Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus compares two individuals in the temple. One person views himself as good and righteous, believing his personal faults to be minimal. He sees his rote adherence to piety as enough to justify himself before God and neighbor, and he lives his life in a posture of judgement towards others. The other man, a tax collector who would certainly have been deemed a despised member of society in Jesus’s time, understands himself to be deeply flawed. He feels the sting of conviction in his own heart and humbles himself before God and neighbor.
As Irene Maliaman notes in her retelling of this passage, Christians today should take heed of the parable’s lesson. She asks us to consider “a model Christian and a criminal [who] went to church to pray. Without hesitation, the Christian entered the church, dipped his fingers in the stoup that holds the holy water, made the sign of the cross, genuflected, and headed straight to his favorite pew in front of the altar. It is obvious that he knew what he was doing and was familiar with the place. Looking up, he lifted up his hands and prayed, ‘Thank you, God, for blessing me and making me unlike those corrupt and miserable sinners who cannot tell good from evil, who live their lives separate from you, who do not come to church, like that criminal over there. I read the Bible daily, I never miss church, I pray for the less fortunate, I fast twice a week, I advocate for justice and human rights, I support Episcopal Relief & Development and other non-profit organizations that are helping the poor, and I give my tithes.’”
Maliaman reminds us of the dangers of considering ourselves righteous in our own context. As Christians, we are called, like St. Paul notes in his letter to the Philippians, to “in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” God, who searches our hearts and motivations, calls on us to enact a posture of repentance. In such a posture, we open ourselves to God in full awareness of who we are. We can then experience God’s mercy and kindness as a gift of grace.
Irene Maliaman’s sermon on Jesus’s parable gets to the heart of the matter.
Alastair Roberts considers the parable in light of our tendency to believe we are on the right side of history.
Poet Bill Fulton poetically considers Jesus’ parable in “Poem for the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.”
The Visual Commentary on Scripture collects images of the pharisee and the tax collector.
The Bach Collegium considers this Sunday’s Psalm 65.
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Sundays through November 20 | 10am
Discovery: Creation, EarthCare and Environmental Justice
The Bible has a lot to say about our interconnectedness to Creation and stewardship of the earth. Learn more in this series with Summerlee Staten, Executive Director of Trinity’s Faith Formation and Education department, Dr. Ellen Davis of Duke University Divinity School, and eco-philsopher Lyanda Haupt.
Sunday, October 23 | 1–3pm
Trinity Talks: Makoto Fujimura
Makoto Fujimura is a leading contemporary artist who creates process-driven, refractive “slow art.” Author of Art+Faith: A Theology of Making, Fujimura is an arts advocate, speaker, and theologian recognized worldwide as a cultural influencer. He will join the Rev. Phillip Jackson for a conversation about how the act of creativity helps us heal, be in relationship with one another, and build a more just world.
Sunday, October 30 | 12:30–2:30pm
Task Force Against Racism, Prison Ministry
Join Trinity’s Task Force Against Racism and Prison Ministry to plan for upcoming programs and service opportunities. Share your ideas and suggestions and contribute your thoughts as we vision the future of these important ministries. All are invited.
Sunday, October 30 | 1–3pm
Breaking Bread: A Reflective Conversation
The Breaking Bread gatherings use the imagery of table fellowship to explore reflective conversations that nurture our growth in God. Open to all. Capacity is limited; registration is required.