I think I can sum up today’s gospel reading in one short sentence: Jesus says not to be a smug, arrogant, self-righteous jerk. So, there it is. Now I can go sit down and enjoy the rest of the service having preached the shortest sermon of my life.
But if I do that I will have fallen into the trap that Jesus set for us. We think we know whose side we’re on in Jesus’ little morality tale. Especially in the way Jesus tells it. And that is dangerous territory. We better watch were we step.
In Jesus’ story we have two people praying. We have the smug, arrogant, self-righteous jerk of a religious leader who thanks God that he’s not like the dirty, disgusting sinners and moral midgets that he has to deal with all day. He thanks God that he’s better than them.
And in contrast, we have a hated tax collector, who grew rich off of collaborating with the enemy, collecting taxes for the Roman empire, taking more than he needed to, and pocketing the difference. He was a thief and a collaborator. He helped God’s people under the Roman boot. He was NOT welcome at worship. And now he has the audacity to ask God for mercy.
The story says that the Pharisee held the tax collector with contempt. And I’m sure the feeling was mutual. There are no innocent parties here.
The thing is, the Pharisee isn’t...(whole thing here)