St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs: Sunday Sermon

St. Peter's Lutheran Church: Sunday Sermon

Pastor Ronald Wesemann

Sunday, June 16, 2013††††††††††††††††† †† †††††††††††† Lectionary 11, Proper 6

Pentecost Four††††† †††††† ††††††† †††††††††††††††

Luke 7:36-8:3

36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.† 37And 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.† 38She 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.† 39Now 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 ó that she is a sinner."† 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you."† "Teacher," he replied, "speak."† 41A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.† 42When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them.† Now which of them will love him more?"† 43Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt."† And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."† 44Then 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.† 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.† 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.† 47Therefore, 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."† 48Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."† 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"† 50And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.† The twelve were with him, 2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

I want to start sermon today, by letting each of you know just how much I appreciate you as members of St. Peterís. You are a special group of people; you have all been forgiven your sins by God, through Jesus; and even though you, as a congregation, struggle, year in and year out, trying to make the church budget and falling short, you still make sure that you find funds to help the poor, the service men and women overseas, the sick and the lonely; and when repairs are needed, you provide the funds or labor to make things right. In addition to this, most of you faithfully show up on Sunday mornings for worship. For these reasons and others I consider you special, and you have reason to feel good about yourselves. If I may, I too have been forgiven, and I feel that I have become a part of St. Peterís ministry and so I feel good about myself too.

But there is something about all of this that makes me a little uncomfortable; what scares me most is that we are beginning to sound a whole lot like the Pharisees of Jesusí day. Take, for example, the Pharisee who hosted the dinner for Jesus. He was certainly a man who tithed (you know gave ten percent of his earnings back to God), he surely went to the Temple and synagogue to worship and study Godís word and law regularly, and as a Pharisee he did his very best to obey all of Godís laws. It could rightly be said that he centered his life around Godís Law; he had reason to feel good about himself. But, the Pharisee we read about today, likely felt just a little bit too good about himself; he likely felt superior to all those non-Pharisees that he encountered. The Pharisee appeared to treat Jesus with respect; he addressed Jesus as teacher, but the Pharisee failed to fulfill the simple expectations of hospitality (he did not provide Jesus with water to wash his feet and he did not greet Jesus with a kiss). My guess is that he did not, in truth, respect Jesus, but rather brought Jesus into his house to test him, to decide whether or not Jesus was the real thing.

Looking back, there was a time when I did the same thing. Back in the 90ís there was this guy walking all around the country, he had even made his way to and from Europe; he was walking around in a robe (like the Alba that I wear) and in bare feet and talking about the love of God in Jesus. This guy was walking around Philadelphia and my wife told my daughter (who was asking questions about him), if you see him invite him back to the house. Thatís where I came into the story; my wife was out of town and my daughter met this guy; as per my wifeís instructions she invited him to our house and for dinner, so it was up to me to make him dinner and such. I provided him with hospitality (remembering the story we read in todayís Gospel, I was careful to allow him the opportunity to wash up); I have to admit, it was hard for me not to act the part of the Pharisee; I so wanted, so much, to test him; I resisted the testing questions, but I was still guilty of judging him and in the end I couldnít accept him as legitimate; maybe it was because when I gave him a chance to call home, he chose to call a reporter. He was not a bad guy; in some ways he impressed me, but the Pharisee in me, wouldnít let me fully accept him.

We, all of us, judge each other so easily; we forget that God has already judged us as sinners, but through Jesus, God has also accepted us, as though we were free of sin. Which brings me to the story of the woman in todayís Gospel who during the dinner hosted by the Pharisee, bathed and kissed Jesusí feet and anointed Jesusí feet with ointment. We get the impression, by the words of the Pharisee that this woman is a special kind of sinner, who if Jesus were truly a prophet, he would know of her sin. What the Pharisee didnít know, and what we need to understand is that this woman was not groveling at Jesusí feet in order to receive his forgiveness, but rather, kneeling at Jesusí feet, kissing and anointing Jesusí feet as an expression of her thanksgiving and praise, for his having already forgiven her, her sin.

That was the purpose of the parable; you see, the woman truly had been a special kind of sinner, her sin was great and much as when the great debt was forgiven of the one person in the parable and he showed much thanksgiving, so too did the woman. The Pharisee, on the other hand, might be compared to the person forgiven, just a small debt, who showed only a little thanksgiving.

Sometimes I wonder whether we, like the Pharisee, see ourselves as people who sin little and so need just a touch of forgiveness and because of that, sometimes look at others, almost with disdain, thinking how much more sinful they are than we, how much better we are than them. And, God forbid, but such a thought process, might lead us not to show Jesus the respect that he deserves. Admit it or not, we rarely give thanks and praise to God with the exuberance of the woman in our story.

We shouldnít need to be big sinners who receive Godís forgiveness, in order to show our thanksgiving and praise. Iím going to list a few things for which we should thank and praise God: 1) he created and sustains us. Is that good? God sends his prophets to us to lead us back to him. Is that good? God sent Jesus into the world to lives with us. (Again) Is that good? God realized that we cannot keep from sinning so Jesus lived a sin free life for us and then suffered and died for the forgiveness of our sins. I donít know about you, but I think that, that is more than good enough for us to thank and praise God? And that is not the end of it; today God continues to bless us by sending the Holy Spirit into our lives, with gifts, and comfort and guidance. Yes, we have our problems, but how can any of them surpass the love of God in Jesus and in his Spirit?

I invite you today to be a bit more like the woman in todayís Gospel and unashamedly give thanks to the Lord and enthusiastically sing his praises. And, let none of us be like the Pharisee of todayís Gospel.