October 24, 2004

Luke 18:9-14

[9] He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: [10] "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. [11] The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: "Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. [12] I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'

[13] "Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, "God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

[14] Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."

[The Message]

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1. A basic question comes leaping out at us as we join Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem to further reveal the presence of GOD. Is GOD characterized by generosity, compassion, care, and faithful activity on behalf of all of/in/through creation? If this is the case it will be revealed in our prayers.

2. Most of us probably find our prayer life somewhere between the Pharisee and the Taxer. We are taught not to make a big deal out of ourselves, either our satisfied or unsatisfied selves. We have been well socialized within the church to not pray a self-congratulatory prayer or a groveling prayer. We are supposed to be praying to build-up God, and to leave ourselves out of it.

A result of this is that we can't affirm our partnership with GOD in those times and events when we don't follow the crowd and keep the spiritual disciplines. Likewise, we can't take more than our responsibility for the life of the world or ourselves (inappropriate guilt is pretty rampant in the church and world).

3. And so "being there" is what this is about? Wherever we are - there we are - more and less than we are. Now, to take as important who we are with our particular experiences and expectations as Pharisee and Taxer is to actually be freed to dive deeper into the significance of our experience and to lengthen the scope of our expectations. In so doing we connect with GOD's generosity, compassion, care and faithful activity; find our own; and become more than we knew.

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