Two people walked into Grafton Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
Pentecost 19(C)
20 October 2019

pharisee-and-publican

 

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Today’s Gospel presents two views of religion.

It is a great little story by Jesus because it captures the big story in just a few words.

Let’s tell it again in local terms …

 

Two people head into Grafton Cathedral.

They were both going to pray. Maybe to light a candle, or perhaps just to sit quietly and absorb the holiness of the place.

Then again, perhaps they had come for a baptism service … ?

 

One of them is very comfortable in the Cathedral. Knows just when to stand, sit, kneel and cross themselves.

They even know that the green book has the words of the service, while the red book has the songs.

Their name is on the roster: they welcome people to the Cathedral, they read from the Bible during the services, they say the prayers, they wear red robes and carry candles, or crosses or even incense. Maybe they clean the Cathedral or arrange morning tea after the services.

They probably volunteer in the OpShop and they work in the Bookshop.

They know this place so well.

They are respectable.

Everyone here knows them and they are very comfortable here.

 

The other person does not come into the Cathedral very often.

They are not sure what to do, or where to stand. Should they kneel? Are they supposed to sit? Take off their hat?

Maybe if they just stand in the back corner it will be OK?

Yet they always feel good when they come in here. Probably should do it more often. Maybe even come to church sometimes on a Sunday, but they are busy with family stuff on the weekend …

They hope the other person over there in the nice clothes does not think they are here to steal anything …

It is just that the Cathedral is such a special place for them, and they like to pop in briefly when they get the chance. Have been doing it ever since they were kids here in Grafton.

Those big doors just always seem to be open: come inside. You’re welcome here. God loves you. So do we.

Kind of makes them feel closer to God, which they know is silly because God is everywhere, but this is a special place and kind of feels like a gateway to heaven.

Once upon a time they had been baptised here. Over there in the corner. In the funny shell held by the angel. Not that they remember it, but they have seen the photos. And the baptism card. and the odd little candle.

Been to a few funerals here as well. Love the whiff of incense when they come into the Cathedral after there has been a funeral. God’s room freshener, they reckon.

“Hi, God. It’s been a while. Sorry not to come more often. I’m OK, thanks. Appreciate you caring about me. Sorry about the way I messed up last week. Sure wish I had not done that. I will come back soon. Promise.”

 

Now, why did Jesus tell that story?

Because some people thought they were doing just fine, and looked down their noses at some of the other people who did not come as often, or did not look so respectable.

And which kind of person does God like to spend time with?

The second person. They’re God’s kind of people.

They are not especially religious, but they have no tickets on themselves and they really do want to live their life in a way that pleases God and does the right thing by other people.

 

The prophet Jeremiah, about 600 years before the time of Jesus, said that people like them have the law of God written inside their hearts.

They do not need other people telling them how to love, they just need to follow the nudge that comes from God inside them.

 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with coming to church so often that you get to learn the ropes.

What matters is that you are honest with God, pop in here from time to time or chat with God outside. There is no place you can ever be where God is absent.

And that, my friends, is what we need to teach Chase who we are about to baptise.

Teach him to be real with God. And bring him here to this place so it becomes his special holy place as he grows up.

 

Let’s go baptise the boy …

 

 

 

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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