This is a tale of two sinners… (Lent 2/40)

It was the best of men. It was the worst of men.

The tax collector stood at a distance. Head down. Beating his chest in sorrow. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” His words dripped with passion and pain.

He is not the only lost soul in the temple.

IMG_7361The religious leader lifted his head to heaven and prayed. “God, I thank you 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.” His words reverberated off walls and into nearby eardrums.

The thought for today: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Jesus was an observer of human behavior. The story was fictional. But it likely rang true for everyone who heard it. Jesus had certainly seen it happen in His Father’s house. Those religious leaders were trusting in their own righteousness and treating others with contempt.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The wailing wall in Jerusalem receives over a million prayers a year tucked into its cracks. Every year, the prayers are buried on the Mount of Olives. This is a holy site for Jews, who lament the destruction of the Temple.

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The passion of these words is not about a building but the condition of my heart.

Yesterday at St. John’s, hundreds of people articulated their brokenness and heard a personal word of mercy: “Your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus.” Hundreds of rolled up papers tucked into a wall by people who weep over their brokenness as Jesus wept over the spiritual brokenness of God’s people.

It takes a big person to humble oneself. That person goes home justified. That person sleeps well.

And heaven rejoices.

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