Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 4: Year 1
“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!” (Luke 18:13)
In this Luke passage the Pharisee prays to God about how “blessed” he is, but then gives thanks that he is “better” than the tax collector. Or, so he thinks.
Nobody volunteered to be a tax collector in the time of Jesus. It was normally given to a male local who had no one to defend him like a working father or prominent family connections. Rome was not going to make one of its Roman citizens collect the tax. No, it had to be done by a local.
We should never think of ourselves as too good to do the services necessary for community life like trash collecting, volunteer fire fighter, and other vocations of service. We, the community, still need people to pick up our garbage, our mail, and yes, still today, collect our fair share of tax.
We should not put anybody down and certainly not think of ourselves as better than, or less than, anybody else. In Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the tax collector there is justification for the tax collector. He humbled himself in articulating his short falls. We could learn from both in this passage.
First, we can learn from the Pharisee to be thankful for our ability to discipline ourselves to give in the Name of the Lord, but not to boast about it. Second, we must remember that God loves all of us the same. There are no favorite sons or daughters among us as far as God is concerned. And lastly, in as much as God loves all of us the same, we too should strive to love all of us in the same way. If we see someone across the room whom we feel is not measuring up to some standard we have set for ourselves we should pray for them and ourselves in order that we might come to some sense of loving kindness – some sense of respecting the dignity of every human being.
We Anglicans use these words of the tax collector with our Anglican prayer beads as we repeat the words, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” seven times and then the Lord’s prayer on a large bead as we pray our way around the beads. This too is a discipline and should not be boasted about. Let us ponder about our discipline of humility and respect for the other during our Sabbath time.
For this evening and tomorrow day my friends; Shabbat Shalom.
Let us live to love, more than just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John