Summary: A sermon about authenticity.
So, who are you, really?
I'm not talking about the person who appears to have everything perfectly under control, or the persona who has been created, layer-by-layer, through the painful, embarrassing or shameful experiences of life...
...the protective shield we build layer by layer.
I'm talking about the authentic you.
According to experts, unhappiness stems from living as one person, but knowing the real you is much different.
The strain of acting all the time can crush your spirit and steal your joy.
The authentic you is much more beautiful, talented and powerful than anything you could fabricate.
I remember in high school, riding in a car with a group of friends.
We had been partying and skipping school.
The song playing very loudly on the car stereo was Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."
I remember relating, painfully to the words of the song that go: "This is not who I am. I have become comfortably numb."
I think it's very hard to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ without authenticity.
But what does that mean?
Not putting on "airs."
Admitting your "flaws"...to God, yourself and others...
Being honest; real.
Accepting yourself and others for who you and others are; human beings--with faults...
...human beings with insecurities...
...human beings who do some pretty awful stuff sometimes...
...especially when we are acting on our insecurities...
...but human beings who are so greatly loved by God and worth more than anything in the world...
...human beings, wonderfully unique...
...and created in Christ Jesus to live the kind of lives God has created us to live.
Being authentic and real also means trusting in the mercy of God, and the mercy of God alone for our salvation--for our everything!!!
It also means accepting others for who they are, forgiving as we have been forgiven, being merciful to others as God is merciful to us.
It is so easy, though, to become self-deluded.
Who's in--Who's out?
It's a question that consumes the minds of many of us, not just the readers of entertainment tabloids.
We can become so used to "putting on a show" for others that we come to believe that "the show" we are putting on is our real authentic self.
We can't tell the fake from the original.
And that's sad.
And so Jesus told the parable we are studying for this morning "to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust."
Have you ever felt as if others were looking at you with disgust?
Have you ever felt as if you were excluded from the "in" crowd?
Have you ever been made to feel as if you weren't as good as other people?
Perhaps you were tormented by bullies as a kid.
Maybe you had a lisp, or weren't as good at sports as some of the other children.
Perhaps you came from a poor household and your parents couldn't afford to buy you the "latest and greatest" brand name clothing, shoes and toys.
So you were "made fun of," and you came to believe what the other kids were saying about you.
You came to believe you weren't as good as them.
You came to believe that you were somehow "inferior" to the people who seemed to look on you with "disgust."
So maybe you tried to "act cool" in order to protect yourself from the attacks.
Maybe you are still trying to "act cool."
Being cool is supposed to make us irresistibly confident in our up-to-the-minute blase-ness, but it actually feeds our insecurities with the false belief that popularity or a certain image is needed for our validation.
Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan, from the University of Rochester, have documented the fact that external goals like appearance and possessions are associated with lower self-esteem, higher anxiety and lower well-being.
Jennifer Crocker of the University of Michigan reports that, when self-esteem is based on external measures like appearance and approval, there is more stress, anger, and substance abuse.
It would appear, then, that being cool is uncool for our happiness.
Let's face it, the premise of cool is a stretch: You're cool if you're copying somebody else.
That's not going to make you feel too authentic.
Cool stifles authenticity, turning off the aliveness and genuineness that leads to close relationships with God and others.
Cool shuts off authenticity for studied posing.
So, who are you...really?
Who am I?
Who is the Pharisee in the parable for this morning; who is the tax collector?
If we've been Christians for a while or coming to church for a while Pharisees and tax collectors have become kind of "biblical stock figures" have they not?
The Pharisee is the self-righteous, rule bound religious leader...
...he lacks compassion and insight.