Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
9[Jesus] 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. 11The 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. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I 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.”
In the coming days we mark the history changing event – the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, and the rest is history. It is said that a slip of paper was found in the breast pocket of Martin Luther when he died that read, “We are beggars, it is true.” One who could boast of many things, but he understood his place – a beggar, like you and me.
Martin Luther stands in a long line of beggars. A beggar is a person who has nothing to give or to bargain with. A beggar has nothing to offer, nothing he can boast about. He can only receive gifts from the kindness of someone else.
The New Testament is filled with stories of people with the humble spirit of a beggar. People who had heard over and over again, “You are not worthy.” Unworthy beggars who were poor, not just in a physical sense, but that they were poor in spirit and realized they didn't deserve any favors from Jesus.
People like Zaccheus the tax collector, or blind Bartimaeus, or the woman who suffered from massive hemorrhages who didn’t want to ask Jesus anything only to touch them hem of his coat, or the thief next to Jesus on the cross and many others who approached Jesus in humility aware of their unworthiness and simply called out, “Lord have mercy.”
None of these people could hold up their lives and say, “Hey Jesus, checkout my faith and my good references. Take a look at what I do in the church and how I go out of my way to help others. Note my attendance at church every Sunday and how I tithe.” For each of them, life was out of control.
They were beggars with nothing to offer and yet each of these humble people ends up wealthier than they could ever dare dream. They receive precious gifts of healing, forgiveness and the presence of the Lord. They receive grace upon grace. As surely as the exalted are humbled, the unworthy who come to Christ are exalted.
When we became children of God, none of us were able to say, “Look how good I am!” No, we came empty handed. At our baptism we were beggars but when we emerged from the waters of our baptism we were cleansed, washed, named, adopted; we are children of the king. Our new status as a forgiven child of God began.
We come to the Communion table with empty hands. We are beggars. We have nothing to offer. We hold out our hands of faith and Jesus fills them his grace and assures us that we are his dearly loved children. He gives us his Spirit who leads us to fulfil our calling to be who called and created us to be.
Let us pray: Empty our hands of all that we hold on to for dear life, so that we might receive the true life from you, O God, giver of all that is good. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen