The Gospel for the week before the Conference in the ancient Eucharistic Lectionary of The Book of Common Prayer is Luke 18:9-14, containing the well-known parable of Jesus concerning the Pharisee & the Public at prayer.
This Gospel has a sure word to all those participating, and all those watching on with prayerful concern.
Here we have a story of a man generally recognized locally as a saint failing in prayer; and another man generally recognized locally as a sinner succeeding in prayer. WHY? Because the former comes to God in the spirit of pride and self-satisfaction while the latter comes before God in self-humiliation.
Verse 9. Let us note that the story is addressed to those who trusted in
themselves that they were righteous. They believed that their life, worship and
service were acceptable to God and approved by him.
Let us engage in some application to ourselves. We may not be like the Pharisees, who opposed Jesus, but do we display “a moral superiority” even a “moral triumphalism” and an “evangelical/charismatic elevation” in the way we speak about and relate to the people of the LesBiGay lobby and their liberal supporters?
Verses 11 & 12. Let us note that the Pharisee, the “righteous” man, went through the motions of prayer beginning by addressing God and then all that he did was to talk about himself. He cites his good works as instances of the ways he is superior to others and he claims to be superior not only in what he performs but also in what he
Let us engage in some application to ourselves. Is it true of ourselves that
while we glance at God in worship and prayer, most of what we say and sing is
about ourselves? Is our worship and prayer as much about ourselves – our
feelings and emotions – as it is about God as the LORD? Have we lost the
Transcendence of God and thus our sense of sin in much “modern
Verse 13. The tax-collector compares himself with no-one. For him the bright holiness of God makes him aware of his sin and all he can do is to acknowledge his true state before God, the Judge of all. As we know – or should know -- from Holy Scripture, the genuine confession of sin to God in humility is actually also the praise of God, of his holiness, his righteousness, his judgement and his mercy. Thus the
tax-collector praised the Lord!
Let us engage in some application to ourselves. Do we avoid self-humiliation,
penitence, repentance and confession of sins before God because we do not really
feel this way? Are we really conscious of the part we have played, as a
member of the body, in causing the growing sinfulness of the Anglican Churches
in the West? Does this knowledge of our sins of commission and omission cause us
to humble ourselves under the almighty (and yet merciful) hand of
Verse 14. God counts as righteous in his sight the person who comes before him in humility, penitence and with confession of his sin. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (by the God of judgement) and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted (by the God of mercy).
Let us engage in some application to ourselves. Have we been participating in
recent controversies within Anglicanism in the wrong spirit – the spirit of “we
are right and you are wrong” – and ought we to consider that the right spirit is
this: that God’s judgement is upon the Anglican Way in North America, that we
are part of it and share in that judgement which we deserve, and thus the right
way forward is the biblical way of deep humility and repentance.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon August 22nd 2004