NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER FROM THE PASTOR . . .


Dear Christian Friends,

 

Ready or not, November is here, the month of thanksgiving. What are you most thankful for? Allow me to ask the question another way? Are you most thankful for what you’ve achieved, or for what you’ve received? I have in mind the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9–14). “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men . . . I fast . . . I give tithes of all that I get.” The prayer of the Pharisee seems to begin well— “God I thank you.”—but what is the Pharisee thankful for? He’s really thanking God for himself. He’s gone through a lot of work to create an image for himself. He sets himself apart and prays in a way that will draw attention to himself: “I, I, I, I, I.” He asks God for nothing as there is nothing he needs. Seems a little crass, but before we condemn the Pharisee, might we too be guilty of this self- promotion?

 

We are constantly encouraged to celebrate ourselves and to believe in ourselves. We like to be celebrated. We go through a lot of work to craft and control our image in order to receive validation, attention, love and praise from others. We share just the right tidbits in an attempt to control our image. We can’t share the whole truth for fear that we might be found out for who we really are. We all do this in “real life,” but with today’s technology we can craft and create online with even more precision and control. We share just the right pictures and comments and thoughts in the hopes that our lives will be well received and “liked” by others. We all strive to set ourselves apart: “God I thank you that I am not like others.”

 

As hard as we might try, our efforts fail to bring contentment and satisfaction. The responses we seek aren’t what we had hoped for. On the rare occasion when we do receive the response we had hoped for, we are likely to feel guilty: “They certainly would not have responded like that if they knew the whole truth.” Of course, the greatest danger is to believe in the exalted image that we go through great pains to create.

 

Contrast this now with the tax collector: “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” The tax collector does not stand in a prominent place and he does not sound his own horn. He does not compare himself to others or claim to be better than others. He approaches God in great humility and begs God for mercy. Our Lord now comments: “I tell you this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The tax collector does not bring an exalted image to God. He humbles himself and so receives a perfect image from God. He is justified.

 

All we seek to achieve by controlling our image is in vain. The image that brings true peace and contentment in life is not one we achieve but one we receive. It is the image of Christ. We receive His image in the waters of Baptism. In Baptism we are crucified with Christ and we are raised up accepted, affirmed, loved, and embraced by the Father. All of who we are—not the image we create—is taken into the Son of God, dies with Him, rises with Him, and lives with Him. And so we humble ourselves and give thanks to the Lord for all that He has given us. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

 

In Christ,

Pastor Rasmussen

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