Text: Luke 18:9-14
I grew up with one sister who is two years older than me. Unlike now, growing up we were not very close. We could not have been more different as children and as teenagers. As a child, Allyson loved baby dolls and all things girly. I, on the other hand, loved playing in the dirt, riding motorcycles and throwing a ball. Allyson loved clothes, make-up and dressing up. I loved blue jeans, tee shirts and baseball uniforms. As we got older, our differences became more striking. Allyson liked rock-n-roll music and I loved listening to John Denver. (I still do!) She liked black lights, posters of the band KISS plastered all over her bedroom walls and going out with boys. I liked the sky nightlights, posters of Jesus and going out with girls. While she was out on Saturday nights cruising the local strip with her friends, I was at the church with my father preparing our small rural church for Sunday morning services. While I was reading my Sunday school lesson, she was reading the 1970s equivalent of Teen Vogue. Allyson was always getting into trouble, breaking the rules and living life her way. I was the pleaser child, always following the rules and living life the way I thought every one else expected me to live. I can remember many nights lying in my bed hearing my sister plead with my parents to forgive her for something that she had done that she shouldn’t have.
I can’t explain it but when I read the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, I thought of growing up with my sister. And I realized, I was the Pharisee in this story. Here’s how I heard the story in my head:
The youngest sister, standing by herself, was praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like my sister always getting into trouble, listening to that sinful music and disappointing my parents.” But the older sister, standing at a distance with her face buried in her hands crying, would not even look up, but was pleading with her parents for another chance, begging for forgiveness.”