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Windows into the Light by Michael Sullivan

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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, March 21

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.
—Luke 18: 9

I'm sure she meant well, but that's not what I felt the day of our encounter.

I was standing in line talking to another customer as I waited for my morning coffee. We were discussing churches, upcoming services, and the possibility that she and her family might join us one Sunday morning. As we talked, she began telling me about the disappointments and difficulty in her life. It was a vulnerable moment as she revealed how painful religion had been and how church was such a chore.

That's when another woman, three or four people behind us in line, came forward and interrupted. She took one look at me, pronounced I must be an Episcopalian, and told the lady sharing her life with me that she need not bother. "They're not real Christians, you know!" she exclaimed loud enough for all to hear.

She proceeded to invite this woman to her church. I stood there, said very little, and waited. When she departed, the lady next to me in line turned toward me with tears in her eyes and said, “"I'm just not sure I need religion after all."

Sometimes, we trust in ourselves too much; we're self-righteous, and don't see how we judge others. Our religion becomes a barrier to God's grace in others' lives because we wear it with such pride that it alienates others.

The woman who confronted me believed in her heart she was doing the right thing. But in the process of her own righteousness, she ensured that the one she addressed would never attend her church.

The whole experience has caused me to wonder: do I present myself so righteously that I interfere with God's grace?  Do I need to identify new pathways towards healing and wholeness, to stop peddling my”religion to others?  

Any of us can judge the woman who interrupted us in the coffee
shop. She was so sure of her religious self that she felt she could
denounce  others. But the Lenten journey is not about her mistake; it's about our own.

Shall we address our own righteousness? Shall we let God be the righteous one?

Loving God, help me see where my own righteousness interferes with your grace, and in stripping me of those faults, may others come to know of your mercy. Amen.