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Jesus now tells us how God responds to these two kinds of persons and their prayers:
The tax collector leaves the temple put right with God, and the Pharisee who has exalted himself above people in the presence of God, is not any closer to God as he leaves than when he entered. He is basically stuck on himself and his own view of being righteous—a mindset which sees all other persons as robbers, lawbreakers, adulterers, or traitors rather than good citizens. The tax collector, meanwhile, probably caught in the economic distress of the time, and unable to find work, decides to answer a job ad to collect taxes in order to place food on the table. But in so doing, he feels his disloyalty to his own people; it eats into his mind and soul, and stares him in the face as he enters the temple to pray. Unable to look up to God, he looks at the temple floor, and begs God for mercy. Humble and contrite, God sees deeply into his life, knows his inner longings, and breathes forgiveness and cleansing peace into this man’s troubled soul.
For our reflection
As we enter this temple space, where do you find yourself standing?
What prayer do you find arising from within your heart towards God?
How do you sense God meets you there as we pray?
How do you respond?
What prayer (or insight) do you carry with you into the world, and into your relationships (and avoidances) with persons in our every day life?
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
In this season of Pentecost
You come to us by your Holy Spirit.
Help me to welcome you,
To be with you as you indwell my life and being.
Help me to hear you,
To see as you see,
To turn to you in trust and faith,
And to learn to love you above all.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
10/21 Monday: Luke 18:9-14
10/22 Tuesday: Luke 18:9-14
10/23 Wednesday: Psalm 65
10/24 Thursday: 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 16-18
10/25 Friday: Joel 2:23-32
10/26 Saturday: Luke 18:1-8
10/27 Sunday: Luke 18:9-14