THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
23 October 2016
When you were a kid, who didn’t you want to be like?
I didn’t want to be like the only other George in Hatley–for lots of reasons.
And, I didn’t want to be like some of the crabby pastors we had at St. Florians.
They were never as kind and friendly as I thought they should be.
The hard lesson of old age is that not wanting to be like someone else, doesn’t mean you won’t be.
Actually, I think we single out people we don’t want to be like
because we are very often afraid we already are like them.
Everyone here would like to think we are not like the Pharisee in the Gospel…
And yet, the story works precisely because we are afraid we might be
We might be just as arrogant as he was–“Jeez, I’m glad I’m not like he or she is.”
And we might just be amazed that there are people out there, who don’t want to be like us.
Now, on the other hand the tax collector in the story is not exactly someone to be emulated either.
He was a quisling–someone who cooperated with the enemy.
He would have had to sneak into the temple precincts.
He also gives not real indication of repenting. Repenting would have cost him his livelihood
–plus a twenty percent payback, to everyone he had overcharged.
He had only one hope–and that was simply to admit his guilt, his sin.
What separates the two characters in the eyes of Jesus?
The tax collector needed God,
The Pharisee did not.
I worry about me, and I worry about all of us here because I think we live in kind of a fantasy world
where we often believe that we don’t really need God.
First, we live in a world where we can pretend everything is okay.
There are poor, but not right here.
There are homeless, but not that we see.
Second, in our world, we don’t do anything really wrong, like murder.
We have socially acceptable sins, but not real sins.
We find it hard to admit the need for mercy.
We would have a very hard time praying like the tax collector.
We pray more like the Pharisee, you and I, not wanting to be like someone doesn’t
necessarily mean you won’t be..
If there is a lesson here for us today and if there is any good news here today, I think it is this.
How incredibly good God is, merciful, even to us who believe we don’t need it.