Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009 Trinity 11 Luke 18:9-14

And He (Jesus) spoke–also to certain ones trusting upon themselves that they were righteous, and those having contempt for others–this parable: "Two men went up into the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood; to himself He prayed these things, `God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men–robbers, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector; I fast twice per Sabbath, I give 10% from all I acquire.' And the tax collector, standing far off, not wanting to lift eyes up to heaven, but beating his chest, was saying, ‘God, mercy me, the sinner!' I say to you, This one went down into his house righteous, rather than that one; because every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one humbling himself will be exalted.

Some contests are odd, awarding victory to the one scoring the lowest. In golf, for instance, the one with the most strokes loses, yet the one with the fewest strokes wins. The limbo game is similar, as the stick is brought down, the contestants bend lower and lower to be victorious. Christianity is one of these kind of endeavors, where one does not strive to be the highest and best, but rather the humblest and the lowly. So the question is before you: in your prayers, how low do you go?

Jesus tells a parable of two pray-ers, the leading church layman (the Pharisee) and the secular employee of the hated Roman occupiers (the tax-collector). By all accounts, you'd expect that the respected church leader would have a far superior prayer to that of a worldly money robber. Even the Pharisee views himself as far superior to the likes of this tax-collector. But then we are surprised to learn that it is not the church lay-leader whose prayer is accepted by God, but it is the sinner's! Why?

The first problem with the Pharisee's prayer is that it is misdirected. Oh, it does address God and all, but it really isn't about God and His will at all. You see, it is not enough to attach God's name to your prayer, and expect Him to accept it. Praying in God's name includes praying what God wants, not necessarily what you want. This the Pharisee failed to understand. So he prayed not *to God*, but really *to himself*. Repent of those times your prayers have been so very self-centered.

The tax-collector's prayer starts the same, but it differs from the Pharisee's prayer in that it is addressing the gracious God. This man doesn't need to elaborate all his many sins to God. God already knows them all. He appeals to the God of grace and compassion, and his prayer is heard. Just as your prayer "forgive us our trespasses" is heard by Jesus Who died for you on the cross. Christ your Lord forgives you today from this pulpit, just as He does whenever your Pastor absolves you.

The second thing wrong with the Pharisee's prayer is that it doesn't exalt God, but man. Scripture is clear that all glory belongs to God, and that only the LORD should be exalted. The Pharisee failed to note the acts of God, in particular, of His divine mercy. Instead, he prays about what a great guy he thinks he is, especially compared to other notable sinners like the tax-collector. But what he failed to realize is that he's just as much of a sinner! Repent of those times you forget that you too are a sinner.

The tax-collector's prayer exalts God for His greatest quality–His mercy. There is nothing more needful than the gracious love of God toward sinners. It is the one thing needful which Jesus offered to Mary while Martha missed out in the kitchen. The tax-collector knew of God's mercy and trusted in it. You too trust in the grace of God; you trust in His mercy which purchased you at Calvary with Christ's body given and blood shed for your redemption. You eat and drink His redeeming body and blood.

A final problem with the Pharisee is his overall attitude going into the Temple that day. He trusted that He was already righteous. His believe was misdirected, however, since he foolishly thought that he was *all right* with God because of all the good stuff he had done. He fasts, he tithes his 10% to the church, and he is careful to avoid the blatant sins. But he's not all right with God. His inward sins of pride and self-centeredness still condemn him. Repent of your inward sins which condemn you too.

The tax-collector knew he had no righteousness of his own. He could only claim the wrong-tious-ness of his sin, weighing heavy upon his heart. He knew he was a sinner, through and through, and expected no hope from his own actions to make him righteous. Like him, you trust on God alone to make you righteous, which He did at the cross and at the font. He took your sins washed from you in baptism and became them. His righteousness He gave up there on Calvary, crediting it to you by faith. You are made righteous, no less than that tax-collector, by God's mercy to you in Christ Jesus.

Today's hymns from LSB:
#772 In Holy Conversation
#557 Oh, How Great is Your Compassion
#615 When in the Hour of Deepest Need

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