This morning, speaking from the Luke 18:9-14 – Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Rev. Wolfgang, drew our attention to the stark differences between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
(Leigh chose this as the key image for his worship slide deck today – to much reaction from the congregation! He said he chose it because it elicited the right emotional reaction towards the attitude of the Pharisee… and the congregation certainly proved him right!)
The Pharisee was someone who truly was leading a pious, “God-pleasing” life (despite how the words now connotes many negative things, they were truly people who were trying to pursue holiness in their day). The Tax Collector, on the other hand, was someone who was despised as the scum of the earth in their day.
The difference was that the Pharisee was someone who came and presented his own piousness and righteousness to God – compared to the Tax Collector who had nothing else to present other than himself. Here, we could say that the Pharisee could live without God – whereas the Tax Collector could not live but for God.
It’s important to note that Jesus never discounts the good works the Pharisee does, but rather the attitude of the Pharisee – who exalts and justify himself, and judges the Tax Collector. Anyone who decides who can call on the name of God and disallow others from doing so usurps the position of God as the judge of mankind.
A self-righteous person cannot trust God’s judgment because he has already judged and evaluated himself. This leads him to compare himself others. This is the standard by which he will be judged.
Compare that to God’s grace – where He decides who is righteous because of Christ. We need to rely on His grace, because it thus means we also trust His judgment – and righteousness thus becomes God’s gift to us through Christ. Our response then is one of thanksgiving and humility.
This is why, in Lutheran worship services, the Confession plays an important part of the liturgy/flow of the worship service.
So why do the confession every week? The world is hard. To survive, we can become merciless. We certainly fall short of God’s glory in many ways throughout the week. The confession is also a time for us to also bring our burdens to God. Hence, you will also notice that the Confession is ALWAYS paired up with the declaration of forgiveness – you can’t have one without the other. Once we’ve confessed, we are also relieved – and are therefore free to worship.
Therefore, the weekly confession reminds us of the truth of ourselves to God. In telling the truth of ourselves to God, we commend ourselves to Him – and thus, He tells us the truth about ourselves: “You are a beloved child of God.”