A Printed service for Sunday 23 rd October 2022
prepared by Rev. Geoffrey Scarlett
Welcome: let us come before our Lord with joy and thanksgiving… He is here to bless us!
Hymn StF: 82 O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Prayer: Heavenly Father, We have come to worship you, to bow down before you and adore.
All creation speaks of your majesty and power.
All the Church blesses you for the gift of your Son, Jesus.
By his death, we find forgiveness and the chance to start again. Forgive us our sins, in his name….
By his resurrection and ascension, we receive new life and hope. Thank you for new possibilities…
By his Holy Spirit, we live day by day. Continue, we pray, to guide us, protect us and provide for us,
For your love’s sake. Amen.
Lesson, OT: Joel 2, 23-32
23“Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice at what the L ORD your God has done for you.
He has given you the right amount of autumn rain; [b]
he has poured down the winter rain for you
and the spring rain as before.
24The threshing places will be full of grain;
the pits beside the presses will overflow with wine and olive oil.
25I will give you back what you lost
in the years when swarms of locusts ate your crops.
It was I who sent this army against you.
26Now you will have plenty to eat, and be
You will praise the L ORD your God,
who has done wonderful things for you.
My people will never be despised again.
27Then, Israel, you will know that I am among you
and that I, the L ORD , am your God
and there is no other.
My people will never be despised again.
The Day of the L ORD
28“Afterward I will pour out my Spirit on everyone:
your sons and daughters will proclaim my message;
your old people will have dreams,
and your young people will see visions.
29At that time I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants, both men and women.
30“I will give warnings of that day
in the sky and on the earth;
there will be bloodshed, fire, and clouds of smoke.
31The sun will be darkened,
and the moon will turn red as blood
before the great and terrible day of the L ORD comes.
But all who ask the L ORD for help will be saved.
As the L ORD has said,
‘Some in Jerusalem will escape;
those whom I choose will survive.’”
Hymn StF: 556 Just as I am
Lesson,NT: Luke 18, 9-14 The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. 10 “Oncethere were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11 ThePharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, [a] ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, likeeverybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12 I fast two days a week, and I give youone tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven,but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and notthe Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be made great.”
Sermon: Pharisee and Tax-Collector
There are two main characters in this story: the pharisee and the tax-collector. Let’s look at them
under 3 headings: ‘Consider’… ‘Compare’… and ‘Come’…
Two people go up to the Temple to pray. They appear to have the same purpose, to worship God.
But one of them, like the audience Jesus is addressing, is sure of his own goodness and despises everybody else. He’s done his own appraisal of himself and declares he’s passed with flying colours. All boxes ticked! He’s looked in the mirror and is satisfied with what he sees. He considers himself OK. Pompous idiot!
Here now he stands apart – either for privacy or because he doesn’t want to be contaminated by others. That reminds us of the Covid virus! There is no adoration in his prayer, no confession and no supplication. It’s all about praying to himself. Although he starts by apparently thanking God, there is no mention of God’s love or majesty or power or anything else. God doesn’t actually get a mention! But that’s because the Pharisee is actually thanking himself. ‘Oh, what a good boy am I!’. He doesn’t ask for anything at all. It’s all ‘I’..’I’..’I’..’I’.., four times!
Before we condemn the man outright, let’s consider that, in fact, he’s got some justification for his statements. Yes, he can be pleased with himself, because of his fasting. He fasts two days a week, when the Law only requires him tofast once a year on the Day of Atonement. He goes beyond the Law’s requirements. And he gives God, not just a tenth of all his income, but a tenth of everything,
Not just part of his assets (Deut 14,22). He’s genuinely trying to please God. But it all comes down to keeping the Law, sticking to the rules. Does he do all this joyfully or just out of a sense of duty or both? We might like to
complete the sentence: ‘I go to church because…’ The Pharisee has indeed set himself apart from others by faithfully obeying the Law, but he’s thanking himself, not God. He trusts in himself. ‘Hey!’, he says, ‘Look at me! I’m alright’.
And so he goes home feeling righteous.
