Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday Sermon - path of the ego or path of the spirit?

As a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalist I find it hard to find sermons and teachings which combine my two faith traditions. So I have decided to make up my own. I hope you will join me on Sundays for what I have tagged "Sunday Sermon."

Today's gospel is from Luke 18: 9-14

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Today's parable makes me laugh. The pharisee thinks that by following the rules on the path of the ego he will remember his holiness. The tax collector already knows that the path of the ego is nonsense and so he isn't buying into the ingratiating baloney of the pharisee.
Unitarian Universalists know that rules don't get you home. Following rules to appease and aggrandise the ego is not the path of love but the path of righteousness.
Francis David said that we need not think alike to love alike. Creeds and rituals and obedience to rules is not necessarily the way to remember one's holiness and thereby to sanctify the world. The way to remember one's holiness is to look within, not without, and to engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning which ultimately will bring you to love. The tax collector knows this while the pharisee does not so Jesus tells us that the tax collector, in spite of following the way of the ego, will be left behind while the tax collector is more likely to find contentment and peace.
"Exalted" seems to be the wrong word here, because it implies the uplifting of the ego which is not what Jesus is saying. It is not exaltation we are looking for but getting ourselves on the right track, getting our shit together. The pharisee doesn't have his shit together while the tax collector, knowing what is what, does. This knowing "what is what" is not exaltation but wisdom. I think what Jesus is getting at is that the tax collector is wise while the pharisee while he thinks is is doing what is expected and what is right, is a lost soul. In A Course in Miracles, it asks us "Would you rather be right or be happy?" The pharisee would rather be right while the tax collector just wants to be happy. Most Unitarian Univeralists have chosen the way of the tax collector.


  1. I also am a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalist and I like your Sunday Sermon and how you weave the Catholic tradition with the Unitarian Univeralist. Many thank!

  2. Outstanding take on this parable. I just stumbled onto this blog and it is unusual and wonderful. Thanks.


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