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The Humbling of Ashes

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.


One Response to “The Humbling of Ashes”

  1. Jerry Jacob says:

    And you nailed me my friend. Thank you.

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