the one about tears...
June 13, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from June 12, 2016

Text: Luke 7: 36 - 8:3

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y'all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

How many of y'all have ever had a huge load taken off your shoulders? Maybe you were like one of the guys in Jesus' little parable. You owed a lot of money - to a friend, a parent, a bookie, who knows.  Maybe you were inundated with work at school or your job. So much work that it seemed that no matter what you did you couldn't make a dent into it because it kept piling up. Who has had the experience in those moments - or any moments - where someone says, "You know what, don't worry about. You don't owe me anything." 

Have y'all experienced that before? How'd that make you feel? Relieved? Excited? Happy? Thankful?  The money you borrowed from a friend to help you out of a tight spot - Don't worry about it.  All that homework that was due so you could graduate - you're done, you'll graduate. That deadline that is rearing its ugly head and the work that keeps piling up - not a problem. Don't stress. I've experienced each of those situations in some form or another, and I can imagine that many - if not all - of you have has well.

Today, we peek into another part of Jesus' life here as he is invited into the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Now, as a refresher - Pharisees are the guys that don't really like this man named Jesus. He's a wrench thrown in their well-oiled machine. Yes, Simon is curious and invites Jesus into his home. He'd heard about this self-taught country preacher and faith healer and was intrigued and curious, but also skeptical and dismissive.

Of course, in small towns - and most of the places Jesus ministered in were small towns - nothing ever stays quiet. And we all know that don’t we? News travels fast in places like ours doesn’t it? So, others gathered to hear and see this Jesus guy. What might he say? What might he do? Would he perform a miracle or not?

And, within this crowd there was a woman who is identified as a sinner - one who has strayed from God's law, a transgressor of the Torah. Now, you can interpret what 'sinner' might mean (and there are countless commentaries that will give you a thousand and one explanations on what the gospel writer means when he says ‘sinner’), but just know that Luke identifies this woman the same way as he identifies the twelve and those who Jesus associates with. They are sinners. This woman, in Jesus' eyes and views is in the same 'ballpark' as all those others he ministered with, to, and for. She’s a sinner. Just like the others. Just like you and I are sinners.

And this woman barges in and begins to weep at Jesus' feet. She bathes them in her tears; wiping them with her hair, and anointed them with the ointment she came with.

As I read this text, I couldn't help but think of what those tears meant.

Were they tears of hurt as she emerged from the crowd - the crowd who much like Simon - spoke about her in hushed (and not so hushed) dismissive terms with sideways glances pointing out all those places where she had done 'wrong' in their eyes?

Were they tears of sorrow and shame as she knew that she was a sinner and maybe even one so distant from the Law she and her community had been taught that she had been told that God would never extend a hand of grace and love towards her?

Maybe they were tears of hope. Hope that this man who she had heard so much about would be able to do for her what she had seen and heard that he had done for others. Maybe this one - this prophet of God - would see HER and not see the sins she had committed.

Perhaps they were tears of joy and thankfulness that she knew in her heart that this man could help her and WOULD help her. Despite what others might have told her that she was 'unredeemable' or 'too far removed from God' to be loved; she came to Jesus knowing - with tears in her eyes - that she would be, could be, and was loved.

No matter what was behind those tears as they streamed down her cheeks and splashed onto the feet of Jesus; he didn't pull away, he didn't shame her, he didn't get 'uneasy' in her presence like so many others would. He didn’t second guess what was going on even as Simon attempted to point out that what was happening was highly irregular and exceedingly improper.

Instead he let those tears fall as a sign of thankfulness and faith. Those tears fell and Jesus spoke to her in a way that I would guess she'd never been spoken to before. He spoke about her to the Pharisee and placed her on equal and even higher standing than him. I can almost guarantee no one else had done that before!

And that is something that is incredibly significant not only during this time and place within the context of our scripture this morning, but also today. Even today women in our society are looked down upon, spoken about in hushed tones. Sideways glances are given and shade is thrown upon them when they try (and succeed) in breaking those gender stereotypes and glass ceilings that life has placed upon them and other women around the world. Where we become so caught up in other things that we can’t – for once – join in celebration of the accomplishments of what women have achieved that no – no one – would ever imagine happening in our country just a few years ago.

Where, when terrible things happen to women, we still look to make sure that the culprit – the accused – are better cared for. That something else must’ve been going on to make that happen. Something she did. It was her fault. Couldn’t be the nice looking guy over there. Never.

