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Complacently pleased with themselves (readings for Sunday, Oct 28)

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PhariseePerhaps you’ve heard the old saw that says Jesus “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable,” while we in the church tend to “comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.” He’s at it again in this Sunday’s readings.

Pharisees—one of whom plays a role in Jesus’ story— are not the generic bad guys they’ve been made out to be. While some of them tangle with Jesus, others come to his aid. There’s no reason to doubt that many were sincere God-followers.

But Jesus has a quarrel with their world-view. Remember, Judea is militarily occupied by the Roman army. The Hebrew Scriptures often taught that such calamity was a result of God’s judgment. Pharisees assumed, then, that what was needed was more careful obedience to the religious code of their ancestors. Then God would be pleased, bless their nation, whip the Romans, and demonstrate his power over nations. Their plan was to get more and more people to live legally, and to distance themselves from those who didn’t, until they were powerful once more. Who could oppose such an idea?

Jesus, by contrast, seems magnetically attracted to those the Pharisees find troubling: Romans, foreigners, the poor, the sick, the sexually improper, the powerless. Far from preaching morality, he simply goes around doing good in a most unqualified way, inviting those who respond to follow along with him. He appears rather un-interested in the rules, even denouncing them and their followers when keeping rules distances them from others or works against someone poor or excluded. And he rarely denounces anyone but the rule-keepers.

John the Baptist they could understand, but Jesus doesn’t fit the sin-censuring, severe-living, wilderness-wandering Elijah figure they expect of a prophet. Given the places he goes, and the people he’s with, they conclude he must be a drunk and a glutton – certainly not an ambassador of God. And certainly not someone likely to restore the nation to its former glory.

With that background, ponder a story Jesus tells, just below.

Proper 25 (30); October 28, 2007
Luke 18:9-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18; Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65

Luke 18:9-14
The Story of the Tax Man and the Pharisee
9-12He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’

13″Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'”

14Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

2 Timothy 4
6-8You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.

16-18At my preliminary hearing no one stood by me. They all ran like scared rabbits. But it doesn’t matter—the Master stood by me and helped me spread the Message loud and clear to those who had never heard it. I was snatched from the jaws of the lion! God’s looking after me, keeping me safe in the kingdom of heaven. All praise to him, praise forever! Oh, yes!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Joel 2:23-32
The Trees Are Bearing Fruit Again
21-24 Fear not, Earth! Be glad and celebrate!
God has done great things.
Fear not, wild animals!
The fields and meadows are greening up.
The trees are bearing fruit again:
a bumper crop of fig trees and vines!
Children of Zion, celebrate!
Be glad in your God.
He’s giving you a teacher
to train you how to live right—
Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words
to refresh and nourish your soul, just as he used to do.
And plenty of food for your body—silos full of grain,
casks of wine and barrels of olive oil.

25-27 “I’ll make up for the years of the locust,
the great locust devastation—
Locusts savage, locusts deadly,
fierce locusts, locusts of doom,
That great locust invasion
I sent your way.
You’ll eat your fill of good food.
You’ll be full of praises to your God,
The God who has set you back on your heels in wonder.
Never again will my people be despised.
You’ll know without question
that I’m in the thick of life with Israel,
That I’m your God, yes, your God,
the one and only real God.
Never again will my people be despised.
The Sun Turning Black and the Moon Blood-Red
28-32 “And that’s just the beginning: After that—

“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters.
Your old men will dream,
your young men will see visions.
I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants,
men and women both.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below:
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Judgment Day of God,
the Day tremendous and awesome.
Whoever calls, ‘Help, God!’
gets help.
On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be a great rescue—just as God said.
Included in the survivors
are those that God calls.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 65
A David Psalm
1-2 Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.

2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, “Come and worship.”

9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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Written by Monte

October 22, 2007 at 5:20 pm

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