Reflections: August 23, 2020
The 11th Sunday after Trinity
By Mark Buetow
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Best "gotcha!" parable ever! We see what a self-righteous guy this Pharisee is and we think, "I'm glad I'm not like him!" Gotcha! Jesus won't let anyone slide. Whoever we are, there's always someone we can look down on and who probably looks down on us. It's the tax collector who teaches us what it looks like to be at the bottom of the rung, with his good confession of faith: "Lord, there's nobody to look down on. I'm the very bottom of the barrel. I've got nothing. Have mercy on me!"
Jesus does have mercy! That tax collector, who has nothing and is nothing, now has everything and is everything in Jesus. Jesus takes the low spot to give us the high spot. In doing so, He drags us down and saves us from our own high spots where, with the Pharisee, we think we can save ourselves. Jesus hanging on the Cross is the answer to that tax collector's prayer. "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!" He does, by taking that tax collector's and your place on the Cross. By suffering and dying and rising again. It's so we can pray, "I thank God I'm not like Jesus! I don't have to die for my sins! I'm forgiven!"
So we pray with the tax collector, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!" The Lord answered that prayer when He died for you. That prayer was answered when you are washed and born from above at the font. That prayer is answered every time your pastor absolves you of your sins and preaches the Good News to you. That prayer is answered at the Lord's altar where He gives his merciful flesh and blood to give you forgiveness so that you walk away justified. Holy. Saved. A beloved child of God. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. And He is! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than we either desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of Your mercy, forgiving those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things that we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 11th Sunday after Trinity)
-Rev. Mark Buetow is the pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois.
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