Jesus elevates this women – and all women – into a place that breaks down those walls and road blocks that we as a society have continually setup. Where we continually try to dismiss 50% of the world’s population simply because they aren’t men.

And as Jesus elevates this woman – and all women – to a place of worthy honor – equal to that of the Pharisee, have you ever noticed how Jesus speaks about this woman’s sins? They’re always referred in the past tense. Before she even came into this room and laid down at his feet her sins were no more in his eyes. He saw her - a child of God - a beautiful and wonderful creation of the maker. He speaks to her, ‘your sins are forgiven’.  Your faith is great, don't worry about all this because God does love you.

Maybe you've known - for a long time - that you've done something 'wrong' in the eyes of others. Much like the woman in our story today you've seen the quick glances, the hard looks, you've heard the hushed voices, the rumors, the half-truths, maybe even the full truths of how others perceive you or what they know about you. The way folks have talked behind your back or in that passive aggressive way in front of your face. It doesn't seem like you're likely to receive any good wishes or praise because no matter what you do - people will always know what you've done. 

Yet, fear not. As we've seen in this story this morning Jesus has not come to the 'righteous' but to the sinner. Jesus has come to forgive the sins of the world. Why? Because that's how far Jesus' love goes. That's how deep God cherishes and loves the world. Those sins - no matter how small or great they may appear in the eyes of those around you - are forgiven. They are. Jesus has forgiven your sins. God continues to love and care - always has, always will. We proclaim that each and every time we come to worship. When we begin our worship our sins are forgiven. We worship in thankfulness for what God has already done. We are forgiven so that we can love and worship and serve.

Now, what about poor ol' Simon here? Simon looked upon this woman and saw what he believed he was not. He's one of those guys. I’m sure you’ve met the type in your life before the ones who say, “I may have done this, but I surely haven't been as bad as THAT ONE over there.” Simon needed that woman to be a sinner so he would think that he was not. If you can point to someone 'worse' then you, you can make yourself believe you don't 'need' whatever it is that they want as well. As long as others are sinning, and sinning worse than me, I know I'm good. Why do I need to be forgiven when I think someone else is ‘worse’ than me?

We've all met folks like that right? I'd guess we all have been that person before too. I remember when my parents got a divorce my dad went through a really, really tough time. During that time, he liked to joke that as bad as he felt his life was going he'd catch a glance of the Jerry Springer Show or some other daytime ‘bear all’ show and know that his life wasn't as bad as others. Which was probably true, but it always got me thinking – but, that doesn't really solve anything. You're still in need of love and help - no matter if you think what you've done or are doing is 'smaller' compared to others. Even those who are on those shows are still in need of love, care, and forgiveness. We all are in need of that.

You're still in need of love. You're still in need of forgiveness. You're still in need of grace.

The wonderful thing is, that God has given us that - no matter how great or small we may think our 'sins' are in comparison to those around us - God has extended that loving promise of grace and forgiveness to each and every one of us through Jesus Christ.

God has. Each of us is forgiven. We receive that grace just as freely as the woman in our gospel from this morning has.

We didn’t do anything for it – just as the woman didn’t do anything either. We are given that grace; we are shown that we are loved. Not by what we’ve done, but forgiven and loved so that we live into the life that God has created us and intended us for.

The question now remains - how do we show that thankfulness for what God has done? Do we fall at the foot of the cross and wet it with our tears out of thankfulness and joy? Do we spread and proclaim and shout from the depths of our hearts about God’s love for us and for all of our neighbors? Or do we go down the path of the self-righteous? Doing ‘good’ to be better than our neighbors?

What would it look like if we lived our life knowing in our hearts, full of faith that what God has done for us - in the forgiveness of our sins - that God has done that for all as well? How would that change in how we view and perceive those around us? What would that conversation look like in our gospel this morning if Simon saw the woman for what she was? A fellow sinner who is loved and forgiven by God?

What would the world look like where instead of all the different types of walls and borders we build to close us off and keep others out, we lived into the life of freedom that we have been gifted by Christ who has redeemed each of us?

That's the world I want to live in, that's the Gospel I want to spread. That's the Word of God I'd like to see us put into action every single day.

Remember, Jesus ministered, healed, ate with, fellowshipped with all sorts of people. And most, if not all of them have been clearly identified as a sinner. We're all sinners. Jesus has come to us. Jesus has forgiven us. We didn’t do anything to receive it. Let's live a life in thanks to that kind of grace.

Tears and all. Amen.

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