6-12-16--Proper 6C

Readings for Proper 6C

 

This week scripture brings us even more stories about how God’s grace reaches absolutely everyone—and what we can do about it. 

 

We’ve been talking the last couple of weeks about seeing—How Jesus truly and deeply saw the widow whose only son had died, how I was given the gift last week of really seeing the homeless people in the park in San Jose—their preciousness, uniqueness, belovedness of God.

 

The readings today point to repentance—which literally means turning around and going in another direction—as a change in the way we see.

 

The woman  in the gospel reading today has already experienced change of sight, that seeing that leads to a change in direction—she has most likely encountered Jesus, his compassion, forgiveness, grace at some earlier, unrecorded moment.  Or perhaps she has merely heard of him and his compassion!  But to enter the house to bring him this gift she risks public humiliation, censure, expulsion, perhaps worse.   Tradition has assumed she was a prostitute but scripture doesn’t say that, just that she was a known and socially rejected sinner.  She was a woman of means and influence to have been able to bring him such a costly gift, and convince Simon’s servants to let her enter the house in the first place.  She probably brought the ointment to anoint his head as was ancient near-eastern custom, but when she found that Simon had neglected the basic acts of hospitality of their day and age, she performed them for him.  Simon not greeting Jesus with a kiss, not having his feet washed, or anointing the head of an honored guest with oil, would be similar in our day and age to inviting an acquaintance over to dinner but not opening the door for them, not telling them where they can sit or offering to take their coat, not offering them something to drink.  Simon invited Jesus over, seemingly, not to honor him and learn from him, but to trap him in his words.

 

In this case, it is not the woman, but Simon who is invited into a new way of seeing.  The gospel says, “Simon saw the woman,” and began to judge her and Jesus in his head.  Then Jesus addresses him, “Do you see this woman?”  Do you really see her?  Look again, Jesus seems to be saying.  Look how vastly her gifts of love and excels yours—you who have invited me to your house to trap and judge me.  She has stood in the stream of grace, she has received great love, and so she shows great love.  The one to whom much has been forgiven, loves much.

 

I once heard Bishop Mary describe grace as the water in which we float.  God’s love, healing, forgiveness, peace, and strength is available to all of us all the time, in fact, it’s almost as if we can’t avoid it, unless we close ourselves off from it.  Holding on to anger, bitterness, resentment, can close up our hearts.  So can the refusal to see our own sin for what it is, or the feeding of self-hatred that often accompanies a failure to see ourselves as we truly are, beloved children of God.  And self-righteousness like Simon’s, seeing ourselves or others wrongly, also closes up a heart.

 

What opens a heart is brokenness.  12-step programs know that when we hit “rock bottom,” when we are broken and utterly defeated, is when we’re most open to a change of seeing that leads to a change of direction.  The first three steps are summarized, “I can’t, God can, I think I’ll let him.”  Opening our hands and hearts simply to receive grace can be a difficult thing.  But it is there for us, all the time.

 

And when we have seen, when we have opened up to and received grace—then what?  What was the woman with the alabaster jar’s life like after she left that house?   She had not just received Jesus’ forgiveness in her heart, she had been publically commended by him at the social expense of an influential Pharisee.  Things might have gotten better for her socially, or they might have gotten worse.  But having received love so deeply, having shown such deep love, my bet would be that she continued to do so.  My bet would be that she used her resources, either as the women mentioned at the end of today’s gospel who supported Jesus’ mission, or to show love and care for the most vulnerable of society.  The one to whom much has been forgiven, loves much.

 

Have we opened ourselves up to the ocean of grace?  Do we know ourselves to have been deeply seen, deeply known, deeply loved, deeply forgiven?  We could ask this question from the other end as well—how do we see others—through the eyes of judgment, or through the eyes of Jesus?  Do we show great love?

 

Hospitality is a way of showing love—welcoming with no judgment, no conditions.  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago St. Luke’s has a unique gift of hospitality—of offering gentle welcome, just as folks are, with no strings attached.  That is a precious gift, which many in this community are desperately in need of.  As you continue to open yourselves to the ocean of grace, continue to stand in that stream of love, healing, and forgiveness and receive it more and more deeply into your hearts, the love for our neighbors, for the least of these, will also continue to deepen, and you will continue to offer grace-filled hospitality to absolutely everyone.  For the one to whom much has been forgiven, loves much.

 

I have said these things to you in the name of our Friend and Savior, Jesus, the Christ.  Amen.

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C. 2016 The Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga 

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