Gathered Worship, Sunday, October 23, 2016
Reflection on Luke 18:9-14
By Elizabeth Dede
Jesus’ teaching here is a hard one. It seems simple, but who really wants to be humbled?
I looked up the verb in the dictionary. To Humble means to humiliate, to put to shame, to disgrace. We’re not taught to do these things. I guess we’re pretty clear that we shouldn’t exult ourselves either, but to humiliate ourselves? That seems a bit much.
I have a struggle with this because I don’t know how to value myself. Once when I was a kid I told a friend of the family that I went to two schools. One was for gifted kids. My mom was mortified. I guess you could say she was humiliated. She took me aside and told me that I shouldn’t brag about myself that way. Then I was humiliated. I thought I was just telling the simple truth, but apparently I was being proud.
After that experience I had a hard time with being smart. School was easy for me, but that embarrassed me.
So who wants to be humiliated? I say, “Not me.”
Actually, it seems like this is a situation where telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is called for. The tax collector told the truth about himself. He was a sinner. The Pharisee left out that crucial description. He saw himself as perfect. He did all the right things, and he was happy to catalogue that for God.
The tax collector knew that he was far from perfect. He told God about that too, and asked for mercy.
So we all need to rely on God’s mercy, whether we feel like we’re doing the right thing, or whether we are readily aware of our sins.
My sister helped me with this. I struggled all of my life to be perfect. Of course you can’t attain perfection. For Christmas one year she gave me a necklace that spelled perfect, except that the T was crooked.
That’s about the way we all are. God has made us close to perfect, almost like the angels. But we’ve also got a taste of sin—a crooked T.
That’s not something we want to be proud of. Rather we need to acknowledge it, to recognize our need for God’s mercy.
That recognition will be like an invitation to Jesus to enter into our hearts because he ate with tax collectors and sinners.
So let us humble ourselves, not so that we will be ashamed, but so that Jesus will be with us. Amen.