Luke 7:36-8:3 • June 16, 2013
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
First of all, Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads and those who are dads to us in so many ways. You are a gift from God that we give thanks for, most especially on this day. I especially give thanks to those dads here today. That you chose to worship today instead of playing golf or going fishing.
There was a family with three small children who deeply wanted to get a puppy. The mother in the family protested strongly because she knew that she would be the one who would end up taking care of the new addition to the family. The children, and even dad, vowed that they would in fact be the ones who would take care of it and that mom had nothing to worry about.
Please mom, please, please, please, please…they pleaded. After months of pleading, mom finally gave in and the family got a dog. They named him Danny and the children actually did care for him diligently as they had promised – at first. But as time passed, mom found herself becoming more and more responsible for taking care of Danny the dog. Increasingly frustrated, she decided that the children were not living up to their promise to take care of Danny, so she began to search for a new home for him. She found one and broke the news to the family as gently as she could. To her surprise, they had almost no reaction at all.
One of them said rather matter-of-factly, “We’ll miss him.” Another added, “Yea, I guess it’ll be ok without him around.”
“I’m sure we will,” mom answered, “but he is just too much work for one person and since I’m the only one that seems to be doing all of the work, I say he has to go to a new home.”
“But,” protested another child, “if he wouldn’t eat so much and wouldn’t be so messy, could we keep him?”
An interesting defense thought mom, but she held her ground, “It’s time to take Danny to his new home.” All of a sudden, tears started streaming down and crying filled the room from all three children. “Danny? Not Danny! We can’t give up Danny!” they cried. “We thought you said Daddy!”
Anyway…Happy Father’s Day!
Words are important, aren’t they? They shape us. They form us. They lift us up. They heal us. They free us. But they also inflict pain. They divide us. They destroy relationships. They rip apart peace. They kill. And how we receive or send words is just as important.
Words that we use in email or online conversations, texting or even in worship – are a really big deal. Each week, hours are spent crafting the words that we use in worship at Good Shepherd. The words in our hymns and songs, the words in our preaching and prayers, the words that gather us together and send us out are a big deal. I’m not sure we are always aware of that. Or really even care. We come to worship and hear words of confession and forgiveness, offer words in prayer that yearn for healing and peace, sing songs with words of praise for all that God has done for us, and often fail to acknowledge any significance that they offer us in our journey together in Christ. The words in our worship life are a big deal – but so often they seem to disappear and vanish into thin air before we leave the parking lot. We don’t allow them to impact who we are as children of God or transform us in our life in Christ at all. Is it because the words aren’t the right words or is it something else …?
I think the writer of the gospel reading that is before us today, wrote it for us – for you and for me living in today’s world in 2013. The words in today’s gospel are a really big deal. They are words that offer us forgiveness and peace right alongside words that sting with accusation and judgment.
Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus and some other important guests to dine with him at his home. As a Pharisee, Simon is someone who prides themselves on doing things strictly according to the letter of the law. Always trying to uphold the law at all cost. One could assume that Simon would have everything perfectly in order for this little event. After all, it’s a perfect opportunity for him and his family to show off a little for these distinguished guests. But right in the middle of showing everyone just how much of a big deal he thinks he is, Simon’s spotlight is taken away by someone else. And of all people, this someone else is a woman.
And not just any woman, but a woman who is a sinner! And she draws quite a bit of attention to herself by wiping and bathing and anointing Jesus.
Simon the Pharisee doesn’t take this woman’s actions that remove him from the spotlight very well. And he assumes that Jesus is unaware of who this woman is and just how great her sin is. But come on…this is Jesus…he knows what’s going on here. And Jesus has something to say to Simon and to the woman. His words expose Simon’s thoughts and the woman’s actions.
Jesus offers a short parable exploring forgiveness and in turn nothing is hidden during this dinner party. Simon’s inhospitable actions – his failure to give Jesus a kiss or wash his feet or anoint him – reflect not only his lack of hospitality, but also his negative thoughts toward this woman whom he thinks bears greater sin than he does. In essence, Simon sees little need for forgiveness and even less interest in being grateful.
The woman, on the other hand, understands the depth of her debt and the forgiveness that Jesus offers. She departs in a state of peace that only forgiveness can create. However, the forgiveness made possible by the presence of Jesus is not exemption. The woman stands guilty as accused in the presence of Jesus. So does Simon. They both realize their sin has been placed before them. Thanks to Jesus’ words they see more of themselves than would have been possible otherwise.
It is all too easy for you and me to develop an almost superficial attitude toward sin and sinning because we know that forgiveness is possible. It is also dangerous to think that we can freely sin and just repeatedly turn forgiveness on or off whenever necessary in order to keep our conscience clear.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, to be forgiven is more than a feeling of being sorry for what you’ve done, because the forgiveness that our savior Jesus offers changes your past, your present and your future. Forgiveness from Jesus wipes away the shame of our past, pours peace into our hearts right now in the present moment and radically opens new doors of opportunity that compel us into a future filled with hope.
Twice in our gospel reading today, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those words are a really big deal folks. Jesus knows that you think your sins aren’t as great as that woman sitting in the pew next to you or walking away from you at the grocery store. He also knows about all of the other sins that make up you – and he wants you to know that he loves you still.
May you and I also hear Jesus say to us today, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Those words are a really big deal too. Thanks be to God. Amen.
[I’m grateful to Pastor John Essick and his writing in The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2013 for much of the inspiration contained in this week’s sermon. Abingdon Press, ©2012, pg. 190-192]