“Where Do You Stand?”
Sermon: “Where Do You Stand?”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from October 23, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
Our gospel lesson this morning is on the surface, a lesson about prayer. Now we have the righteous person standing up in this synagogue and praying, and then we have the tax collector, who is staying over on the side and begging God's forgiveness. And you know, there's one of those things that we really, really like to say, well, we're one of the people that Jesus is saying is the good person. The tax collector who is sitting there begging for God's mercy. and Jesus says, This person will go down to their home receiving God's reward more than the other or before the other.
And that's, you know, we would like to picture ourselves there. You know, Jesus says, that person's gonna be exalted because they started off humble. And we all said, Oh yeah, I'm humble.
And as soon as we do that, we're not, you know, it's, what was the old song? Uh, I can't wait to look at myself in the mirror because I get better looking each day.
I bet you people that will listen to Country Western Stations heard it a long time ago. This'll age you. I can't wait. Look, right. Yeah. Okay. I've got confirmation it’s a real song. It's true. And in reality, for some of us, that's, we don't want to admit it, but that's really who we are. We like to get up and learn how to do makeup. (Glenn looks at Laurie because she had on tons of makeup for the haunted trail the night before.) I wouldn't say that was getting better looking though.
But we like to think that we're the good person, and when we start thinking that we're the good person, then we are putting ourselves over here with that person that was standing up in the temple and proclaiming how good they were.
Because if we look at what he was saying in his prayer to God, he's saying, God, I thank you that I'm not like those other people. Those thieves, those rogues, and of course he was referring to the tax collector as a thief and a rogue.
You have him standing up there saying, these thieves, these rogues. And then he goes on, of course to talk about, you know, adulterers or even like this tax collector, names them specifically. And you know, we do that a lot in the church. We do that a lot in the church. We may not in our prayer say, Thank God I'm not like them. But we do it in other ways. You know, we set up church so that we don't include people, and that's not what God intends. That's not what God intends.
We set up church, you know. It used to be that businesses were all closed on Sunday, right? We had blue laws. Things were not, you could not go to a store on Sunday, they were closed.
Then eventually you got to where they weren't even closed for Thanksgiving. Now I understand most of the big chains are going back to being at least closed for Thanksgiving. But,we had those laws, and at that point when we had nothing going on Sunday morning and you didn't have any school activities on Wednesday night because that was church night, so you had Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, and it was expected that people would be in church.
But that's not the case anymore. People have to work on Sunday mornings. People have to work or have after school activities on Wednesdays, and all these other things that have changed, and yet the church still worships for the most part on Sunday morning. And then they wonder why so many people don't participate and they still have activities on Wednesday night, whether it be youth group or choir or whatever. And they wonder why more people don't participate.
I can tell you that even at the presbytery level, this happens all the time. Council will be meeting and ask what do we have to do to get more of our younger church members to participate in the life of the presbytery? By the way, our next presbytery meeting is next Tuesday at 9:30am.
That's not, I didn't give you the correct date, but you know, you get the idea. The next presbytery meeting is at 9:30 AM on a Tuesday. Why can't we get our younger people to be part of the Presbytery functions?
Why can't we get 'em to serve on committees? By the way, Commission on Ministry meets next week at 11:00 AM on Wednesday. But why can't we get more people to be part of it? And you see that's the insidious way of excluding people. It's the insidious way of excluding people. Why do we do it that way? Because we feel good about who we are. You know, if I asked everybody that's here this morning, if 10:00 AM on Sunday morning was good, you’d say it works for us.
Well, we're all here. Of course, it works for us. Some of us we would prefer a different time, but we make it work. And yet the church is excluding if that's the only time that they're doing things.
So, what is it that we do in our personal lives that makes it so that we are praying the way the Pharisee prayed? When is it when we are saying, Thank God I'm not like that person.
Thank God I'm not like that person. it may be so small of a thing; you don't even realize you're doing it. Thank God I'm not like that person that's in the express lane at the grocery with 30 items instead of 21.
Thank God I'm not like that person that just changed lanes without signaling. Thank God I'm not like that person that just passed me when I was doing 75 in a 70 mile an hour zone.
Why do I see a smile on a new driver? (Looks at Brynna)
Why is it that we do those things? You know, part of it is that we like to feel good about ourselves, an unfortunate thing about human existence and human nature is that we try to make ourselves feel better by comparing us to those that we think aren't as good.
And yes, it's normal. But that's not the way God wants us to view each other.
The tax collector starts off his prayer by saying, God, forgive me, be merciful to me, a sinner. He recognizes his own frailties and weaknesses. That is the difference between these two. One is talking about how good they are and almost comes off as a boast in their prayer. And the other one is talking about their own frailties and weaknesses and recognizing that they need God's help.
Now, doing that on the personal level, is always hard enough. Think how hard it is for a congregation to do that. How hard is it for a congregation to be humble and merciful and say, you know, we needs God’s help? Well, I can tell you when it's easy. It's easy when things aren't going right.
It's easy when things aren't going right, both on a personal level, on a church level.
I had a gentleman in the first church I served that told me that he found God in a foxhole in World War II. And my question to him was, how did you know to call on God?
How did you know to call on God? He was scared, I'm sure, any one of us would've been, but somewhere along the line, he had already been exposed to God or he wouldn't have even known how to call on God for help.
So, when was in that moment that he realized how frail he was and what his shortcomings were and that he couldn't do it on his own.
Whereas for others that weren't in those situations, I can just imagine that for everyone that was in a foxhole, there was one back at home saying, thank God I didn't have to go.
It was one of the few times in life where having poor vision or a broken eardrum probably was a blessing.
But it's in how we pray and how we view ourselves that we are separating ourselves from one another. Thank God I'm not like this other person.
Or, God be merciful to me, the sinner. You know, we have to recognize our own frailties before we allow God to give us the help that we need. As long as we are praying like that Pharisee, we are not accepting of anything that God offers us. Because we see that we have it all within ourselves to do it on our own.
I thank God that I'm not like these others. I fast twice a week. I give a 10th of all my income.
You know, I'm so good that I'm already sure that I'm going to get into heaven.
And that's not who God wants us to be. So, we have to figure out whether we are like the Pharisee standing up in the temple and praying, or whether we are like the sinner who is over by themselves and quietly saying, God, help me.
Where do we stand? That's the question that we have to ask every day. Where do I stand? Do I stand over there bragging about all the things that I can do and do, do or do I stand over here asking for God’s help and admitting my own shortcomings?