Today’s sermon by Neal Washburn comes to us from the Gospel of Luke, a parable within a story. Jesus is talking to a group of individuals who felt righteous but felt contempt for others. Jesus tells them the parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector, both hated by society then. The word pharisee is now synonymous with hypocrite. A tax collector were on the wrong side religiously, politically, and economically. These are the people Jesus often associated with. We are asked which one we most relate to.
This Pharisee is over-functioning religiously. Sometimes religious leaders begin to imagine it is about them and what they do rather than about God and their community. This religious arrogance can also be called false humility. These feelings interfere with the relationship with God, with others, and even ourselves. The tax collector is different. He can not even look up while he prays. He asks only for God’s mercy. Could we also relate to the storyteller, Jesus? We are asked to follow Jesus. We can humbly learn, follow, and pray. We can identify the systems of separation that cause people to stand apart when we pray. Let us be together when we pray to heal, widen our circle of community, and be justified.