I have had the privilege of preaching each Friday this month and look forward to the full weekend with each of you in worship this Sunday. I resist the othering of Friday evening and Sunday morning from one another, so I do my best, despite the differences in worship contexts, to bring the exact same message through the weekend when given the opportunity.
Our gospel text this week, found in Luke, contrasts the religious pharisee who prays to be seen and the self-described sinner, a tax collector, who prays for mercy. These two caricatures are used by Jesus to present a simple, yet reality shifting theological glimmer: for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
As with all scripture, where you stand will help shape how you hear this passage in Luke. Not all of us have the same financial situation, educational experience, family support, employment, housing situation, nor identity (infinite and intersectional as our realities are). So what can we all take from a singular text that we might share?
For me, and perhaps for you, the truth is that I need to humble myself and pray for mercy. Not because I am worthless, but because I want to treat all others as worthy. When I am living out of humility, which is recognition of my own need for mercy, I find that I am far more able to respond with grace to everyone, whether those closest to me or someone I am meeting for the first time.
It would be natural for me to make a turn here to humility and mercy as the means by which we might reform the chaos, misinformation, violence, and despair we experience in the realm of our political history, past and present. I have strong political convictions and I am neither a moderate nor afraid of debate. I actually believe that God chooses sides, if you really were to press me on it. Even so, or perhaps especially because of these things, I have been working on my own humility and focusing on my own need for mercy of late.
We do not need conformity at Highland. By which I mean we don’t need to each have the exact same identity or experience to realize that our lives are changed by freely chosen covenant with God and one another. Hear the text how you hear it. If it is your turn to fight, fight. If it is your turn to pray for mercy, pray for mercy. Trust that in the coming and going of life together here, God is not indifferent to your life or mine. How we care for one another can be the most accessible reminder of that. And humbling, too.