Sermon Reflections and More!
(scroll down and check out all the links in the left column!)

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost                                        June 12, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10,13-15Psalm 32; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

Pr. Christine's Sermon: Tell Me Your Name
Pr. Christine's Sermon: Tell Me Your Name

Children's Sermon: You Are Forgiven
Children's Sermon: You Are Forgiven

Youth Handbell Choir - June 12 Anthems
Youth Handbell Choir - June 12 Anthems

Like us on Facebook

View our videos on YouTube

Follow us on Twitter

Sermon Notes from Pastor Christine...

It would make perfect sense if our story today stopped at the end of Chapter 7, where Jesus says to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." It's a nice, neat tagline with a clear closing message. Peace and faith - good stuff.
But our reading selection provides us with three additional throw away verses. They aren't necessary elements to the main story - Jesus getting his feet washed and wiped by a woman's tears and hair. Nor are they crucial to what follows in Chapter 8, which is the parable of the sower and the seed.
The verses I'm talking about in particular are:
"Soon afterwards Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him,as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources."
I mean... why?
Luke could've easily written, "Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God," and left it at that. Luke didn't need to include the twelve or the specific names and stories of the women.
Luke didn't need to...except that he did. And he did precisely because Jesus did.
That's what Jesus does in this gospel story - learns people's names and people's stories. He knows the name of the Pharisee and his story; the name of Mary and her story; the name of Joanna and her story; the name of Susanna and her story.
Jesus knows their names and their stories and we would be remiss if we didn't ask ourselves why Luke made sure this piece was in there; why this matters?
It matters because it is only in knowing each others' stories and names that we can begin to see the humanity and dignity in the other, begin to receive and forgive the other, begin to love and accept the other.
Without knowing people's stories and names it's easy to pass judgment; it's easy to create division; it's easy to believe we are better than them.
Simon is certain he's better than that woman who's washing Jesus' feet. He doesn't know her name, nor does he want to. He doesn't know her story, nor does he care. And honestly, Simon must hardly know Jesus' story, otherwise he would've known that of course Jesus knows who is touching him, and of course Jesus would welcome her, and of course Jesus knows what kind of person this is.
Simon doesn't know her story though... because he's afraid.
Afraid of people that are not like him.
What's this woman going to do to him? Take what he has? Or what he thinks he's entitled to?   And so he (and others like him) makes sure she doesn't have a name; doesn't have a story. His fear and righteousness make him hate her.
Maybe hate is too strong...Simon would say it is.
I mean, he'd say that as long as she stays where she belongs - on the outskirts with the other women and social outcasts - he's fine with that. Just don't let her infringe upon his life, his religion, his freedom.  
We know this isn't the case. We know all she wants is dignity, forgiveness, love, acceptance. We know all she wants to do is thank Jesus for her hearing her story, for letting her life not go unnoticed.  
But not Simon... It's clear that Simon needed this woman to be and to remain a sinner. Why? In order for Simon to be "Simon the Pharisee", he needed this woman to be "this woman the sinner."
This woman...
I love Jesus for so many reasons, but one thing I adore is the way he twists words and phrases to subtly add layers to his point.
Jesus, using Simon's words, says, "Do you see this woman?"
Do. You. See. Her?
Well, of course we know he saw her. Saw her come in, saw her invade his space, saw everything that is 'wrong' with her... He even pointed out her presence to Jesus.
But, he didn't really see her...and that is Jesus' point.
Instead of saying, "How did she get here?!" maybe we should ask, "How did she get here?"  What systems, what people, what experiences have told her, have told you, have told others that they don't belong at the feet of Jesus?
Simon wants to keep his world small, as it is. But Jesus is making his world, our world bigger by dismantling systems which would keep people in their 'places' and this scares him.
And it can be scary for us too, because we are witnesses to this tug of war between Simon and Jesus every day.
The unnamed and unknown are deported. The unnamed and unknown are raped. The unnamed and unknown live in poverty. The unnamed and unknown are imprisoned. The unnamed and unknown are not seen.
But we can see. Through Jesus' eyes we can...
We can see and hear as many different stories as time permits and learn and remember as many different names as we can, offering inclusive love without showing distinction or discrimination.  
We could see a woman who comes forward in radical hope that there might be justice and forgiveness for her too.
And instead of seeing a man who doesn't belong in this country and ask why doesn't he just get a job already, we would see a man trying to do best by his family and we would ask his name.
Instead of seeing a woman who asked for it because her skirt was too short and her legs were too long, we would see a woman who wanted to enjoy time with friends and is a victim of entitled behavior and an unjust system... we would care more about her worth as a woman than the name of the prestigious college her attacker attended.  
Instead of seeing a black hooligan at the gas station with the music up way too loud who is surely looking for trouble, we would see a kid filling his car up with gas on his way to work who is in a good mood.
And the, instead of seeing sinners, we would see forgiven children of God.
How many tears must fall at Jesus' feet before we ask their names?
The other side of this of course is the Pharisee, whose name is Simon.
We have to be willing to learn his name and story too, because otherwise he becomes that man who we place outside the grace of God. Perhaps the reason Simon is the way he is is because of his story. And perhaps if we can listen and we can hear the Simon stories too then we can learn something about how to make our world even bigger and truly better.
More like the kingdom of God.
Because just as Jesus doesn't demonize Simon (even though he clearly disagrees with him), we cannot demonize the Simons of this age. Because truth be told, a bit of Simon's story lives in our stories too.
Only when we can weep with those in need of forgiveness, with those in need of grace, with those in need of acceptance (and aren't we all in need of that?), can we join that merry band at the end of the story today.
That story is our story.  
Nobody in their right mind would've put that merry band of misfits together...nobody except God. Those verses are crucial because those people are witnesses to what can be done in the name and story of Jesus.
And we are witnesses, if we care to see, to each others stories.
And that woman who is unnamed by Simon... she gets her name back at the end. Luke, or rather Jesus, makes sure of it. Her name of course is Mary, called Magdalene (luckily the other gospels tell us so) and she's right there alongside Jesus.