Old Testament Reading: Amos 5:6-15
"They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth." We don't much like hearing bad news. And we can't take criticism. After all, how could we ever do anything wrong? We build lives on deceit. Indeed, it sometimes seems that there are those who cannot live without deceit. But the prophet is quite clear: "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you." There are many warnings of punishment in this text. But we must remember that the punishments were often a long time in coming, and folks thought they could ignore the threats because they were not imminent.
Epistle Reading: Hebrews 12:1-14
"...since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." We like to think that that cloud of witnesses is somebody else at some other time. We too often fail to realize that we are part of a cloud of witnesses in our own time. Our lives, for better or for worse, witness to our values and to the times in which we live. But we should be hearing a pep talk in this passage: "...let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..." We are reminded that we have a model in Jesus, "who endured ...hostility against himself from sinners."
Gospel Reading: Luke 18:9-14
This is the story of two men praying. One has come to God to brag on himself and all that he has done for God, while finding fault with others: thieves, rogues, adulterers, and tax collectors The other man--a tax collector--has nothing to brag about. All he can ask is "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" God doesn't have much use for our bragging. What can we tell God that God doesn't already know? So, we might just as well spend our time asking God for God's forgiveness. Jesus is clear: "...all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."