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Sermon for Matthew 23:1-12   -   Confronting Hypocrisy with Humility
Proper 26
           

Politicians in Washington this week have played the gotcha game to perfection. To make matters worst the news media feeds on it. Not only do they feed on it, they feed it, hoping for a national scandal to make themselves appear relevant. Whether it's Iraq, Katrina, or the latest brawl over the Rove/Plame/Miller/Libby leak case, I thought these political events a fitting context for our scriptural text about hypocrisy.

Listen to what Jesus says about these politicians (in his day they were called Pharisees): "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." Now what did Jesus mean? Simply this: The Pharisees made laws. They demanded that the common person follow those laws. But they themselves found ways to get around those laws. Get it? They were not willing to carry the heavy loads they demanded everyone else carry. In a word: Hypocrisy.

In Washington, the standards that the Democrats set for the Republicans, they themselves are not willing to live by. And the standards that the Republicans set for the Democrats, they themselves are not willing to live by. Why? Because if you let down you're guard for one moment and admit that you are wrong, you're political opponents will seize the moment and go for the kill.

I am reminded of a story about England's Prince Philip who was toasted at a banquet once with two lines from the poet John Dryden:

A man so various that he seem'd to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome.

The prince liked the lines so much he looked up the rest of the poem:

Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long:
But, in the course of one revolving moon, Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.

I don't know who that person was who quoted that poem to Prince Philip but he sure got his point across. Washington needs a prophet like that, to step up and expose the abuse, the hypocrisy, the buffoonery. Jesus was that prophet in his day. He demanded honest leadership. Jesus was saying that leaders must guard against hypocrisy and aim toward humility, set aside greatness and strive for servanthood, wait for honor and act now out of duty.

Leadership, the way Jesus described it, is hard to find, even among the religious. It is difficult to find because..

1. Hypocrisy keeps most leaders from being effective leaders.
2. And because the solution is humility.

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