Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost


Let Us Worship Together!

Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, October 22 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!  

Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.


Saturday 5:30 pm — Casual Service led by Voices of Praise:  Download Saturday’s Worship BulletinWatch Service Here

(Fast forward to 4:35 in the recording for the beginning of service) 


Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service 
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship 
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages 
Sunday 10:30 am — Traditional Service with Choir and/or Organist:  Download Sunday’s Worship BulletinWatch Service Here 

(Fast forward to 7:46 in the recording for the beginning of service) 

Altar Flowers for this weekend’s services were lovingly donated by Barbara and Virgil Brown in celebration of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.

Readings and Psalms:

Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
Sirach 35:12-17 (alternate)
Psalm 84:1-7
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14


20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

How do you become good enough? Or Is that person next to you good enough?
(Answer may confuse you!)

Have you ever heard of one of Hanlon’s Razor? It is a saying that a computer programmer named Robert L. Hanlon put into print as a good rule of thumb for life. It goes like this:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. [1]

Hanlon is not the only one who shared similar catch phrases. In 1812 the English author Jane West said something similar, fleshed out a bit more.:[5]

Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives. Do we not often afflict others undesignedly, and, from mere carelessness, neglect to relieve distress? Our own concerns, interests, and wishes engross our thoughts.[2]

In other words, Hanlon and West point out the problem most people have to one degree or another: we think we know the mind of those around us so well that when they hurt us, we assume they are doing it out of intentional spite. If we are not careful, we attribute malice to a person who ignored us or said that unpleasant thing. We know our story, and perhaps we have even told it to the other person at some point in the past, so we assume they hurt us on purpose.

However, the truth is that we all have our own stories. We all have our own hurts and pains, and sometimes our pain gets in the way of good behavior. We all do things out of stupidity, obliviousness, or plain old human error.

You may have experienced among church volunteers or at work, where you’ve done something for a long time. A new leader thinks how nice it would be to give you a break and asks someone else to do it. But you miss their intention. Then you may decide they are replacing you because they think you are inadequate or just don’t care. Both people made an assumption, but no malice was ever intended.

Yes, I need a lot of grace and mercy from those around me. We all do. It helps to ask, and to forgive. It can cause problems when we misattribute someone’s actions. I thought of this as I read the lesson from Jesus this week.

There’s a man—a religious leader, a Pharisee—who goes into the Temple to pray. His prayer points out all the good stuff he’s done, but does so at the apparent expense of a different worshipper there in the Temple that day. The other person is a tax collector, working for the Roman oppressors, gleaning off the taxes he collects from his own people! His prayer is a bit different. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Jesus sums up the parable this way, “I tell you, this tax collector went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Perhaps you’ve heard it before? If you know this story or are at least somewhat familiar with Pharisees and tax collectors in the Bible, you might read a backstory into these characters. Maybe we judge the Pharisee in this story unfairly, partly because we know what we think Jesus is saying. We may picture the Pharisee as a corrupt priest who steals from orphans but condemns the acolyte who steals a dollar from the offering plate. Or maybe we picture a TV gospel singer who cheats on her husband but teaches women’s groups about how great a wife and Christian she is. The Pharisee has become an all-new character—and he’s eeeeeviiiilllle! We can certainly pray a better prayer than he does (at least, now that we know what Jesus wants). 😉

Once we hear what Jesus has to say to sum it up, we think it is obvious: The one who cries out for mercy is the hero of the story. Therefore, we tend to think the Pharisee is worse than he is. But did you notice that Jesus never says the Pharisee lies about his behavior? Instead, Jesus would leave us to assume the man does all the right things. As a matter of fact, the Pharisee is better than the Average Joe! The audience is supposed to believe him, for he’s doing lots of good things.

Based on our assumptions and knowledge, we might attribute malice to his prayer. We might decide being proud of his good works is what keeps him from getting right with God. If so, we are the ones who are wrong. In truth, he is simply wrong. He is incorrect about how to receive God’s blessing.

The actual point Jesus makes is that our good works just are not “good enough” if we are trying to earn our way into God’s good graces. He does not make himself right with God. Rightness and salvation come from God.

In the same way, we picture the tax collector as Generous Joe the friendly, but a bit lost, bartender. We picture him dismissing it when anyone praises him, but he’s really quite a good guy. As opposed to the Pharisee, we might think the tax guy is better than he says he is. If we do, we’re caught in a trap. Did you notice that Jesus does not praise his works? The man’s actions really are most likely horrible. He cheats, he extorts, he works for the enemy, and who knows about his personal life! Jesus doesn’t praise him. Jesus says that God saves him despite his actions. We attribute “aw-shucks-goodness” to the tax collector, but he’s just a bad dude who knows to beg for mercy. If we are not careful, we could believe that we are called “be humble” and in doing so, we’ll be right with God.

If we make one man into a villain and the other into a hero, we have missed the whole point. It does not do any better to “aw shucks” our way into heaven than it does to do everything by the book. God is the one who does the justifying, not us. God lifts us up because we cannot pull ourselves up on our own.

It’s like this: A man dies and goes to heaven. Saint Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and tells the man, “You need 1000 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all of the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item. When you reach 1000 points, you get in. Got it?”

“Got it,” says the man, with a bit of nervousness, but some confidence. He had really tried to live a good life.

“Okay,” the man says, “I was happily married to the same woman for fifty years and never cheated on her, not even in my mind.”

“That’s wonderful,” says Peter. “Found it: that’s worth two points!”

“Two points?!!” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and gave my ten percent tithe faithfully.”

 “Terrific!” says Peter. “That’s definitely worth a point.”

“One point? My goodness! Well, what about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for the homeless?”

“Fantastic, let me check… That’s good for two more points,” he says.

“TWO POINTS!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I can get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

“Now that’s what we’re looking for! Come on in!” [3]

That’s what God is looking for, the grace God provides through Jesus! I’m not saying our good works do not matter. They do! Your tithes and offerings do help the widow and the orphan, and all our neighbors in need. They help keep the lights on and plug the leaks in the ceiling. Our good deeds make the world a better place, and help people hear God’s saving story. We should indeed give back to God. But we must watch our assumptions. If we are doing those things to gain stature with God, we will fall, for God already thinks the world of us! You are special. You are made, claimed, and forgiven by God. Jesus loves you, and he always will. Amen.

[1] Quote Investigator website: (Great thanks to Paul Rauber, Emily Johnson, Clementino de Mendonca, Fabien Snauwaert, and Abraham whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks to Fred Shapiro and Mardy Grothe for their research. Also, thanks to the volunteer editors at Wikiquote who identified some valuable citations.)
[2] Jane West published “The Loyalists: An Historical Novel,” as found in the same Quote Investigator article.
[3] From "The Book of Church Jokes," published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., Uhrichsville, Ohio. Copyright 2009. Used by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.


Liturgical material © 2017 Augsburg Fortress, used by permission of Augsburg Fortress/Sundays and Seasons #SAS009239. Copyright Acknowledgments for print & broadcast: CCLI - Copyright License #2800659 and Streaming License #20585472 (including SongSelect Advanced); and One License #710443-A.

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