The 4th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 6C (6/16/2013)
Lessons:2 Samuel 11:26–12:10, 13-15 Psalm 32 (5) Galatians 2:15-21 St. Luke 7:36–8:3
Semicontinuous Series: 1 Kings 21:1-10 [11-14] 15-21a Psalm 5:1-8 (8)
Prayer of the Day: O God, throughout the ages you judge your people with mercy, and you inspire us to speak your truth. By your Spirit, anoint us for lives of faith and service, and bring all people into your forgiveness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 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. 39 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.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 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. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 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.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
8.1 Afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
St. Luke 7:36–8:3. New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
A Pharisee; A Woman; A Sinner
Had I lived during the first century, I’m not entirely sure I would want to be in the merry band of followers who accompany Jesus from town to town. It is, after all, a rather odd group; frightening in some ways. Uneducated fishermen who more often than not misunderstand Jesus. Tax collectors who amass riches at the expense of their neighbors. Women who struggle with evil spirits and infirmities until they meet Jesus. Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons have gone out.
And the woman in this weekend’s Gospel lesson, who is described by St. Luke, simply, as “a sinner.” Simon confirms Luke’s assessment (“she is a sinner”) as does Jesus (“her sins, which were many…”). We are not told what this woman has done, but the jury is clearly out on her, and it appears that the entire town knows about her indiscretions. Perhaps that is what fuels her response to Jesus. Standing behind him. Weeping bitterly. Bathing his feet with her tears. Wiping them dry with her hair. Anointing them with the perfume that she brought with her (for that very purpose?). We don’t know what she has done, but she seems filled with grief and regret over what her life has become.
Simon, the Pharisee who has invited Jesus to dinner in his home, is offended. Not only does this disturbing woman break into his house and interrupt his dinner party, but Jesus seems to be entirely clueless about who she is. How can he possibly be the only person in town who is unaware of her past? Perhaps Jesus isn’t the man of spiritual insight that Simon has been imagining him to be...
Yet not only is Jesus aware of her past, Jesus is even aware of Simon’s thoughts. And in response, he teaches Simon and the rest that those who are forgiven much will love much, and those who are forgiven little will love little.
A good story causes the reader to identify with one or more of the characters, and St. Luke is a good story teller. There are two main characters in this story (that would be Simon and the woman — I rarely respond to a New Testament story by thinking, “Wow, Jesus seems just like me!”). So the question at hand is: “Which of these characters seems to have the most in common with me?” Is it the sinner who is overwhelmed by guilt and remorse, and desperate for forgiveness and healing? Or is it the sinner who is proud and self-righteous, and imagining himself to be better than someone else?
The truth is, of course, that I find myself having more in common with both of these characters than I usually care to admit. There are abundant examples from my own life of haughtiness and humility; of delusion and self-awareness. This story about Jesus challenges me to be as aware of my humanness as this beautiful woman is. It invites me to fall at the feet of Jesus in sadness for what I have been, and in gratitude for what he has promised.
“Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven… but the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” God, help me remember my brokenness, and your astounding grace. In my moments of self-righteousness, humble me. In my moments of self-awareness, forgive me and heal me. May the power of your Gospel, and the presence of your son, transform my life.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What was Simon the Pharisee hoping to get out of that evening’s dinner party?
- What was the sinful woman hoping to receive?
- Whose expectations were met?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I thought more of myself than I should?
- When have I been deeply aware of my sin, and my need for forgiveness?
- How have I experienced the presence of God in those times?