Two Before the Altar

Luke 18:9-14

“There is a crack in everything;
That’s how the light gets in.”—Leonard Cohen

The upright Pharisee, each hair in place, not a
Fringe on his tasseled loafers askew, stood
Before God’s altar and prayed to himself
Congratulations for his impeccable soul.
He knew what others thought of him.
His righteousness shone from his shoulders
Like epaulets- so certain was he of his goodness.
He checked the lock on the vault of his heart,
And nodded, satisfied. Nothing
In, nothing out, undisturbed. Shrugging deeper
Into the mantle of his own esteem,
Duty satisfied, he knew he was blessed.
Nothing had changed.

On trembling legs the tax-collector climbed the steps, aware
Of the eyes that turned his way, the stink of collusion
That clung to his fine clothes. He could still turn away,
But his heart urged him forward. No one
Expected to see him here in God’s courts,
And some sneered as he passed.
He knew what others thought of him.
Eyes downcast, he made himself small,
And beat his breast,
Pouring out his sins until his soul
Was an empty bowl, so thirsty was he for God’s mercy.
A spark of forgiveness lit the tinder
Of his heart. Cheeks wet, he resolved to turn.
In the new fire of grace and gratitude he was reclaimed.
Everything had changed.

Follow us on social media
Notify me of new articles and posts
Select from this list

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café