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The Reading

The Gospel

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

The Sermon


I have never looked for the center stage. I always felt I could get more done by working in the background and flicking the switches if you will. I think that Jesus is talking about a more prevalent human condition than just someone choosing the limelight. He is talking about our egos. Even when I am getting all of these things done in the background I am still guilty of getting all puffed up when I get things accomplished.

We humans need to realize that we are servants of God. We are here to do God's will and anything we do is done through Him. I had a friend several years ago who was very good at pointing out my prideful moments. I was equally good at pointing out hers.

Pride and ego they can be dreadfully dangerous things. However, they have their place. Taking pride in your workmanship I believe is a good thing when it is paired with thanking God for the gifts He has given us to do that work. I have some skills in some areas. I thank God when I use those gifts for a good purpose.

Ego can be a good thing as well as long as it does not come unhinged or unshackled in some cases. You have all met people whose egos have gotten the best of them.

This passage from Proverb says it all in just a few words.

Proverbs 3:6Living Bible (TLB)

6 In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.
In this gospel story the pharisee really put himself first. The tax collector new he was a flawed individual and he wanted to be right with God. The tax collector put God first. It doesn't matter what you may have done. Just know the God loves you and God is always ready to hear you ask for forgiveness and to thank God for your gifts.


Last Sunday's Sermon

Image result for constant prayer

The Reading

The Gospel

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

The Sermon

Constant Prayer

Jesus tells us this story about a persistent woman and an unjust judge. I believe he is telling us to never give up. He is saying that we are heard and God's justice will be ours. We had a rousing bible study discussion about justice and divine intervention as a response to our prayers. This whole concept of justice can get very complicated. Some people see justice as the other guy getting his comeuppance. We all know what that means even though it may not be a real word.

While I am writing this I am thinking of Judge Judy. When she holds court, she has two people who come before her who are in conflict. They each want justice. One of these two people will walk away feeling that justice is served. The other one, probably not. We all look at what is right and what is wrong through our own lens.

And yet, Jesus tells us to persist, to never give up. To “cry to Him day and night” and he will quickly grant justice. I will be the last to tell you that I understand God's ways. Only God knows God's ways.

I do however know a little something about constant prayer. Jesus talks about it as does St. Paul. I practice mantric meditation on a regular basis. Mantric meditation is simply focusing on a spiritual word or sound when meditating. It has been a guiding force in my life. I first learned meditation through yoga but I have come to know that there is little difference between eastern meditation and Christian meditation. When I was a student of yoga in India, I was encouraged to repeat my mantra throughout the day. I do find myself repeating that mantra but I must confess it is a work in progress for me. There is a book called “The Way of a Pilgrim” that introduces constant prayer and it basically tells the story of a Russian monk who inwardly recites the phrase, “Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” He recites it from the moment he awakes to when he goes to sleep. It becomes so integrated in his life that he does it without thinking.

This was his choice of a prayer. There are many others to choose from. One commonly used is: Maranatha. It is an Aramaic word meaning, come Lord. I encourage you to follow Jesus's advice and practice constant prayer. It is best to choose a word or phrase that is a good fit for you. It may be as simple as: My Lord My God. It is really up to you. The only qualifier is that it be spiritually meaningful to you. When you say your prayer it is also a good idea that it be a part of rhythmic breathing. For instance if you use the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ” could be thought when you inhale and “have mercy on me” when you exhale. If you use “My Lord my God”, “My Lord” would be said inwardly when you inhale and “My God” on exhaling.

Constant prayer can be transformative in your spiritual life and it will impact everything you do. It will give your life a spiritual focus beyond what you have now. 

Last Sunday's Sermon

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Old Testament
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Epistle
2 Timothy 2:8-15

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David-- that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful--
for he cannot deny himself.

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
The Gospel
Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

The Sermon

The Grateful Samaritan

Let me sort through this old testament reading first. Around the year 600BCE the kingdom of Juda was conquered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Many in the kingdom of Juda's court as well as skilled artisans were sent to Babylon. Jeremiah tells those in exile that it is God's wish for them to flourish in this new land. God wants them to make the best of their situation.

Why does this have any meaning for us. In every presidential election year I hear people moan that if this or that person comes into power then they will move to Canada or Mexico, or somewhere else. I have never actually seen anyone make that move. I believe in most situations the best advice is the same advice God gave to the people of Judah. Live your life and flourish and if you can't flourish make the best of a bad situation. This exile must have surely tried their faith.

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he is surely having his faith tested as well. Paul is in chains but his faith is still strong.

He says:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful
for he cannot deny himself.

Paul endured and his life and story have been told for two thousand years.

In the gospel reading Jesus cures ten people of leprosy. Only one of those healed turns back to give thanks. As many of you know leprosy was a blanket term for many ailments so we are not sure what these ten people had. We do know that Jesus healed them and sent them to their priest in the village where they lived. The priest was the gate keeper if you will, who determined if the leper was clean. If the priest gave the leper a clean bill of health then the person would be allowed to be integrated back into the village community.

To give the other nine lepers the benefit of a doubt, they were doing exactly what Jesus had told them. They were going to their priest. But, there is that tenth leper. He turns around when he sees he is cured and he praises God and thanks Jesus for the miracle of his cure. The tenth leper used his judgment and made the decision to give thanks before anything else.

You all know that I serve as a counselor at the ministry center food pantry on Fridays. I do the paperwork for the people who come for our services. I listen to their stories and give them what support I can. When we are done I wish them well and almost everyone says thank you and many of them say God bless. Maybe they are thanking me for the food. Maybe they are thanking me because I treated them with respect. Maybe both. It is important for them to show their appreciation.

It is important for us to give thanks too. I have so much to thank God for and it is not all just tangible things like food to eat and a roof over my head. I am truly blessed with family and friends and the love and kindness they give me.

I would like for you to reflect on what you are thankful for. Please share one of those things with us.

I want to say just one more thing about this passage from Luke. Luke makes it clear that this person was a Samaritan. He was not a Jew in the sense that we think of those who practice Judaism. Jesus is spreading his wings in a sense of mission. He is reaching out and giving his mission to all mankind, all of God's children.

That kindness, that reaching out to others who are not just like us is expected of you and me as well. In this election year and this one especially, we need to reflect on how we treat others. We are all God's children regardless of the color of our skin, the religion we practice, or the political party we support.

The Book of Common Prayer has a prayer on page 822 titled For an Election.  I would like to close this sermon with this prayer.