Psalm of Praise: Psalms 111:1-3
Praise the Lord!
I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
Bible Reading: Luke 18:9-14
Jesus told this parable:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven,
but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.
This may or may not be a familiar story. Either way, read through it again and try to imagine yourself as a bystander at the scene. What do you notice?
The Pharisee stands by himself. Why does he do that?
He seems confident before God. What is his confidence based on?
The tax collector stands at a distance. Why does he do that?
He seems shameful before God. What is his shamefulness based on?
I think these two men stand at the two extremes of the way we approach God regarding our sin. One is oblivious of his own sin and assumes his way of life makes him acceptable to God. The other is weighed down with his sin and assumes he will never be acceptable to God.
Which of these two men do you tend to feel more like when you stand before God?
I think there are times when we are all like the Pharisee, oblivious of our own shortcomings and in need of repentance, and there are times when we are all like the tax collector, so weighed down by our shortcomings that we can't look up. Neither is what God wants.
The truth is we all stand in need of forgiveness. The good news is that God forgives. As St John says, ‘If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’
I wonder if the tax collector left the temple knowing that he was justified before God. I hope so. I hope he left with the confidence that the Pharisee came in with.
Lord God, in all that I do today and in the days to come, remind me to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with you.
God of grace, amazing wonder