Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, 23 Oct. 20116
Proper 25 Year C RCL: Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
“Please be seated.” “Thank you for being seated.”1
We say please to God about many hopes, dreams, issues. How often do we remember to say “Thank you”?
Notice how the Pharisee says “Thank you” without asking God for anything. He's standing by himself, saying, “God, I thank you” that I'm better than other people. In The New American Bible for Catholics, this verse says:
The Pharisee took up his position &
spoke this prayer to himself...”2
I wonder how the tax collector responds to God after he prays. Does he stay stuck in his dark perspective of himself as worthless or does he embrace God's forgiveness & say “Thank you”?
I wonder what stirs deep inside the Pharisee as he watches that grovelling tax man. Does the Pharisee stay stuck in a different kind of darkness in which he cannot see himself or others in the light of God's love?
Like the people Joel addresses in our 1st lesson, the overly self-reliant, prideful people Jesus tells today's parable to are stuck in narrow perspectives, stuck in fearful situations.3
People fear change, fear exile, fear getting things wrong, fear having to trust someone who is different, fear letting go & trusting God.
Fear keeps people stuck.
Fear keeps 21st century people stuck.
Fears breeds resentment.
When we resent, we hurt ourselves. It is as if we have sent ourselves back into the bad situation4. Spell resent: RE SENT.
We have re - sent ourselves back instead of moving ourselves forward & deeper into God's love & peace.
God promises us peace which surpasses our understanding.
We have seen this kind of peace in our beloved Brother in Christ..., whose life we celebrated yesterday. God's peace gives us creativity to envision new life now & future joy living in grace.
God's peace frees us to live in God's love.
In today's parable, Jesus shows us two perspectives on how humans interact with God when we are stuck like the self-absorbed Pharisee & the fearful tax collector. It can be hard to see life from a new angle, to see ourselves anew, to see ourselves as Jesus sees us.
Jesus sees us – sees you – as worth dying for
on the cross.
Jesus dies for us trusting God's love that is greater than we can understand. The Holy Spirit guides us so that we can live confidently in the present & trust God's grace for the future as we let go of the past.
Freed from the past, we can see positive results from the garbage of life.
Those of us who compost garbage know garbage can transform into a positive force. It takes time to see positive results from garbage. One writer says this about composting for her garden:
“Garbage, properly treated,
Garbage in a compost pile eventually gains new life to nourish plants. Properly treating the garbage of our lives, turning the garbage over to God & letting the light of God's love transform us, we can embrace God's forgiveness & love & share it!
God's love gives us peace,
which surpasses our understanding.
Living with inward peace, nourished by God's love at the holy meal we share, we can leave worship strengthened to serve God's people whether they are the Pharisee or the tax collector.
How will we do this?
What is God calling you to do to share the good news?
Remember this good news:
God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. Gen. Ed: James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Hitchcock, Janet. “On Reflection: Ten Things I've Learned in the Garden”.Women's Uncommon Prayers: Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated. EDS: Elizabeth Rankin Geitz; Marjorie A. Burke; Ann Smith. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing 2000.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Minneapolis: A Seabury Book. Winston Press. 1985.
Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 2001.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1970.
“The Thankful Leper” http://www.sermons4kids.com/ and “Please and Thank You”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/please_and_thank_you.htm. Accessed: 4 Oct. 2016.
Voyle, Robert J. “An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry”. Diocese of Georgia Clergy Conference. Oct. 2013.
2 New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1123.
3 Note: Idea influenced by Harper’s Bible Commentary. Pp. 633, 634, 1241, 1242.
4 Note: From Voyle presentation.
5 Hitchcock, Janet. “On Reflection: Ten Things I've Learned in the Garden”. P. 31.