I have to confess something in the interest of transparency and full disclosure. Though I title this reflection
, I write in well in advance of Monday, so that you will be sure to receive them in your inbox on the assigned date. I am also writing in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday, which in this case, would be October 23. Couple that with the fact that often I am simultaneously writing a sermon for the immediate Sunday, it sometimes becomes a challenge not to get confused as to which day or week it is or which Sunday is my focal point.
Therefore, I am begging forgiveness in advance if I don't address a specific event or incident taking place at the time you may read this. My main goal is to make this brief communication relevant to what may be happening in the world or in your life by hopefully helping you to see how it intersects with the assigned Lectionary readings for the week.
I begin by confessing and asking your forgiveness because that is one of the themes in this week's readings. In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector [Luke 18:9-14]. This is one of those readings that we've heard from childhood and as a result, the challenge is to resist the temptation to gloss over it because we know how it ends. So let me suggest a couple things in your efforts to discover new insights into this parable.
The simplest is to put yourself in the role of one of the two main characters in the parable. Ask yourself, which one would you be?
The other idea is to modernize the characters to people whom society tends to look upon either favorably or unfavorably today. There is no shortage of suggestions, but I'll let you fend for yourself on that.
Here are a couple other thoughts to consider.
Traditionally we begin our Lutheran liturgy with a brief order for confession and forgiveness. How many of us really pay attention to those words we read? How many of us are really convinced that we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed? That we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves?
I still remember the words of the old Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal - "We poor sinners confess unto thee, that we are by nature sinful and unclean..." These words were so convicting, so damning that only the minister said them, not the congregation.
Yet, we come away from that confession with the promise of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God. And for me, it is essential that we look at the world through those lenses first. Yes, we still maintain our political and social biases - that's human nature. But as people of faith, we are compelled to see the basic human need of all people - of all nations, of all colors, of all religious and socio-economic backgrounds - to be seen as people created in God's image, for whom Jesus died, just like me.
One final note, unrelated to the above, among the myriad of things to be aware of this week is that October 18, the Church commemorates St. Luke the Evangelist. Luke is presumed to be the author of the Gospel that bears his name, as well as the book of Acts. It is also maintained that Luke was a physician. Therefore, his day is traditionally celebrated in most churches with services that emphasize the church's ministry of healing. Hospitals and nursing homes, physicians and nurses are recognized on this day.
I will be in Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday visiting with the seminarians at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. I look forward to celebrating the feast of St. Luke at the seminary's Wednesday Eucharist.
Blessings to you wherever you may find yourself this week.
+Bishop Abraham Allende