Sermons & Messages
Saint Patrick's 1 September, 2019, Rev. Nick Henderson, and Saint Timothy’s, August, 2016, Rev. Frank Odonnell.
From the Gospel: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
We don’t usually think of the Bible as being humorous. Indeed, it is a book we should take very seriously. To be sure, Bible humor is not standup comedy, or telling jokes, but it is there, if you are open to it. The humor of the Bible often consists of irony, exaggeration, or satire.
Some examples which come to mind are: “the blind leading the blind,” “straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel,” “cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye,” and the like.
Others are just plain funny: for instance, the young woman Rhoda, who is so excited by Peter’s escape from jail she slams the door in his face and leaves him outside. (Fortunately the law was not hot on his heals.)
Another example is the sons of Sceva, would be exorcists. Although not believers, they tried to cast out a demon in the name of “the Jesus who Paul preaches”, only to have the demon say, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” and then proceeds to have the man he was possessing beat the sons of Sceva so severely they ran away naked.
The problem we have seeing the humor in the Bible is we are used to hearing and reading it in “stained glass tones,” which cannot help but utterly kill the humor. The only antidote for this problem is to be open to the idea good writers often use humor, exaggeration, and satire to get across serious points.
If you can’t at least smile at some of these humorous bits, you may be missing the appreciation of just how great a writer the Holy Ghost truly is.
Our Gospel lesson today is one known for its humor.
The image of the proud Pharisee bragging to God about how sinless he is, is without a doubt, laughable, which, no doubt, Jesus intended it to be. The total pomposity and arrogance of the man is, whatever else it may be, literally ridiculous.
The Pharisee begins his little speech, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” (Luke 18:11.)
(At least he apparently had the decency to offer this so-called “prayer” silently.)
By that I don’t mean to suggest the Pharisee was a great or notorious sinner. In fact, much of what he said about himself was probably true. We have no reason to believe he was an extortioner, an unjust man, or an adulterer. I suspect he was in many ways a good citizen; he kept his lawn mowed, paid his taxes on time, contributed to his synagogue, his kids were well mannered, and so forth.
If he were our neighbor, we would likely agree he was indeed a good man, if perhaps a bit stuck on himself. In fact, the only sin we can say for sure the Pharisee was guilty of is the Sin of Pride.
That is, however, a big, big deal.
There is a reason Pride comes first on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Pride was the first sin recorded in the Bible. It was his Pride that caused the Archangel Lucifer to rebel against God, and so fall from grace and become Satan. Satan appealed to Eve’s Pride in the temptation in the Garden, “the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Pride is the deadliest of all Sins.
It is the Mother of Sins; Pride tells us we are special, so God’s laws do not apply to us; Pride conceals our other sins from our eyes, which keeps us from realizing our need for repentance.
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