October 19, 2010

shock value

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is a tough one to preach. Not because its meaning isn't obvious, but because it is. It has lost its shock value since Jesus first told it.

We hear Jesus say the tax collector went home justified and we think, "yeah, that sounds right."

Jesus' audience heard it and thought, "yeah, we should throw him over a cliff."

The Pharisee prayed a genuine prayer. He was very thankful that he had achieved such a high level of spiritual and moral maturity. He was honestly glad he wasn't like those other people. He didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

The Tax Collector had better call himself a sinner. He was in bed with the Romans, stealing from his own people. He was swine. He prayed what he should have prayed and still should have gone home a filthy publican.

And Jesus turns the story on its head.

So, my dear reader(s) how do we do this story justice? How do we reinstate its shock value? Do we dare do it? Or should we just stand up and say, "thank God we aren't like that pharisee?"

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