Pentecost 20 – October 23, 2022

The Gospel reading this week involves two stories which revolve around the common theme of pride and humility. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector contrasts the spiritual pride of one with the penitential humility of the other. But the parable alone is just too easy. Of course we will be the penitential one. We will cluck our tongues at the preening and self-congratulatory words of the Pharisee, without ever noticing that we are simply doing to him as he does to the tax collector.

We have a giant blind spot, right were we should be seeing ourselves.

That we might see with a little better vision, Matthew immediately tells us the story of the disciples’ pride and our Lord’s acknowledgment of just how wretched we really are. They brought children to Jesus to have him bless them, but the disciples would have kept them away. I wonder how many people, childlike in their fragility and helplessness before sin I have turned away in my years as a Pastor. I write those words and faces parade before my mind’s eye. I imagine that the church is for the pure, for the people whom I find acceptable. I think of the divorcee, helpless before the ruined tatters of her marriage, but who has not fond forgiveness or comfort in her church, only judgment. I think of the man or woman who has made a wreck of life and who is ashamed to come to church, because they know what people will say. Have I said it?

Spiritual pride is insidious. Just when you repent, it comes back, patting you on the back or your repentance and puffing you up again. Disciples have been struggling with this since Peter and John first followed our Lord. I is no different for us. How shall we preach this Sunday? First we will need to preach that sermon to ourselves.

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