October 27, 2019
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Jesus also 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.”
Something to Do
Be merciful to me, a sinner
The Orthodox Church has a tradition called the prayer walk. It is, quite simply, walking while praying in time with your steps. The prayer used most traditionally is called the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. The prayer reminds us of our fallibility, our reliance on Jesus, and Jesus’ faithfulness.
Go for a prayer walk and see how it feels to use the traditional prayer. You can, of course, create your own short prayer to accompany you on your walk.
Embodying the Story
Read the story – either out loud or silently. When you read the Pharisee, hold your body the way you imagine him standing. How does this posture make you feel? If you were talking to someone (like, say, God), what would you be communicating? When have you held your body this way? Why?
When you read the tax collector, hold your body the way you imagine him standing. Beat your chest like he does. How does this posture make you feel? What are you communicating? When have you held your body this way? Why?
Something to Wonder
Look in the Mirror
An interesting question to bring to any Bible story but, perhaps, especially to parables is this: Who am I in this story? The answer you give to that question might change every time you read the story or you may find that you are persistently the same character.
Take a good look at yourself in the mirror of this parable. Are you the self-satisfied Pharisee or the tax collector desperate for God’s help? In what way?
What is it like seeing yourself in the parable?
All who exalt themselves will be humbled…
This feels like an interesting text for the week after the election we just experienced. What lessons would you draw from Jesus’ story for us as citizens? What lessons would you like to share with the various politicians that have been called to service?
Something to Learn
More about the Jesus Prayer and Prayer Walks
Orthodoxprayer.org offers a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual practices of Eastern Orthodox traditions. The whole site is worth exploring but here’s a link to a commentary on the Jesus Prayer, written by St. Theophan the Recluse, a Russian bishop who lived from 1815-1894.
For a more contemporary view, and briefer article, on the Jesus Prayer and its use in prayer walks, visit Orthodox Way of Life, a site maintained by Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
Something to Pray
Holy God, we do not always understand your word or your ways.
Give us wisdom and imagination and courage as we learn and grow.
The story this week has made me wonder about…
(what questions are still on your heart?)
Receive my questions and help me hear your answers.
The story this week has filled me with…
(how are you feeling?)
Accept my praise, heal my hurt, ease my worry.
The story this week has reminded me of…
(are there situations or people you are thinking of?)
Be with all who are in need of you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.