Home Service for Sunday 23rd October 2022

Prayers of Approach

Lord, as we come to worship, help us to do so with humility. Help us to see ourselves as we are and remember before you that we are weak without your power; lost without your guidance; nothing without you. But with you all things are possible. Amen.

God of grace, we come as we are: in peace, or maybe in pieces, in hope, or perhaps in hopelessness. We know that you see our true selves, even when we do not. Holy one, Father, Spirit, Son, we long to be in your presence, to sing for joy to the living God. Amen.

Bountiful God, you astound us with your love and your grace, your abundant welcome and your faithfulness. You are constant and ever-present. We worship you today and will ever sing your praise. Amen.

Hymn I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart (R&S 386) or Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising (R&S 523)

Readings: Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22

Luke 18:9-14


Jeremiah says that ‘our iniquities testify against us’ (v.7). The heart of the problem is that God’s people have lost sight of, and therefore have ceased to be in a right relationship with, God. Jeremiah implores God to remember his covenant and challenge the complacency of people.

In our Gospel reading Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector that would have shocked his audience. He suggests that a tax collector who humbles himself is made right with God, rather than a righteous Pharisee. Jesus teaches that we are to be humble before God and to recognise the equal worth of all his children.

Hymn Father I place into your hands (R&S 518)


How confident are you? Except in our own particular areas of expertise one trait that many of us share is a lack of confidence, that feeling of unsurety, ‘oh I don’t think I can do that’, or ‘I’ve never tried that, I sure I couldn’t do it’. But have you ever suffered from over confidence? Have you ever felt ‘Oh yes I can do that – easy!’ then found yourself in a mess? The people of Jeremiah’s time had got themselves in a mess because of their complacency and their confidence that since they were God’s chosen people nothing disastrous could happen to them. Our Gospel story too is a parable of misplaced confidence, not this time in a person’s ability to do something but rather in status. It is a story of overconfidence in their relationship to God by some (represented by the Pharisee) and absolute dependency by others (the tax collector).

Jesus addressed his parable to people ‘who trusted in themselves that they were righteous’, or in a ‘right’ relationship with God. And once again Jesus’ parable subverts our expectation. It begins from a solid base. There is a holy religious man who prays. He is articulate and confident. His prayer is a hymn of praise, but more to himself than to God. Above all, what he ‘knows’ is that he is righteous. By contrast the tax collector is the epitome of a sinner, an outcast, with a reputation for dishonesty. And there is the twist. Amazingly, in the parable, it is the Pharisee who is dishonest, and the tax collector is the honest one. The confusion is about what it means to be truly righteous. Righteousness is not a matter of hard work, or personal achievement. Righteousness is about God and our relationship with God. The righteous tax collector knows he is utterly dependent upon God, whereas the Pharisee is all about himself. He is self-righteous.

The sense of status established by comparison to others was brilliantly captured visually in the (now very old – 1966!) comedy sketch ‘I know my place’, in which the very tall John Cleese, with bowler hat and rolled brolly, stood next to the middling-sized Ronnie Barker, dressed in jacket and tie. Barker in turn stands beside the diminutive Ronnie Corbett wearing a worker’s flat cap. Cleese literally ‘looked down’ on the two Ronnies. Barker looked up to Cleese and down on Corbett. Corbett simply declared mournfully, “I know my place”. Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to people who ‘knew’ their place was superior to others and who treated others with contempt, an attitude that amounted to a negative and destructive evaluation of their worth. There are so many examples of this in social media today, some of which have disastrous consequences for individuals.

The Pharisee was trying to obey God’s Law, but he missed the point. But he is not alone. There are plenty of examples of people really believing they are doing what God wants of them, while doing seemingly the opposite. The tax collector on the other hand knew that he fell far short of what the so-called ‘righteous’ people held to be way to live. In recognising that he came to God humbly, asking God’s mercy. The words of the tax collector are often called the ‘The Jesus Prayer’ – a prayer that new Christians are urged to make when they ‘come to Christ’ and to repeat often on the journey of faith. Faith however is not an activity we undertake; faith is the capacity to live with God despite our limitations.

We may wish to be something like the Pharisee, standing tall because society judges us to be ‘righteous’. We probably don’t aspire to be like the tax collector cowering in a corner. But Jesus’s parable challenges us about such attitudes. They are not important. What matters, Jesus says, is honesty: in recognising our shortcomings and in having the courage to own up to them and seek God’s help to overcome them. Then, perhaps, we will recognise our true worth – and that of others – before God.

Hymn Father hear the prayer we offer (R&S 495)

Prayers of Intercession

Merciful God, we thank you for your care for us; thank you that you love it when we are honest before you, thank you that we can bring ourselves to you, in the full knowledge that you know us, you hear our sincerest cries, and you care for each one of us.

And so we bring before you our concerns for your world, for your Church and for your people:

Lord, lift up those who feel bowed down by past mistakes, but bring down those who use their power to oppress others.

Lift up those who feel useless and believe no one loves them, but bring down those who use people that in their opinion don’t matter.

Lift up those who don’t feel worthy of your love, but bring down those who judge others cruelly and wrongly.

We pray for those who have been looked down on and judged by others; told they are failures; told they are not wanted; told that God doesn’t love them.

Give them confidence, Lord, and make them feel special.

In Jesus’ name we pray.


Hymn O Lord all the world belongs to you (R&S 90)


Lord, as we go out into the world may we be known for our compassion not our complacency. May we be humble not haughty, and may we know the love and blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as we live out our faith, day by day. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.