It’s quite different with the tax-collector…
He too stands apart, but I suspect his reason is different: he either seeks privacy or he feels he doesn’t deserve to be near anyone else. He won’t even raise his face to heaven. Is this why we often pray with our heads bowed? He beats his breast – a sign of extreme anguish. His prayer is a short and simple one. It is a plea to God: ‘God, have pity on me,
a sinner!’. He confesses who he is. He makes no claim to goodness. He has offended the Law, but he’s desperate. He knows his need and so simply casts himself on the mercy of God. And he, no doubt, has reason to be ashamed, because tax-collectors were notorious for collaborating with the Romans and cheating their fellow Jews! Interesting too that, unlike Zacchaeus, there is no talk here of reparation. How would you like him ( or a scammer, paedophile or assaulter of the elderly ) sitting next to you in church? But one thing he does have – aright relationship with God, and he goes home righteous. He goes home forgiven.
The Pharisee compares himself with others and thanks himself first for what he is not. He’s not greedy or dishonest.
Perhaps he says this loudly so that the tax-collector can hear! He’s not an adulterer, like so many others. He’s
consigned everybody else to a lesser category of being, nobodies hardly worth mentioning. They’re all an inferior
species, a bad lot. There’s nothing here that’s positive. No mention of love or hope or peace or joy. What’s he been
doing with his life? Certainly he’s not like that tax-collector.
What a pity he didn’t have a ‘sober estimate’ of himself (Romans 12,3). What a pity he didn’t look up to Jesus and
see what he was really like. Then there is no cause for his pride. How easy it is to compare and judge. There’s a story
of a young man, who comes late to church, just after the preacher starts his sermon. He sits down on the carpet at
the front – shabbily dressed, wearing tennis shoes and tattoos. There’s silence. What should people do? Then a
church elder gets up from the back, walks with a cane to where the young man is sitting and sits down beside him.
There is no bad scene. The elder simply turns to the preacher and says, ‘Go on with your sermon. I’m sure it’s a word
we all need to hear’.
Finally, ‘Come!’. ‘Come humbly’, without boasting’ says Jesus, who in humility washes his disciples’ feet as a lesson
to them. Jesus reverses the usual pattern. The boastful will be humbled, the humble raised on high – see Mary’s
‘Magnificat’. But it is not always easy to be humble. If someone praises you for something, how do you reply? ‘It was
rather good, wasn’t it!’ (pride). ‘Oh, do you think so?’
(fishing for compliments!). or rather ‘Thank you. That’s kind of you’ (accepting a true statement).
Better still if we can pass on the glory to God.
Jesus says it was the tax-collector, who was in the right with God, when he went home. He focuses on that
relationship, not on pride. Humility can show itself in how we address God, how we praise his holiness and majesty,
and also in the content and manner of our prayers. It is meant to be the whole essence of our lives, like Jesus
(Philippians 2). So we are to come before God, not boasting, but humble; not demanding, but needing; with open
hands to receive and open hearts to rejoice!
To sum up:
Let us consider, not who we think we are, but how blessed we are by God.
Let us compare ourselves, not with others, but with Jesus.
Let us come freely to God’s throne of grace as his children, to receive his forgiveness and salvation!
Hymn StF; 401 Come, sinners, to the gospel feast
Prayer: Lord Jesus, We live in a world in turmoil and need your rock-like presence with us.
Teach us humility, so that we may walk humbly with our God.
Keep us free, when our freedoms are so much at risk…
Free to worship: help those denied such freedom….
Free to live in peace: we lift up before you Ukraine….
Free from oppression and cruelty: we lift up before you Iran….
Free from sorrow and pain: we lift up those known to us, hurt or bereaved….
Free from illness: we lift up those who are sick for your healing….
Free from anxiety and worry: we lift up all whose hearts are troubled… including our own needs….
Keep us free to love and serve you, when circumstances tempt us away from you.
Keep us remembering we are your children, keep us living in your peace and joy. Amen.
Hymn StF: 410 Lord, your Church on earth is seeking
Blessing: The blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all now and always. Amen