Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Parable (Luke 18:9-14)

This is a Parable

The young girl climbed the steps of the ancient church.  Desperation ate at her soul like a plague, gnawing deeper into her being with each cold stone step she climbed.  She pulled one of the heavy oaken doors open and slipped inside, breathing in a musty odor, reminding her of childhood and innocence past.  Suddenly she was self-conscious of her choice of garments.  Her jeans were faded and torn at both knees.  Her light colored tee-shirt wore the tarnish of unclean fabric.

She slowly stepped through a second set of doors and blessed herself at a font of Holy Water.  The cavernous building seemed to breathe a welcoming sigh.  Her intention was to light a candle at the front of the church.  She would pray for guidance, pray for a way home.

With reservations she began to walk down the center aisle.  The crucifix over the altar depicted Jesus in His moment of anguish.  She looked up at the arched ceiling and studied the ornate moldings.  The brass Votive Stand set in a small alcove off to her right.  She noticed a middle aged man in front of the candles.  He dug deep in the pocket of his black trousers and pulled out a roll of bills.  He thumbed a twenty, folded it and slipped the note into the metal box marked '$2.00'.  He knelt, folded his hands and bowed his head.  He prayed in silence, but occasionally he would turn his head and cast his gaze on the young girl.  She felt judged.  She knew he did not see the actual fabric of her life.  What he saw was a convoluted tapestry of his own prejudices.

She kept her distance until he rose from his prayer.  From the corner of his eye he studied her as she moved toward the candles.  She fingered a dime and two pennies in the depth of her pocket.  She felt the gaze of the man bear down on her as she slipped her final twelve cents into the same slot he had slipped a twenty dollar bill.  He grunted his disgust and moved away, finally leaving her alone.

She lit a single candle and studied the flickering flame.  She knelt, lowered her eyes and began to whisper a prayer. "Lord, I am so lost." Initially she spoke softly, then she turned to silence and prayed the words in her heart.  She considered every sin.  She was a homeless runaway without a quarter for a pay phone.  Her last twelve cents paid for the candle.  She didn't know that God listens for free.

She finished her internal conversation, rose from her kneeling position and began walking back up the aisle, feeling clean in spirit but hungry in her stomach.  She had faced her limited options.  Return to her home and ask for forgiveness, or embrace a life on the street.  She asked God to find a way for her to get home.

"Can I offer any help," a voice behind her said.  She turned and saw a middle aged man wearing a black suit and white collar.  His hair was gray and his eyes were a peaceful shade of blue.  A voice inside her head told her this was the answer to her prayer.

"I need to go home," she responded as a flood of tears erupted from her eyes.


So who has their prayer answered by God?

The story does not tells us what the man with the twenty dollar bill prayed for.  It is really quite unimportant.  He might have prayed for health.  He might have prayed for a promotion on his job.  Whatever he offered God, it didn't come from the humble depths of his soul.  He is the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.  The young girl fills the role of the tax collector, the sinner.  She might not even be a subscriber to the rituals of the denomination whose church she chose to enter.  Yet for twelve cents God hears her prayer.

Do you know His attentive ear comes without charge?




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

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