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Communion Meditations (2017)

Two Beggars

Originally scheduled for February 26

In this little parable Jesus is talking to an audience of Pharisees. The word Pharisee has passed into the English language to mean someone who is a pious hypocrite. Let me point out some additional details to you:

·         They were confident of their own righteousness. In their opinion, God owed them blessing, riches and power.

·         Their religion was not one of faith, but of works. It was a matter of following the rules that most people couldn’t. If they felt “holier than thou” it’s because their actions were in fact holier than yours.

·         They look down on those who did not keep their set of rules. Do not think this is a phenomenon of the first century only; we just express it differently now. “Poor Joe, I hear he’s been beating his wife again. What a sad situation!”

The men who approach the temple in this parable have surprisingly similar petitions. Their first agenda item — both of them — is to tell God what kind of person they really are. The Pharisee compares himself to others, not to the law of God. He lists his righteous acts. But see his opening statement: “God, I thank you…” It’s as if God was lucky to have him. If you happen to be someone whom God has blessed with material things you might prefer to open with “by the grace of God…”

By comparison, the tax collector simply identifies himself as a sinner. It needs to be said, and that’s all that needs to be said about the subject. We may give him points for brevity. But both of these men have come for the same purpose: to beg. The Pharisee came to beg for praise; the tax collector came to beg for mercy. They both got what they came for.

I bring this to your attention because communion is a time of self-examination. If you’re going to go before Almighty God, do so confessing rather than bragging. Remember, it’s not about “poor Joe.” It’s about you. The comparison to poor Joe might feel more comfortable, but you should be comparing yourself to what God has commanded for you. So how do you do this? First, admit that you’re a sinner. Having done that, seek the mercy of God. Do this while you acknowledge the source of the mercy of God: the Cross. Look upon the bread which is his body; see the cup which holds his blood. On this basis alone do you appeal to Almighty God. “Lord have mercy on me, the sinner.”

Examine your self; did you come to this communion to tell God how wonderful you are, and how lucky he is to have a follower like you? Or did you come to this communion to seek the forgiveness of your sins, asking Almighty God for mercy. You have the example before you which tells you which of these two is likely to be most fruitful in your life.

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