4 Pentecost Yr C Proper 6 June 12 2016
4 Pentecost Yr C Proper 6 2016 Audio
Many of you have welcomed my family and I into your homes. You have fed us; you have offered us friendship and hospitality. In my home as a child, there were people coming and going all the time, everyone was welcome, anyone could just walk on in to our house, but the rule was that you were on your own. If you waited around to be served, you just kept on waiting, if you rang the doorbell, we would assume you were there to sell us something. Even in our small part of the world, hospitality is shown in different ways and I think has changed with a more fearful culture. That open door of my youth is suspect today.
Hospitality in 1st century Mediterranean culture was a matter of honor. There were rituals to be observed. Just as when someone comes to your house you would offer them something to drink, and if you are eating together a place to wash their hands, a 1st century Mediterranean would offer to wash his guests’ feet. Although this may seem odd to you and I, we have to imagine the situation. It is so very hot and sticky; lots of dust and dirt. No shoes and socks, but sandals. Feet were dirty. Compounding that situation is that folks did not sit around a table on chairs as you and I do with feet out of sight. Folks lounged on pillows, so feet were right there in full view. Not only a matter of hospitality, but a matter of practicality as well.
Today our story hinges on a blatant lack of hospitality. Jesus turns to Simon, the host, and rebukes him for neglecting to show him hospitality, he did not welcome Jesus as the host should, he did not wash Jesus’ feet.
This story we hear in Luke is very similar to the story we heard last week in Luke. If you remember, there was a widow whose son had died, and Jesus gave new life to her son. As I talked about that story, the point I tried to make is that it is about the Good News that Jesus brings to the poor. It is about how the widow, a woman on the fringes of the community, a woman who in that culture is nothing and has nothing, is restored to the community. Essentially, it is a story about the new life Jesus brought to her, as a widow, she was dead to the community, and Jesus gave her new life.
The story we hear in Luke today proclaims a similar message. Today’s story shows us that love causes forgiveness and love is the result of forgiveness. Our main character, other than Jesus, is a woman who is not attached to a man, a woman in the city, by cultural standards, a sinner. She is a woman on the margins, but it seems that she freely approaches Jesus, and in a most intimate way. Simon, the host, sat watching and judging. This unnamed woman washes his feet with her hair, and then anoints them. This woman shows Jesus the hospitality that his host blatantly denies. Once again, Jesus restores to the community one who the community deems a sinner. Jesus gives her life back to her; she is freed to use her gifts for the good of the community.
Love causes forgiveness, and love is the result of forgiveness. This is also the Good News that Jesus brings. You and I, like David in the Old Testament, and Simon in this story, and the unnamed woman, are sinners. Sometimes it is hard to use that word because the experience we’ve had with it may have been judgmental. But it is not judgmental at all, it just is. We are sinners; more often than not we miss the mark. It is who we are. Created in all our beauty, created in all our goodness, created in God’s image, we tend to turn away from God and worship idols, most often ourselves. We tend to believe the world revolves around us. We tend to think, like David, that we can have whatever we want, or like Simon, that just because we’re important we don’t have to treat people with respect. Instead, we have the unnamed woman, whose sin is no more and no less than ours or anyone else’s, but who comes to Jesus and shows great love.
The power in these stories is that love causes forgiveness, and love is the result of forgiveness, love wins. As we hear these stories, we may hear God’s love inviting us to acknowledge that we often miss the mark, that we often turn away and indulge ourselves. It is the abundance of God’s love shown to us in Jesus that causes forgiveness, and frees us to love and use the gifts we have been given.
We come to church, we say our prayers and sing our hymns, read the scriptures, and some even listen to me talk, we try to live good lives, not in order to get somewhere with God but rather because we have already arrived. God has already acted on our behalf. Christ has done for us that which we could not do for ourselves; reconciled us to God, brought us into right relationship with God, justified us. I used to wonder what that meant, to be justified, but I learned from my computer. When you are working in a document, just like as I worked on this, I had choices on how to set up my page. One of my choices is to justify the margins. If I choose to justify the margins, all my words line up nice and evenly, they are brought into line, they are made right. That’s one way I think of what Christ has done for us. Christ has justified my margins.
So, the only thing required of us is the openness to receive the love that causes forgiveness. This is not necessarily easy or pleasant. It does involve a change, a transformation of attitude and ultimately our actions, because love is the result of forgiveness. And, since love is the result of forgiveness, we are free to use the gifts that God has given us. We are free to love others just as they are, no longer are we bound by our fear. We are free to show others the abundant and extravagant love that God offers them, the forgiveness that God offers them, because we can be ourselves, we don’t have to be perfect anymore.
Since love is the result of forgiveness, we can offer the same radical hospitality to those who come through our doors, as the unnamed woman offers Jesus. We can wash one another’s feet, and we can feed and be fed. Because we are all sinners, and we are all forgiven, and love is a result of forgiveness, we can welcome all who come through our doors, without demands of uniformity, without demands of perfection, without demands of adherence to a particular way of thinking. Because love is the result of forgiveness, we stand shoulder to shoulder, we pray for one another. We give thanks and we go out to do the work that we have been given to do.
And, because love is the result of forgiveness, when all is said and done, forgiveness gives you back yourself. You are no more and no less than what you've done, the mistakes you've made, the story told about you. When you are forgiven, and you are, all of those limitations disappear and you are restored, renewed, set free. That is the good news. Amen.