The Publican and the Pharisee
St. Luke 18:9-14

The theme of Great Lent is repentance.

  • More than learning to say “sorry” (although this is important)

  • More than promising to “do better next time” (although this is important)

  • It is the process of making a real change; of becoming something else – something even better

  • Review of creating a soldier. Undo even things they may have been good at (shooting!)

This is hard work, it takes more than just a desire to “do better”. Our psychology: our ego – pride – digs in to defend itself and resist meaningful change.

  • We are very smart – we have blessed us with big and powerful brains. Scientists have argued – pretty convincingly – that they are hard-wired to protect our self-image rather than doing what we might expect a brain to do

    • We think of it like a computer or a good assistant: we give it orders and it does the math to figure out how to make it happen

    • Rather, it's default setting is to protect our definition of self from alteration, both by others, and this is one of the most powerful findings – from ourselves.

    • When we realize

      • First: that our concepts of self are flawed - at the very least by our genes and history (and healthy introspection and guided therapy is designed to uncover these things)

      • Second: that these flaws are setting us up for failure in things like relationships and the simple goal of enjoying life

      • Then we recognize both how important this work of repentance is AND because our incredibly brilliant and devious brains will be working to subvert the process... we begin to see HOW MUCH WORK IS AHEAD OF US.

    • An example of this subversion: trusting the system – any system - to get well.

      • We are instinctively disinclined to change – the ego is afraid – and while we consciously tell our brains that we want to change, the ego gives counter-orders and tells the brain to provide data that will subvert the process – CONFIRMATION BIAS. The result is a litany of reasons why any given system isn't worth investing time or energy in.

      • [Even when we select a system and supposedly commit to it, our ego will continually work in the background to undermine participation.]

      • And when the system is part of a religion – a religion staffed by fallible humans – then its not hard for our brains to find reasons why it is not worthy of our trust!

    • [example of fasting, of confession, of defining love]

Great Lent – and here I would include these preperatory weeks – is the “boot camp” system to jump start the process of healing and rebuilding our brokenness.

Today: the example of what we look like – a pharisee. Completely prey to his ego. It justifies himself and degrades the other. Classic. Almost as if Christ understood how our psychology worked!

Turns prayer – and religion itself – into blasphemy. It works directly against its original intent:

  • A life of joyful contentedness that brings that same blessing to those around them

  • This is what we do! We justify ourselves and demonize the other. Think about how we use even our religious ideas of virtue to define and attack others – at least we're not like them! And puff up ourselves.

  • Wait a second, don't do that – I will always see how others do it. What I won't notice is how I do it. That's the point.

  • We need to start paying attention to how and why we think the way we do – why we react to people and events – the way we do so that we can take the whole structure of brokenness that sets up for failure and rebuild it according to the truth.

Until then:

  • We cannot truly know and love ourselves.

  • We cannot truly know and love our neighbor.

  • And we cannot truly love God.

  • Nor can we receive His love – or that of our neighbor.

We need to get out of our own way. Trust the process. Buy into it. The “You” you get back will be worth the effort.

Direct download: Homily-PublicanPsychology.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm EST