Weekly Edgework #6 - Aug 12, 2004

Shall We Dance: How the Story Might have Gone

Two men went to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, the other a taxman. The Pharisee posed and began to pray like this.

O God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, crooks, adulterers, or heaven forbid, like this taxman.

Meanwhile, the taxman, slumped in the shadows, his hands in his face, not daring to look up, said,

God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.

The Pharisee, hearing this prayer, was about to begin boasting about how he fasted and tithed. But suddenly he remembered the words Jesus had said on another occasion – something about there being little difference between the sins of the heart and the sins of the mind. The thought struck him really hard. If that were the case then he too was a sinner in need of grace and mercy. He was no better than the taxman.

The Pharisee was so convicted by these thoughts that he went over and knelt beside the taxman, and also began pleading for mercy. Their voices blended into a beautiful chorus of humility for all who heard it, including God. While they prayed in this manner, the Pharisee was seized with the awareness that God had heard his prayer and indeed forgiven him.

He was so overjoyed that he could no longer control himself. He put his arm around the taxman, who was quite surprised at this unusual behavior of a Pharisee. But when he saw the Pharisee’s joy his prejudice against him vanished.

Now both got up and embraced each other enthusiastically – slapping each other’s backs and praising God for the forgiveness they had both received from God and for this new sense of community they had found.

Then, breaking all rules of proper decorum, they began to dance with wild abandon as they hung on to each other. After a few moments the Pharisee tore off his elaborate robes and now their dancing began in earnest. Round and round they danced as they shouted praises to their common God.

Others in the temple who witnessed this unusual sight exclaimed, Surely this is a sign that the Kingdom of God is present among us. And they too began to dance with joy. Soon the whole temple was rocking with the spontaneous dancing of God’s children.

And God looked down on the party and smiled.

(Luke 18)