2nd Sunday after Pentecost
"The Grace of Christ
"One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed 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 sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?" "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he 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 wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss 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 are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Then those who were at 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." Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means." Luke 7:36-8:3, RSV.
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
The following is an adaptation from the Augsburg Sermon Series of a sermon given by Vernon Schreiber.
"At the beginning of this service, we began with the invocation, saying, "We begin In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit." Through this act we called upon the name of Christ for his presence to be with us this morning, because he said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I shall be also." Christ has been with us through our confession, the absolution, the hymns of praise and now as we settle back to hear his word proclaimed in this sermon. But don’t get too comfortable because His word can challenge you, can confront you, can upset youas well as comfort you, console you and bring you peace.
I would like you to imagine Christ is present here please focus on the top step of the chancel, focus with all your psychic energy, focus there and imagine that you begin to see the form of a man, a man in dazzling white, a man who becomes clearer with each passing second. The image remains clouded, but there you can see an image of Christ. Christ is truly present with us this morning.
As you focus on that image, I would like to tell you that something very peculiar is taking place in the back of the church, don’t turn around, focus on Christ, a lady is entering the church. She is wearing rags, she is slipping in as quietly as possible so no one will notice. Her appearance tells us she is poor, she walks with a cane and is visibly tired after climbing the stairs. She shakes as she sits. Her clothing wreaks of dirt and grime. She is from as we would say the wrong side of the tracks.
Continue to focus on Christ standing at the top of the chancel steps. The woman looks to the front and sees image of Christ. She sees Christ as she does rises from her seat and begins a slow walk to the front.
You want to stay focused on Christ, but you cannot, you turn you look you see this woman approach Christ. You gasp. You wonder how she could dare approach him in such rags, with such a miserable life.
She sees your stares, she can almost read your mind as she continues her slow walk to the steps of the chancel.
Many of you are thinking, how did she get in here. Where did you come from? How can we let a woman like that in our church?
She knows what you are thinking but still she comes. As she approaches closer to the steps her pace quickens.
You focus again on Christ. What will be His reaction to this woman? How will He respond?
She reaches Christ, falls on her knees at his feet, lying upon those steps. Tears are running from her eyes . She lifts her head, and smiles at Him. Her tears are making drops of water on his feet. She uses her hair to wipe them away. She stays there at His feet, crying joyous tears. She doesn’t move, she doesn’t seem afraid of Him. She seems perfectly, comfortable, perfectly at peace.
Focus an on Christ.
Christ lifts His head and looks at you. His smile turns to a frown.
He address us saying: "I have been present with you since the invocation. My spirit has been here with you and I have felt your worship. You have been polite but you have not rejoiced in your hearts at my presence with you. As I became clearer, as you focused on me, I felt a strange fear, as if you didn’t know how to be at peace in my presence. I saw the shock, the wonderment in your minds as the woman came forward. She came out of love, out of a joyous heart because she had heard me preach the good news and had to come and find me to share her joy, to share her love, to express her thankfulness at being released from sin and beginning a new life with me. This woman has great love. "I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven, for she loved much."
As you focus on the image of Chris t with the woman lying at h is feet it begins to fade. It blurs,it becomes fainter and fainter. It is gone. You are left with a strange feeling in your heart. You wonder, you think, could it happen? and if it did, how would I react? How do I feel in the presence of Christ? How do I feel about that woman? Can I rejoice and feel happy because Christ is my Lord?
That little adventure in our imagination sets the tone for this sermon. Many of us as we read the gospel lesson this morning can relate to two of those figures, some to Simon the Pharisee, others to the woman. We are going to briefly explore how we feel about those two people which one we relate to.
Simon invited Jesus to his house after church because he wanted to learn more about this Christ. At the same time he wanted Christ to see Him as a righteous man who follows the letter of the law to perfection. Simon was filled with self-pride, self-righteousness. There was no one better than him and he wanted Christ to see that. He wanted to show off his faith to Christ. He islike the frog in the following:
"Two ducks and a frog became good friends one summer as they swam together in a farmer’s pond. As the summer days became hotter and hotter, the pond began to dry up. The ducks could easily fly to another pond, but what of the poor frog? He had an idea. The ducks could carry a stick between them as the flew and the frog could hang onto the stick with his mouth. They all agreed it could work and the frog felt especially proud that he solved the problem.
As they took off in this manner, the farmer saw them and was amazed. "How clever," he shouted. "Who thought of that?"
The frog filled with pride and being quite pleased with himself opened his mouth to say, "I did." And that was the end of the frog."
Many times when people come into the presence of Christ, all they can think of is their self-pride, their self-righteousness, They want Christ to see how very good they think they are. Simon was like that. Many Christians are like that. However, this self-pride gets in the way of a close relationship with Christ .
Simon also had another problem as he saw this woman coming into the presence of Jesus, he had of an holier than thou attitude. He judged this woman by his standards.
Don’t we do the same? As you imagined that woman walking down our aisle, wasn’t the first emotion you had of judgment? Wondering why she was here? Or how could she come here in the presence of Christ like that?
Jesus saw through Simon’s mask of self-righteousness and made Simon uneasy with the parable of the forgiveness of debt. He made Simon understand that all people need the forgiveness of God, those with few sins and those with a lot.
How many of us could relate to that woman in the story or the imaginary woman walking down our aisle?
Many have tried to explain the sin of that woman, but in reality that doesn’t matter, what does matter is the fact that the woman felt the forgiving power of Christ in her life. She felt the love of Christ and she wanted to respond in anyway she could. Her love for Christ was not duty, but gracious love, a overflowing thanksgiving for the freedom she felt. She couldn’t help herself as she was drawn to Christ.
Someone once said, ’I want a religion that can speak to me when I have been a real stinker."
And Christ does speak to us in that condition and says we are forgiven.
A closing story sums up the idea of this sermon, forgiveness.
"A man in retirement decided to visit as many cemeteries as possible to see the uniqueness of the tombstones. After his travel, he put together a slide show of the many unique tombstones he found. At each show, someone would ask what was the most impressive one. He always saved the answer to last. He would have the lights turned completely off, he would dramatically build the audience curiosity then he would show the slide. It was a very simple tombstone barely a foot tall.
On it the inscription said one word:
Written by Pastor Tim Zingale June 7, 2004