Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Love little or love much...
The Gospel for today presents us with an interesting setting. Simon, not the Simon we call Peter, but Simon the Pharisee, has set up a meal to snub Jesus. Simon has invited Jesus not as one who seeks His mercy but in order to display Simon’s own righteousness. The whole plan goes sour when a sinful woman (Bible speak for prostitute) shows up (how did she get in). Her presence turns the snub into an amazing display of the mercy of the Kingdom of God.
From His walk in the door, Jesus felt the snub of Simon. He offers Jesus no water to wash His feet. Since all transportation was by foot and the feet wore open sandals, this was not merely a symbolic act. Simon betrayed the common courtesy of a host for his guests and left Jesus unclean for the meal.
Simon offered no kiss at the door. This too is a marked snub. The kiss was the customary greeting of a host to those close enough to be invited into his home for fellowship. First, no water and then no welcome. This kiss is not unlike our own greeting of peace that follows the confession and absolution – not a hi, howarya time but the extension of fellowship made possible by grace.
The final snub were the whispers under Simon's breath. He whispered contempt for the sinful woman but even more so for Jesus – suggesting that if Jesus were whom He claimed to be He would know the sins of this woman. But Jesus knew Simon's heart and heard the words that Simon thought as if they had been shouted out loud.
In contrast to Simon the Pharisee, there is the sinful woman, the prostitute. She came with an expensive alabaster flask of scented anointing oil. She came prepared. When she saw Jesus’ feet were dirty, she wept in sorrow both from her repentance and for the shabby treatment accorded Jesus at the hand of the Pharisee. She wept as a sinner overwhelmed to be in the presence of the righteous and holy Lord. She wept as one who was overcome by the humility of the Lord who accepted the service of a woman with such a past. Her tears washed the Lord's dirty feet and her hair wiped them dry. This was an act of genuine repentance and faith.
She anointed His feet with the expensive healing balm she had brought with her. As expensive as it was, she believed that Jesus was worth every drop. It did not matter what it cost her, only that even this ointment was unworthy of the Lord. So she showed her absolute trust in Jesus. She gave Him her all, her best, nothing less would do. This was an act of sacrificial worship.
Kissing the feet of Jesus showed her repentance and faith in the most profound way she knew. Unworthy of His mercy, she asked not with words but with service. The surprise of the Kingdom is when Jesus forgives her sins and sends her forth with her past erased and a brand new future written for her. Her service to Jesus would speak from generation to generation just as Jesus' mercy speaks from generation to generation to welcome sinners and forgive them.
Every week the same thing happens right here at Grace Lutheran Church. Some of us are more like Simon. We come with thoughts only of ourselves. Preoccupied with self, we focus on our worries, our distractions, feeling hot, feeling cold, feeling thirsty, all of these things sit front and center on our mind. We come to Church thinking what God will do for us. Our prayers are like demands of God waiting for answers to come. We have problems waiting for God to fix. Too often we display a lack of repentance and so we show forth few of the fruits of repentance in our lives. We trust ourselves more than Jesus. We bring offerings more in fear than in love. We serve Him when it is convenient so our worship is the half-hearted worship of distracted hearts and minds. We give the Lord more leftovers of our attention and our time and our money than the first fruits.
Stewardship sermons often make it seem like money is the issue but it never is. It is always about repentance. He who has been forgiven much, loves much. Jesus showed Simon his sin and his lack of repentance by pointing out the lack of love in Simon's heart. At the same time, Jesus shows the greater love in the heart of the sinful woman – a love fueled by honest repentance and confession and shaped by the mercy of God.
So whom do we look like. Does our worship suffer from the poverty of our spirits so preoccupied by self? Or is our worship filled with the richness of God’s mercy in Christ for sinners weeping the regret of sin, loving Jesus in every act of devotion, and giving Him all we have while acknowledging it is not all the Lord deserves? Are we like Simon with fake righteousness or are we like the sinful woman whose only righteousness is the one Jesus gives her?
In the end words count little. On this Father's Day it is tempting to make fatherly love a matter of words. It is not . The actions of love tell the true story of a dad. Fatherly love is shown in deeds that mirror the love God has for us and teach our children to call God Father and rejoice in what His fatherly love has done for us.
Just as Jesus speaks not through words only but in actions of love and mercy that reach their culmination on the cross, so does our faith show itself in actions of repentance, love and devotion. In the end this is not about the sinful woman or the stubborn self-righteous Pharisee. It is about Jesus who gives His all to us and for us. He dies that we might live. He pays for our sins with His holy and precious body and blood. He lives to impart to us the life death can no more steal. He washes us clean in our baptism. He sets this table with His very flesh and blood as our food of immortality. He picks us up when we fall to temptation. He seeks us when we wander from His grace. He stands with us in our every need, bearing the burden as His own. He leads us through life and death into life everlasting. This is our peace. This is the motivation for our love for Him and for one another. This is what moves us to give to Him our all, as an act of trust that mirrors the good words we say. Forgiveness leads us to faith, faith leads us to repentance, and repentance is show by the sacrificial acts of love that show we get it. And I pray we do. Amen