February 22, 2023 – Ash Wednesday – Me, a Sinner

Today we’ll look at Luke 18: 9-14:

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent. This a forty-day period that, in the early days of the church, was a time of preparation for baptism and for joining the church.  This was a time of serious prayer, fasting, and repentance.  It was a time for converts to the faith to allow the Holy Spirit to search them and find the places where they were in need of repentance and grace.  

I believe that now, more than ever, we truly need Lent. We all need a season of repentance.  We all need a season of confession and of healing.  I’m sure there were times in human history that were more divided and polarized than now, but I know I feel it now.  

I see it in the tension within our nation.  

I see it in the tension within my tribe, the United Methodist Church.  

I see it in so many areas of life right now.  And the common theme in much of this tension is this. It is THEM. They are the problem. Whoever they are, they are the problem.  If they would just do right, if they would just change, if they would just repent, then everything would be perfect. 

They are the problem. If only they would change, all would be right. 

You know who we sound like when we say that, right?  We sound like the Pharisees in this text.  If only the tax collector would repent, then all would be right.  But in this parable, who went away justified?  

That tax collector, who prayed, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.  

That was the prayer that mattered; that was the prayer that changed.  Have mercy on me, a sinner.  

Which prayer will we pray this Lent?  Lord, fix them?  Oh, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner?  

Only one of these prayers is the prayer that leads to healing and leads to peace.  This Lent, may we walk the way of peace.  Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.  

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