Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
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The Pray-ers

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October 27:

Call:    2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18
Text:    Luke 18: 9-14
Prophet: Joel 2: 23-32

            The Pray-ers

I trust you noticed the hyphen.
   The hyphen between the "Y" and the "E"
      On the sign
      In the bulletin

I trust you noticed it because it is important.

It is important because
   the emphasis in this morning's story from Luke's gospel
   seems to be less about the prayers
   Than about the pray-ers.

It is more about the people praying
   Than about their prayers

The prayers are important
But primarily because they reveal who the pray-ers are
   And what they are like
      In their relationship with each other
      In their relationship with God.

Like so many of the stories Luke has shared with us in recent weeks
   Our text this morning presents a sharp contrast
between two characters.
This morning's characters are two very different pray-ers.
That contrast offers us a chance
   to see which of the characters we are; and
to choose which one  we will be.

We remember the contrasting characters in the recent stories

Four weeks ago we met the rich man
With his purple robes and sumptuous feasts
And we met Lazarus
   Poor, homeless, hungry and covered with sores

Christ had us meet them so that
   We could see which one we are;   and
   We could choose which one we will be

Three weeks ago He introduced us to
   The slave owner
And to the slave who
after working for his owner all day
      Was expected to make and serve the owner's dinner
      Before being allowed to eat his own.

This contrast was intentional, but different
For the slave owner represented God
   And we had the choice as to whether
To see ourselves as God's slaves
   or    to see God as our slave
and expecting God to serve and reward us for serving him.

Two weeks ago the characters to whom we were introduced were
   nine healed lepers
the ones who kept on walking;    and
   a tenth leper,
the one who returned    to thank and to praise Jesus
And then last week Jesus extended to us the choice between
   Being a powerful and unjust judge
   Or a pest-like woman seeking justice
      Rather than giving up and accepting injustice.

This morning we encounter the two pray-ers:
   One is a Pharisee.   The other is a tax collector
[Luke 18: 9-14]

During the past weeks, we have encountered the word "haughty."

We encountered it first in a passage Paul wrote to Timothy
   (In which he advised the rich to not be haughty)

Now, "haughty" is not a word we use often in ordinary speech
   We are more apt to use its synonym, "arrogant."

Both "haughty" and "arrogant" mean
that a person acts in a manner conveying
   That he/she thinks he/she is better than others.

[Perhaps because we don't use it often
the word "haughty" even sounds like what it means.]

While we encountered that word in the letter to Timothy,
we have continually encountered "haughty" behavior
in the actions and the attitudes
of some of the people to whom Christ has introduced us in these scriptures.

The rich man
thought he was better than Lazarus.
The nine lepers who kept on going
thought they were so important
   That they did not have to go back to thank Jesus
The unjust judge
thought he was so important
   That he could pay no attention to the requirements of his position;  and
   That he could ignore God!

And the spokesman for this group of haughty, arrogant individuals
is the Pharisee in this morning's text.

For this Pharisee not only thought he was better
And not only acted like he was better
(remember, he stood off to the side by himself),
 He actually stated that he was better
And he stated that he was better
in the words of what he thought was a  prayer
For in his payer he thanked God that he was not like other people
"thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even this tax collector."

The Pharisee fasted and he gave as he was expected to
   But his plainly stated dismissal of others
   Revealed his contempt for them

And this is where
those who have studied, math, philosophy, and logic
   whether in school or in life
will immediately  (well, almost immediately)
jump to the corollary of the great commandment.

For in that commandment Christ said that the greatest commandment was
that we love God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength
and added that a second is like that
   that we love our neighbor as ourselves.

In other words,    loving God requires us to love our neighbor

And thus the corollary goes:
   That since we have to love our neighbor to love God
if we have contempt  rather than love for our neighbor
   We can only conclude that we
Do not love God
In fact,  that we have contempt for God.

You and I live in a world of over seven billion people
They are all God's children
   (Whether they know it or not)

and God expects us to treat them all with love and respect
   not with contempt and disdain
and if we don't, our attitudes tell everyone what we think of God.

Treating people with love and respect means that
Sometimes we will be taken advantage of
Treating people with love and respect means that
Sometimes we will be hurt.

Recently, I have been reading chapters of "Parables from the Backside" for my personal devotions.

This book was written by J. Ellsworth Kalas
   The same man who wrote the book the Serendipity Bible Study is using

In one of the chapters (on the prodigal son) Kalas noted,
   "love is risky."
And adds that
"The outcome depends
on the response of the other party."

He goes on to add that while love is a gamble,
that is exactly
"The way God has chosen to relate to this world of ours."

Finally, the words that truly struck me
   "If the facts of life seem to prove that, in some cases, love never wins and if you find yourself involved in a case so hopeless that you may as well give up loving, then keep on loving, no matter.  For this is the way God loves, and it's the way we, therefore, ought to follow.  Love doesn't have to win, because love is right.  Even when love doesn't win, love is right.   [p. 58]

The poor Pharisee and the others for whom he spoke
   Didn't understand or appreciate this
   And Jesus had to remind his listeners not to exalt themselves

Paul told Timothy that he (that is Paul)
   Had fought the good fight
   Had finished the race
   Had kept the faith.

I believe that when you and I have finished the race that is life,
we will want to be able to write those words as well.
      We will want to have fought the good fight
      We will want to have kept the faith.

We have a much better chance of being able to do so if,
   We humble ourselves rather than exalting ourselves
   If we pray like the tax collector who knows he has failed
      Rather than the Pharisee who thinks he has succeeded
      But who, in reality,
has demonstrated contempt for God.

Having been given a chance to see who we are in the stories
we now must choose   who we will be.