Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Pharisee and the Publican

I am working on this text this week, Luke 18:9-14, familiar as it is. I would alert you who are doing the same not to miss Amy Jill-Levine's wonderful treatment of the pericope in her book, The Misunderstood Jew (Harper, 2006; page 40-41).

One thought that strikes me this week is that the players are both in the Temple. This may seen a small point, but as often as I have preached and taught this text I have never considered that part of it. It is not just that the Pope and a pimp went to St. Peter's to pray (Crossan), but that God does not admit one and not the other, but both--much to the Pharisee/Pope/Tom's chagrin. In sum, if the lavish hospitality of God to "outsiders" can wrankle at times we still expect that. What we can't abide is the hospitality to others within the church. Which is to say that often we are unable to be the least bit hospitable to insiders--whatever their real or imagined offense (Remember Garrison Keillor's line to the effect that "we have not spoken to the Bunsens in twenty years, I have no idea why").

Could the Pharisee's prayer even be a bit of a dig at God? I am so righteous as to make distinctions were you (God) do not? If so, his attitude is in keeping with Jonah, at least, who surely wants to make distinction regarding Ninevah where God does not and does what he can to subvert the gracious intent of God. The analogy breaks down in that Ninevites were certainly outsiders, but the desire to make distinction where God does not is still apt.
I am struggling with this business of how we in the church (and I am thinking here of my congregation but it could be extrapolated further) sometimes are prone to regard each other with more contempt than we regard those who are not in the Temple at all. If that makes any kind of sense.

It is still early.

No comments: