Friday, October 21 2022
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This week’s Gospel once again finds us on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus addresses it to a group of people who are identified as confident of their own righteousness and who regarded others with contempt. Jesus has a message for them that involves a Pharisee and a tax collector and their relationship with God
The pharisee represents a group of people who believed they were acceptable and good simply because they observed the law. Acceptability was based on their behavior, their good deeds and their willingness to be obedient to the Law. This might be viewed as living from the outside in. God thinks more highly of me than others because of my good behavior. I fast twice a week and tithe – all outward behaviors. This Pharisee is proud of himself, believes he is respected.
But I ask us to contemplate: where is his heart?
The tax collector, on the other hand is among the most despised during this time of Roman occupation. As a Jew, he worked for the enemy, viewed as a traitor and beyond that, was known for pocketing the surplus. The tax collector in our story is so remorseful that he is unable to raise his head. He is aware of his sin and begs for mercy.
The error of the Pharisee is that he thinks he can be obedient to God while at the same time have disdain for people like the tax collector. He fulfills what the Torah demands but pays no attention to the command to love.
Jesus used this parable to remind us that we cannot be obedient to God’s Law without first loving one’s neighbor as oneself and he often challenged those who believed they were in good standing with God to rethink their position.
So, what indeed counts as righteousness before God?
Acts without compassion and love are not considered righteous by God. This parable actually shows us two images of God: one supposed by the Pharisee, which is false, and one hoped for but not presumed by the tax collector, which was right. God is not impressed with pious acts and feelings of superiority. God is a God of mercy who in fact, responds to honest prayers. More importantly, however, this week’s Gospel is a lesson on our attitudes towards ourselves and our neighbor.
Sunday is the formal kickoff of our 2023 stewardship campaign, entitled: More than Enough! Such an important time for us to prayerfully consider just how much we have been enriched by our relationship with and experiences as members of this vibrant, Christ-Centered community at St. John’s. “Stewardship involves all of life. It is our approach to living a God-centered life. It is about our commitment to discipleship, to be more like Jesus. Stewardship is more, much more than deciding how much to ‘put in the plate’ on Sunday. It has to do with our values. It is about a mindset. It is about doing all that we can with all that we have.” Ken Weliever. This is inside out thinking!
Your pledge is between you and God, but we are all enriched and blessed as we share together in the ministry at St. John’s.
Thank you for returning your pledge in the offering plate or mail it to 12 Prospect Street by November 6th.
In God’s abundant love and great mercy,