Just Like Everyone Else

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 19-20; Luke 18:1-23

 

Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust:10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14  I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.” (Luke 18:9-14, Common English Bible).

The late Margret Mead was a respected but also often controversial cultural anthropologist of the 1960s and 1970s. She once said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” The Pharisee in the lesson today, yes, I know it is a parable and therefore not a real person, would have loved Margret Mead. His alleged uniqueness, I don’t believe, is what she had in mind.

The great danger of the Christian faith is that we somehow start to believe we are better than everyone else. No Pharisee was called a Christian, at least until Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea or perhaps Paul would have been the first. It is doubtful Joseph or Nicodemus would have called themselves Christians. While that is true, it is also true that sometimes, we can get a bit caught up in ourselves and start saying, “Look at them, they…”

There is the woman who comes into the church building with her service dog… “Look at her bringing that dog into the church. She should be ashamed. She doesn’t need that dog in here.” Nevermind that the woman is a quadriplegic and the dog is trained, to among other things, pick up things from the floor the woman might drop.

There is the man who was out drinking on Saturday night and wandered into the church building on Sunday morning. “Look at him, coming into church on Sunday morning after what he was out doing last night.” We never stop to think that perhaps this was the first time the man had been to church for many years and he was there to see if he might find help for his drinking problem.

“Look at that teenager hanging out with our youth group. Can you believe he is wearing a t-shirt advertising a beer company to the youth meeting?” No one ever stopped to think he might have, and actually did hear you. He never darkened the doorway of the church again.

The list could go on for far too long. We sometimes have a tendency to feel like we are better than those other folks. When we do, we are like the Pharisee from Jesus’ parable. Do these people sin? Yes! But never, ever forget, you and I do too.

There is an old story about a man with long hair, a week old beard, and dirty raggedy clothes who wandered into the church one Sunday morning. He started looking around for a place to sit. No one seemed to be willing to make any room for him to sit. Rumbles were going on through the sanctuary. Almost everyone in the congregation was uncomfortable he was there. “What was he doing there?” was a common thought. “Someone needs to tell him he needs to leave,” others were thinking.

Suddenly, an elderly man, one of the patriarchs of the church, came walking up the aisle. Everyone knew he was coming. They could hear his cane clicking on the tile floor. “Oh, the bum’s going to get it now. Mr. Smith is going to give him what for and then kick him out of here. We don’t need his type around here.”

Then the whole place went quiet when Mr. Smith got to the end of the aisle where the man was sitting. You could have heard a pin drop. And then there were gasps as Mr. Smith slowly, painfully sat down on the floor next to the man. He believed no one should have to sit alone during worship.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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