Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector Praying
I remember the first time I went back to visit college, after graduating from university and going off to work. One of the porters, who met me on my way in to college, and who I had known 2 years before when I was still a student. Greeted me with a question: ‘Are you paying taxes?’ Proudly, I answered ‘yes’ and he welcomed me back with a handshake. It was an odd greeting, in my pride I heard it as congratulations for having become an adult in society. Looking back I am sure there was an undercurrent of: ’having benefitted from state funding of education, are you paying back in.’ There is a certain fallacy in this. We are fully fledged members of society without paying taxes, we can vote, and there are many other ways in which we contribute to society apart from taxes. But, sadly, society still judges us based on our ability to contribute to the economy.
In today’s parable Jesus is addressing those who: trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt It’s easy to be proud like the pharisee, perhaps that we are pious by coming to church, or that we are generous, or, as the pharisee does, that we are not like those other people, the ones that aren’t here, or the politicians who make bad decisions, or perhaps the ones that are here that we feel aren’t as friendly as us, or who we disagree with. Of course, while the Tax Collector who recognises that he is at fault is the one who is justified in his prayer, both Pharisee and the Tax Collector are loved by God. The question then becomes not whether we can earn that love, whether we are worthy of that love.
Whatever it is that makes us a part of society, taxes or residency or voting. To be a part of God’s Kingdom there is nothing necessary but God’s grace, for the church we demonstrate this in the act of Baptism, the sign we make of God’s reaching out to us as we stand far-off and drawing us into Christ’s Body. The question then becomes how will we respond?
Next Saturday we are having our Gift day. By tradition this is a day when people come to make a one off donation to the upkeep and work of the Church. This year we will do that but also we will consider gifts in a more generic way. To consider how we respond to God’s gifts to us in the way we use our time, our money, and our skills. Of course, as with our tax collector, we often feel unworthy like there is probably somebody else who is better skilled, or better placed, or who God is more likely to want to call on to serve, to share those gifts with others. But God calls each of us in our baptism, as we are made members of the church we are also made a part of the priesthood of all believers.
It is also easy to look at others and think, well I do my bit, why don’t they do theirs? But we aren’t meant to be here to judge others, to guess at what cost it is for them to do what they do, but to confess our own failings to ask forgiveness and seek to do better.
Of course our baptism isn’t just into All Saints Child’s Hill, its not just into the Deanery of churches in West Barnet (from here up to Edgware), its not just into the church in London or all England. We are part of a bigger mission seeking to respond to God’s love by sharing it generously here in Child’s Hill, but also in supporting what the church does worldwide. We are fortunate that as a parish we are subsidised by the wider church. In 2020 it will cost the diocese equivalent of £85,200 per parish priest. As a parish we give 50% of our income to the diocese, which is less than half the cost to the diocese of having a full time priest here and providing the equivalent support to parishes.
Looking around and listening to God’s call to us, there are also more things that we would like to do in Child’s Hill. The PCC has been looking at our vision for the future, the things we would like to do in the next 2, 5 & 10 years. Things we are considering include: starting a food bank, providing more support to young people in our parish, developing a pastoral visiting team, reducing our environmental impact and supporting all this perhaps by employing an administrator to free me and others up to minister to the parish, and making improvements to our building to better equip us to serve Child’s Hill. All these things will need the whole church in this place to work together, to respond to the love with which God reaches out to us, and finding ways for us to share that same love. It is important that we all consider how we can give of our time, our skills and our money so that we do so responsibly and for the good of all, not as some attempt to gain favour with God, or in some exercise of one-upmanship.
Next Saturday we will be celebrating all the gifts we each bring – there will be an exhibition where people can add the things that they do, what they give their time to, whether its supporting new parents, or fostering, or leading us in singing God’s praises, or reading lessons, or teaching Sunday school, or serving at the Lord’s table, or praying for others within our community, or listening to others who are depressed and anxious or knitting poppies to remember those who have given their lives for us. There will be a display of how we use what we have collectively to serve others through the ministries we offer but also through the collections we have made at the Christmas Tree Festival, or at harvest or during Lent. And there will be a display of some of the things people have given to the glory of God in this place, things given in memory or to help with the worship of God. This coming together of all these gifts, of the way we respond to the gifts God gives us, and how we join together with all God’s people, each however we can, is how our faith comes alive, how we show our gratitude for all that God has given us and through us, and what little we offer, God will work to transform our world.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Morning Prayer in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Christian Meditation Wednesdays at 9.10am
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
Please note that Public worship has been suspended, you can therefore participate in these services via Facebook live stream
In a way every mother who receives the gift of a child is called to gradually let go of them
We all make assumptions about other people, or about the way things work. But every now and then we get interrupted in our assumptions and have to take a step back and think it through.
I remember getting off the bus at 4 in the morning next to a major highway with the rain pouring down and being so completely disorientated as to where I was. Even though I was surrounded by people I felt completely isolated and alone.
The tension grows as the boys resist touching the art. And then suddenly they can’t resist any longer, a set of football sized balls fall off one of the installation and suddenly everything is falling over.