imageOT Reading:  ​Amos 5:6-15

NT Reading:​​Hebrews 12:1-14

Gospel Reading:​Luke 18:9-14

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.”

I try to be kind and respectful to all persons when I see them in the line at the grocery store, or sitting in a restaurant.  I am well groomed in proper, public Christian behavior.  When I see persons in the community who are “different” than me, I go out of my way to be nice to them, bless their hearts.

I give a tithe to my church, or at least most of the time I do.  Ok, to be honest, recently I haven’t met that goal but I have at other times.

If it is Sunday, I’m in church.  I know many of the prayers and hymns by heart.  I know when to bow, cross myself, kneel, stand, and sit.  I am religious about my morning and compline prayers from the Daily Office during the week.

But when I read this parable that Jesus told in Luke’s gospel, I squirm on the pew of my heart.  Why?  Because I realize that Jesus has nailed me.  He knows exactly what I’ve been thinking, and who I really am, and that’s not good news for me.

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even  like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who  humbles himself will be exalted.”

I’m caught, I’m guilty, and I know it.  I could come up with a very good excuse, but Jesus knows me better than I know myself.  And when I try to kid or fool Jesus about who I really am, it’s not good for our relationship.

So I give up, Jesus.  I know you are telling this parable to point out the error of my ways.  I’m not the person I want others to think I am.  I’m not even the person I think I am.  I’ve fooled myself, but never you.  I know the gig is up

Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.  Please God, forgive me.

This is a humbling experience, for all of us, to come to this truth.  But it is the only way to begin the journey of Lent in our hearts on this Ash Wednesday.