|Welcome to the Memorial of Saint Augustine! Those of you who have read other reflections of mine know that I am no biblical scholar, but as a Lutheran I’m keenly aware of the impact the Augustinians had on Martin Luther’s faith development and faith questioning. It has long struck me that one of the gifts of Luther’s life was the lesson that we must each take our own faith teachings and practices, and review them critically. For me, this would mean evaluating our beliefs constantly, through the lens of our own experiences, reflections and heart whispers. Saint Augustine lived so close – in time and geography – to Christ, and one of his beliefs was that because we are human – fallible sinners, all – we need Christ’s grace. The Augustinians shared this belief with Martin Luther and still profess a version to this day (I’m told!).
With the backdrop of these two influences, today’s Gospel reading from Matthew reminded me more than anything else that I am both sinner and hypocrite. Every day as I strive to serve God on earth, I fall short. I quietly hold envy while I project a whitewashed exterior! I selfishly spend time and resources to beautify my home and yard, but too seldom welcome the stranger to enjoy it with me. I talk about prioritizing Christ and community, faith and family, but then allow work, exercise, relaxation and self-indulgences to fill my days. In Matthew, Jesus was talking to ME. I am a faith hypocrite. And while I can’t know what Jesus meant when he said “fill up what your ancestors measured out”, one way I can make sense of that is to own my white, educated, middle-class privilege. To actively live out – in daily intention and action – my faith words, and to love my neighbor as I love my God. To be less of a hypocrite.