Faith Daily | 23 August 2021
PRAYER of the DAY - PENTECOST APBA p572
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
until they find their rest in you:
teach us to offer ourselves to your service,
that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come may see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
GOSPEL for the Day: Matthew 23: 13-22
13 ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 ‘Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.” 17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, “Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.” 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
GOSPEL Reflection: Contributed by: : Rev’d Jonathan
No doubt this passage, and the rest of Jesus’ words on either side of it, makes for difficult reading over breakfast! If you’d like to hear a musical rendition instead, you could look up the Godspell soundtrack from the 1970s and have a listen. But it probably won’t make a lot of difference because the overall tone of Jesus here is so strong, so disdaining of those carrying on as hypocrites. It’s really quite a blast from the mouth of our Lord.
Those of us who carry some form of ‘official’ religious authority today may well feel that we are the primary targets here. It is all too easy to feel inadequate as the leader of a faith community – even to feel like a hypocrite, saying one thing and then doing another. Indeed, I suspect that there are quite a number of people who consider a vocation as deacons or priests but reject it, thinking, ‘No, I could never live up to it. I’m just not holy enough and people would see right through me.’
Newsflash: God already sees right through you! Maybe there’s less need to focus on being super-holy, and more need to embrace humility. I have noticed that being confined in home quarantine has allowed me lots of time to sit in judgement about people in the news, people I don’t know personally. “How dare that person do that! So irresponsible!” I fume. There has been lots of scope to tut-tut all day about the failings of others, especially religious leaders who have been caught doing the wrong thing.
But once I’ve calmed down, I realise that being angry, condemnatory and trying to claim the higher moral ground over others is not at all the lifestyle that Christ has intended for those who seek to love and follow Him. Instead, I pray for the wisdom and passion we see here in Jesus, to discern what is right and loving. Do I celebrate all the good aspects of the people I know, or just fixate upon their flaws? Every now and then, it seems fair enough to be given a little wake-up call, a little nudge, or perhaps even a whack over the head, to remind me of the absurdity of (as Godspell again puts it) “trying to take the speck of sawdust out of my neighbour’s eye when all the time there’s a great plank in my own.”
FINAL PRAYER: – A prayer for hypocrites (Kelly Balarie): From Rev’d Jonathan
Lord, I am not above you. I am not above the world ruling. I am not the master of all things, nor the creator. But, I am your servant, your child, and your love. Help me reside in that place. Help me see my need and confess it to you. Help me be quick to look at myself when I am prone to look over to others. Thank you that you have wild and abundant grace for me. It will not cease. It will not end. It will not let me go. I ask you to restore me in fullness with you. Teach me your ways and help me be receptive to them, so I will not fall. Help me Lord. You rule and I surrender all my ways, thoughts, opinions, perceptions and decisions to you. Amen.