God, I thank you that I am not like other people. Well, of course I’m not, we’re all different.
Sometimes, the difference shows; age, colour, wealth. Sometimes the differences are less obvious. Difference can generate curiosity, suspicion, a sense of our own uniqueness, or a sense of failure. Yet difference is to be valued; without it, life would be impossible. St Paul, writing to the fractious community in Corinth said: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (E.g.) If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? (1 Cor 12:12, 17)
Difference can help build effective communities in which we can all contribute. Sadly, if you recognise my opening quote, you will know this is not where this is leading. The full quote is God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector (Lk 18:11). I’m better than you; separation and exclusion.
Jesus goes on to contrast this rather smug attitude with that of the tax-collector who says simply God, be merciful to me, a sinner! This man, and not the first, went away justified. Jesus’ point was, and is, that we all need to admit our need of God’s forgiveness; none of us is perfect.
God is love, and true love finds its expression in community. In the beginning, God saw that it was not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18) so he made man a partner. Community is God’s plan and purpose for us. We live in uncertain times; uncertainty is troubling and is making us fractious. In the world you will have trouble, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33). Trusting Jesus when all is well is easy, but we are called to trust in times of trouble too.
I am not like other people; and neither are you. Are we prepared, as winter draws on, to admit our need of God’s love; to trust him and share that love, especially with those who are truly different?
Rev’d Philip Payne
The Notice Sheet for 23rd October can be found here