October 24, 2010

Joel 2:23-32 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 Luke 18:9-14 Singing: “I am amazing! I am filled with power! And God loves me like crazy! I am amazing!” Some of you may remember that as the first verse of the theme song from Camp Christopher this summer. I shared the song with you back in May when we celebrated Camp Sunday here at St. Andrew’s. And if you’re anything like me, you probably felt slightly awkward throwing your arms in the air and singing out loud about how amazing and wonderful you are. I don’t think it’s that we are particularly shy or awkward people. Some might say that it’s because we are Presbyterians… very reserved and proper individuals… But I wonder if, really, it’s awkward for us to sing “I am amazing” because we’ve been taught from a young age that we should be humble. We should not make ourselves the centre of attention. We should not be proud or brag about our accomplishments. Today’s parable seems to come down hard on people who think too highly of themselves. In particular, it’s another one of the Gospel stories that doesn’t make the Pharisees look very nice. You remember who the Pharisees were, right? They were very devout and religious Jews who took their faith seriously and lived according to the commandments. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee, for example, before his conversion to the way of Jesus. So it seems that Jesus is telling a story to ‘stick it to the … Read more »

October 27, 2013

Luke 18:9-14 “Reforming Towards Unity” If you looked at the back of your bulletin this morning, you may have noticed that today is “Reformation Sunday.” The Rev. Jeffrey Murray provides a reflection on justification by faith that seems appropriate both for an acknowledgement of “Reformation Sunday” and an insight into this morning’s Gospel text. Referencing the 16th century Reformer, Martin Luther, Murray concludes that while doing the works that our faith demands of us is important, justification is not attained by anything we say or do; it is a gift that moves us to respond humbly. Just think of the two characters in Jesus’ parable – the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee really was an excellent religious person. He observed all the rules, fasted and prayed, and gave generously from his income. The story doesn’t indicate that he was lying about doing these things, or that he needed to do more. He was doing good things because he was a good person, and that was good. The tax collector, on the other hand, had not been doing good things. He freely admits that he is a sinner, and we can imagine that he was greedy and dishonest and demanding, as was the norm for tax collectors in Jesus’ time. He worked for the Romans and took advantage of his own people in order to make a profit… and that was not good. And so, carrying all their “goodness” and their “not-so-goodness” with them, these two men go up … Read more »