|THE PARISH REGISTER
St. Andrews-Cheney Memorial Church
Two Who Prayed
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' 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!' 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."
(St. Luke 18:9-14 RSV)
|Many people who read
Christ's story about the Pharisee and the tax collector
would probably say that it is a parable about prayer.
Certainly it does teach us some important truths about
prayer, but it is really a story about trust. It is about
two types of people, those who trust in themselves and
those who trust in God's mercy.
Jesus first tells us about a Pharisee who strutted into the Temple and "stood and prayed." This statement could be more literally translated, "having taken his stand he was praying." This Pharisee carefully chose a prominent place to stand where everyone could see and hear him. His concern was not so much to be righteous, but to appear righteous and be proclaimed a "holy man" by the people.
The Pharisee stood and prayed, but note how he prayed. He "prayed thus with himself...." His prayer was merely a monologue about himself. If you noticed how many times he used the word "I" you know that he said "I" five times in only two sentences.
And what about the content of his prayer. This Pharisee began by thanking God that he was not like other men. He wasn't an extortioner, unjust, nor an adulterer. As his eyes scanned his audience, he observed off in a corner a tax collector, so he thanked God that he wasn't like that man.
The Pharisee then went on to tell God all the wonderful things he was doing. He fasted twice a week and gave tithes of everything. The Mosaic Law only mandated one fast, the Day of Atonement or Yom Kipper. Many of the Pharisees had adopted the practice of fasting twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. It just so happened that those were market days in Judean towns and villages. Many a Pharisee would whiten his face so that everyone would know that he was fasting as he paraded through the crowded streets.
The tax collector also stood to pray, but he stood far off, out of the limelight and wouldn't even lift his eyes from the ground. As he prayed he "beat his breast," which was a common way of expressing grief among the Jews.
This man's prayer is a model of simplicity. All he could say was, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" Observe that he doesn't say "I", a subject, but "me", an object. God is the subject in this prayer, whereas "I" was the repeated subject of the Pharisee's prayer.
The original Greek text of the tax collector's prayer gives us further insight to his attitude toward himself. The text literally reads, "God be merciful to me the sinner!" He felt as if he were "the sinner," the worst of all sinners. Years later the apostle Paul would write, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners...." (I Timothy 1:15) This is a sign of true repentance.
Jesus said that this man left the Temple justified; pardoned, forgiven, cleansed. The Pharisee was justified only in his own eyes, not in the eyes of God.
All that the Pharisee said of himself was probably true. William Barclay commented, "But the question is not, 'Am I as good as my fellowman?' The question is, 'Am I as good as God?'" The Pharisee compared himself to others and he came away looking pretty good. The tax collector compared himself with God and begged for mercy.
Some of us may be saying to ourselves, "I'm glad I'm not like that Pharisee." But in thinking like that we are doing the same thing the Pharisee was doing. We can always look around and find someone we perceive to be worse than ourselves. But man is not the standard; God is the standard.
It is only the humble who will be accepted by God. The proud and self-satisfied will never know God's mercy. It would seem that the worst sins in our lives are the ones of which we are least aware. The Pharisee was sinless in his own eyes and was lost. The tax collector thought himself the worst of sinners and humbly repenting found forgiveness and a place in glory.
Frank M. Levi
For the past year we have collected
donations and examined hymnals for a memorial for Ruth
Mitchell. On Sunday, September 15, the new hymnals were
in the pews. We thank Ruth's family and all her friends
who so generously contributed to make this a reality.
On August 23, 1996 in Memphis, Tennessee, the Rev. Daniel R. Morse was consecrated a Bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church. He will serve as Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Mid-America. The Celebration of the Eucharist and Consecration lasted well over two hours and was truly a beautiful and inspiring service. Presiding Bishop Leonard W. Riches preached the sermon. Five other Bishops and other clergy from across the U.S. and Canada assisted in the service. Let us pray for Bishop Morse as he assists Bishop Grote in the episcopal oversight of this diocese.
Robert Milton Snodell, age 80, went to be with the Lord on September 1, 1996. "Mid" was taken from us suddenly in an auto accident while on his way to church. He served the church in many capacities, including being a vestryman and also church treasurer for 18 years. "Mid" was preceded in death by his wife Marjorie in 1990. He is survived by his daughters Kay and Lorraine and grandchildren Jennifer and John. "Mid" will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved him. In lieu of flowers the family asked that donations be given to the church for an appropriate memorial.
Missionary of The Month
The Oommen Samuel Family
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