1 Sunday, June 16, 2013 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Denver, Colorado Pastor Dena Williams Luke 7:36—8:3 The
Holy Gospel according to the Community of St. Luke in the 7th and 8th Chapters Glory to you, O Lord One of the Pharisees, Simon, asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt."
2 And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, O Christ
To Boldly Go (Yes, I know, it’s a split infinitive!) Wonder why Simon the Pharisee asks Jesus to come to his house for dinner? Maybe he hears about this wandering prophet, a man named Jesus. A group of faithful men disciples, Peter and Matthew and John and the others, follow him from town to town. A group of wealthy women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others also follow him around the countryside. Jesus already has a reputation— he teaches and heals and casts out demons. Maybe Simon is curious. Maybe he wants to find fault with Jesus. Maybe he’s worried Jesus is more powerful than the leaders of the temple, he and his friends, the Pharisees. Who knows? Wonder why Jesus accepts the invitation to dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee? Maybe he hopes to talk with him about God. Maybe Jesus is hungry. Who knows? There he is, though, seated at the low table in the Pharisee’s dining room. The house opens to a courtyard. Wonder why a woman with a sinful reputation goes to Simon’s house? She hears Jesus is there, so she buys a jar of oil, walks to Simon’s house, and enters the courtyard.
4 She sees Jesus seated at the low table in the open dining room. She goes to him and, without a word, washes his feet. Now, no one seems upset by the woman’s presence or action. Maybe when you invite a wandering prophet to your house for dinner, you expect people to come by and check it out. You even expect some folks, the prophet’s followers, men and women, will hang around the courtyard waiting for him or hoping to hear what the prophet has to say. Maybe you even expect that a follower might take the opportunity to wash Jesus’ feet while he sits at the table. Simon could certainly run her off, instruct a servant to escort her back to the street. But he doesn’t do that. No one tries to prevent the woman, whose name we never hear, from coming to Jesus and washing his feet. As she washes his feet, however, Simon comments in a hushed voice, to those seated near him, “If this guy is really a prophet, he should know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him. She is a sinner—a common low life from the neighborhood.” Jesus overhears Simon’s remark. He tells Simon a story about debts and debtors, sin and sinners, love and forgiveness. Then Jesus asks a question, “Simon! Do you see this woman?” Well, of course he sees her!
5 He just remarked on her sin—reminded the others just what kind of a woman she is! He sees her perfectly! Jesus asks, “Simon! Do you see this woman?” “Simon, do you really see this woman?” The answer is “No.” Simon cannot see the nameless woman; all he can see is her sin. A woman from our neighborhood makes the rounds every day. She knows where the food bank is located. She knows which days and how often she can get free groceries. She knows which day to go to the community food bank to pick up government cheese. In the summer, the woman, with brown skin, who speaks little English, whose name we don’t know, goes to the elementary school Monday through Friday to have a nearly free lunch. She makes her rounds every day. Jesus asks, “Christians! Do you see this woman?” “Do you really see this woman?” Our answer? Some see only her sin. “She’s taking advantage of the system.” “Shame on her for taking everything she can get.” “Look at how she goes from place to place!” “She’s poor, undocumented, and ignorant.” Some see only her “sin.” Jesus asks, “Christians! Do you see this woman?” “Do you really see her?”
Some people do see her. They see her as a loved child of God who lives in dire circumstances. Perhaps she provides for elderly parents who live with her. Perhaps she has a mental or physical illness and is unable to work. Perhaps she never had a chance to go to school, to learn to read and write so she can’t support herself. Some people do see her. They see a woman who does the best she can to get by, to have enough to eat. Some people do see her. They don’t know for certain, but they give her the benefit of the doubt. They assume that no one would choose this way of life on purpose. No one would spend their days scrounging for bread if they had another choice. No one would walk miles and ride buses in all sorts of weather, and stand in line for hours for food if they were not hungry. Some people do see the woman. They don’t know for certain, but they give her the benefit of the doubt. Some see more than her “sins” of poverty, ignorance, lack of documentation, her neediness. What do we see? What do we see as a congregation of God’s people? I believe that we see more than her “sin.” I believe that we give her the benefit of the doubt. I believe that when Jesus asks, “Do you see this woman?” We answer, “Yes, Lord, I see her.” When she comes to worship with us,
7 we welcome her. We invite her to this table. We share with her how to find day care for her children here in our child care. We invite her to coffee hour and senior lunch. We welcome her to come for English class. We help her find other resources in the community. We welcome her. We not only assist her, we expect to learn from her, to grow in faith with her. We expect and hope to be changed by her presence among us. And God knows that about us. When Jesus asks, “Do you see this woman?” God knows that the people of this congregation respond, “Yes, Lord, we see her.” I believe that God comes to us at this time, knowing our capacity to see people. God challenges us now to extend our welcome in ways we cannot yet even imagine. We welcome all people in Jesus’ name. God looks beyond our sin and sees our history of welcome and hospitality. God knows our strength, our love for all people. And now God calls us to new ministry, not only calls us but promises to walk with us, to love us and strengthen us, to give us courage and hope. God calls us “to boldly go where we have never gone before.” Amen