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Our text this week that we’re focusing on comes from Luke 18 and its a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the Temple.
The Pharisee is praying from the center and his prayer is:
“Lord, I do what I am suppose to do. I fast twice a week. I give ten percent of all my belongings back to the Temple. I pray and, Lord, I thank you that I am not like those other people: the murders, the adulterer, that tax collector.”
While the tax collector is hidden in the Temple, beating himself up, and saying:
“God, I know I am worthless sinner. Have mercy on me.”
Jesus implies that the tax collector will know God’s mercy, that those who humble themselves will be exalted, and those who exalt themselves will be humbled.
This text can be a stumbling block, and as I think about it, what I really want to say is “Don’t Do It! Its a Trap!”Because everytime we have a parable, we try to figure out exactly where we fit into that parable.
And if we put ourselves as the Pharisee:
“Dear God, thank you that I am not like those other people [insert description, title].”
But, yet if we put ourselves in the position of the tax collector and say:
“Lord, I humble myself. I am unworthy of you.”
We often take it a step further and say:
“Thank you that I am not like that self-righteous Pharisee.”
We see this in our society all the time.
[And] what I want to note here is that difference is not the same as division, because thats important for the rest of this sermon summary. Difference is not the same as division.
But, we humans have created divisions in our mind. We have let those divisions rule in our society and we act as though they are ordained by God.
Meanwhile the largest division that has probably ever existed is the division between the divine and humans. [And] for Christians, we understand that division came to an end. If not in Christ’s ministry, then Christ’s death on the cross where in Luke the Temple Curtain was torn in two. [And] we have Paul saying that free and slave, slave and master, male and female no longer exist because we are united in Christ.
But, yet we have distinctions and divisions that divide us all the time. We have people who claim to be tolerant of all and yet they are intolerant of those that they preceive to be intolerant;
Democrats (and) Republicians;
Pro-Life (and) Pro-Choice;
Gun Rights; and
all the other political issues;
Liberal Christianity (and) Conservative Christianity;
Catholicism (and) Protestantism; [and]
Christian (and) Non-Christian.
The truth is that God created each one of us and God loves each one of us.
So, what I want us to reflect on during this next week and the weeks beyond is that:
Division only seeks to divide us;
Divisions are created by and only serve our human comfort, our comfort zone; and
Divisions make “it” about us and our own self-righteousness in whatever form that takes.
And the truth is that we are all loved by and we all belong to God.
Scripture was Luke 18.
Sermon was originally preached on 23 October 2016.