Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
October 27, 2013
Two men at prayer
Did you hear the one about the publican and the Pharisee?” asks Jesus. Today, it might be, “Did you hear the one about the theologian known as the pillar of the community and the drug pusher on the corner?” Or “the person who is seen as a moral leader in the community and the person who is the largest shareholder in the big-box store that is responsible for driving the local shop-keeper out of business?” Name your own pair of hypothetical opposites: those who stand for purity and those who seem to be a part of a godless culture; those obviously righteous folks (just ask them and they will tell you) and those who are far from righteous (whether they admit it or not).
The Pharisees: those distinctively religious folks, those hard-working leaders who have plugged away teaching the truth, distinct in their dress and speech, showing integrity in their dealings with people, all in such a way that it testifies to the faith they hold so dear. The publicans: those who give in so easily to the demands of the culture, those who make money off of the misery of others, those whose actions bring about a life devoid of all meaning.
Where do you find yourself in this story? Jesus simply says that one man went home justified and one man didn’t. The key? It can be nothing other than that one of them (the publican) acknowledges his own sin, and the other (the Pharisee) thanks God that he has not sunk to the level of his adversary. The adversarial positions have nothing to with the degree of sin in each principal. Both, like us, are sinners. What sets them apart is the recognition and confession of their own sin. “All who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Gary Straughan, pastor, Daggett Moravian Church, Daggett, Michigan