Friday, June 7, 2013

Not Welcome

Luk 7:36-50  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. And 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.  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." 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 he 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 he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Luke writes this for a new generation of Christ-followers. About 80 years after Jesus he addresses Christians who are struggling with class and culture. They are divided by their wealth, with those who had more feeling superior to those with less. And they are divided by a spiritual superiority, where Jewish Christians thought themselves to be ‘more spiritual’ than their Gentile brothers and sisters.  Luke has a point to make: he tells of Simon the Pharisee inviting Jesus to a meal. It would seem that Simon and his friends did not offer Jesus respectful hospitality – no kiss of greeting, or water for washing. By contrast Jesus is warmly welcomed by a woman “who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37).   This welcome is disparaged by the Pharisees, who imply that Jesus is made unclean by her actions. Jesus brushes this aside by insisting that her faith has saved her, and therefore she is no longer unclean. Instead of welcoming the news that a ‘sinner’ has been saved, the religious grumble amongst themselves about the method of salvation.

This story carries much for our own reflection. The good news is that no one is beyond the love of God. Even when the religious think that it must be impossible for God to love such a sinner, God is not bound by these conventions. All too often religious leaders invest time and effort in debating who really deserves God’s love, while God quietly bypasses religious conventions and embraces the outcast with love. Our challenge is to learn to be as gracious as God.  


Second Sunday after Trinity
32 God’s Gracious  Love
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 202.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


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