The Holy Gospel: October 27, 2013 (Year C)

Read:  Luke 18:9-14

Meditation: “The Great Mistake”

Jesus hit the nail on the head–when we declare ourselves “righteous,” we will use our self-declared status to look upon others with contempt.  That’s what egotism does.  It has to be “above” some other person or group.  It has to be “better” than somebody or something else.

This is the great mistake, and life gives manifold daily opportunities to commit it.  We can even do it religiously, and during times of prayer!  In fact, we may do it especially then, because that’s when we are trying to be “close to God” (closer than others) and “holy” (holier than thou).

The whole thing gets lost under pretense.  Instead, Jesus said, we should just ask for God to be merciful to us.  St John Chrysostom taught that the best prayer was, “Lord, as you know, and as you will, have mercy.”  Anne Lamott captures the same spirit when she writes that the essence of prayer is, “Help, thanks, and wow!”

It is why we repeat, “Lord, have mercy!  Christ have mercy!” in worship.  We are using every opportunity we have to avoid the great mistake.  There is nothing worse than believing we are not like other people, when the truth is, we are exactly like them–men and women always in need of grace.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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