Stories Worth Telling

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He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves
that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.

Luke 18:9

The Parables of Jesus … we know them … or least we think we know them … we have heard them since children in SS … they have played out in larger plays and shows as great moral lessons … but it is the idea that we know them that we will explore during Lent.

The difficulty is that since we think we know them.  We are quick to pass over them.

But what if these stories are more than great moral lessons?

What if each story contained a Gift from God intended for you?

Each of the stories that Jesus tells contains a Gift from God – a Gift we miss.

These Gifts would be missed if we failed to listen to the stories to more deeply examine the stories in light of Easter Morning.

It is clear that the disciples struggled with the meaning of the stories – until Easter.

We don’t have to wait for Easter – so let’s retell the stories – and listen for the gifts they reveal in light of Easter Morning and an empty tomb.

Join me on a journey to Easter … with the stories worth telling over and over again.

 

Did you hear the story about 2 guys?

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9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   Luke 18:9-14  NIV

Now Humility in our culture is a cherished virtue. We like the person who somehow maintains a humble shyness. So … We like Jesus’ ending to his parable. BUT we do a disservice to Jesus and this parable if we keep it on this surface level.

This Pharisee was a self-made man, but why in the world did he make himself that way?

The answer is that he made himself that way because he believed that

fasting and tithing

and not being like those other people left him impressive to God.

And that’s what had to make this story so amazing when it was first told. The guy popping his buttons was by every definition in his culture a good man. He was exactly who he claimed to be.

And the tax collector?

He was exactly who he said he was, too — a dirty rotten scoundrel, a collaborator, a crook, an IRS scandal in the flesh, an unclean sinner.

Yet Mr. Pharisee of the Year turns out to be the bad guy, and the terrible sinner turns out to be the good guy. What an incredible reversal it was for Jesus’ listeners!

Jesus told this parable to “some of them who trusted in themselves” (v. 9).  In other words, the issue here is not just pride vs. humility but how we expect to be right with God.  Jesus comments that only one of these two went home “justified” (v. 14).

So what if Jesus is doing theology here?

There’s a thought.

What if the parable has something to say about God? 

Something like:

            If you want to be justified before God, God will have to do it for you.

Note that the Pharisee’s prayer never asks God for anything, certainly not to make him just. The tax collector, though, needs God for everything.  He falls on God’s mercy like a dying man, like the dead man he is.

That’s what Jesus is saying. We need God if we want to be right with God.

And the place where that begins is where we die to our pride and beg for mercy.

Truth is, these two men are dead men standing, one dead in his own self- righteousness, and he doesn’t know it, the other dead in his sin, and he knows it, and he pleads for mercy.

Jesus reminds us that we are not justified by the hours we put in at church, the good deeds we do, the church we attend, or the number of Bibles we own.

We’re right with God because God has made us right in Jesus Christ.

Thank God, for the gift of Justification given through Jesus Christ.

Now that’s a story worth telling over and over …

 

 

Ash Wednesday: I Give Up!

What have you given up?
Somehow Lent has become a season where we declare to one another what we have given up.
Sacrifice was not intended to be an activity to boast about, but rather an inward activity to aid in reflection and growth.  After all a fast was not to be about giving up food; it is was to about gaining fellowship with God.

This Lenten Season give up something so that something else can be gained.
Give up an hour of television or video games to pray or study the bible;
Replace that craving for chocolate with a craving for prayer or thoughts of God could work for you?
Give up your daily trip to Starbucks in order to … Oh no! now I am meddling, but you get the idea.
What will you sacrifice?
What will you choose to say, “I Give Up!” in order to gain a more disciplined life of faith?

Find your thing or things and declare with me, “I Give Up!”
Let’s journey together this season and gain a deeper insight into Christ’s individual call on our lives.