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  • Chalice Overy

Prostitutes & Tax Collectors, Welcome

Updated: Nov 22, 2018

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you (Matthew 21:31).”

This is my second favorite verse in the bible. One of the reasons I love it is just because it’s so direct. Many times Jesus would tell a parable and leave the listener to ponder whether he might be indicting them through the story. But occasionally, he would just say, “I’m talking about you, hypocrite!” This particular verse was such an occasion. And I happen to think more of us in the church need to hear Jesus calling us hypocrites…directly. Otherwise, we listen to his parables and see ourselves as either the heroes or the victims, but never the hypocrite. We wonder why the religious establishment of Jesus’ time couldn’t see the error of their ways, when, in reality, we are the religious establishment of this time, missing the mark by miles all the while convinced we’re the on the fast track to the kingdom.

This was me for so many years of my faith journey. That’s why it was so shocking to read this scripture a few years ago and hear it as Jesus’ words to me. Granted, it wasn’t the first time I had seen this verse. I had read the bible cover to cover several times, and probably every single time I read this verse in the past I had either ignored it or concluded that it applied to someone else. But this time, I heard Jesus speaking to me!

"Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom ahead of YOU, Chalice. You, Pastor in a mainline denomination. You, leader in the religious establishment. You, who thought you had it all figured out. You, who believed you would be fast tracked to the pearly gates past the line of those who had been wait-listed for their moral misgivings. Imagine instead, the people you thought would be dead last strolling in ahead of YOU!"

I love this verse because it is a much needed reminder that I don’t have it all figured out, and neither does the church. It is a reminder that we tend to exclude the people God embraces and coddle the people God would challenge. It is a reminder that the rules we told people were God ordained are often really man made.

So this blog is a space created for thinking honestly about who God is and how God is at work with no attempt to play by the rules. This space amplifies the voices that the church has often deemed incredible—the prostitutes and tax collectors of our time. Here I acknowledge the bible’s gifts and limitations, and take seriously Jesus’ admonition to remain open to discovery because, “I still have many things to say to you…(John 16:12).”

Speak Lord, your servant is listening!

"Harlots and Pharisees", Reader Bojan

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