He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘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.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
I have found that it is hard to learn a new skill the older I get. I am determined to continue to learn and grow despite the challenges of an aging brain. Recently, I took a class in tradition bead work from an Athabascan woman in our parish. We will meet again next week for more lessons. She does beautiful bead work, and was so generous with her time, her patience and her laughter. I tried to continue the piece I started and immediately got the threads tangled. At a meeting, I tried to bead while listening and instead sent a shower of beads everywhere. Folks had a great laugh at my awkward new "skill". It is very humbling to be such a novice, and a great gift to learn something passed down lovingly from generation to generation.
Jesus is teaching his disciples about prayer and again uses a story. We all seem to get the meaning of things when we hear a story we can relate to. We all know pompous people who tell of their great humility. We also know of humble people who know their own fault and do not flaunt their faith in front of others. Jesus directs us to be like the tax collector, to admit our faults before God, and to throw ourselves completely on God's love and mercy. If we think we have all the answers and do everything right, we can loose our blessings. If we face our faults, moment by moment, and offer ourselves before God, we are never alone. God invites us to a depth of relationship that requires our total honesty and total humility. An intimacy that is blessing for all.
Today I ask God to help me set aside fear and embarrassment and live humbly and honestly before all. May we not compare ourselves to others, but rather offer ourselves to God, in our broken and fractured state, trusting that God will make us whole. May we walk humbly, and live prayerfully, trusting our loving Creator each step of the way.