Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

& archive, Year C.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

As we continue to follow Jesus, we are led this week into God’s household of grace. The former rules of engagement are left at the door, and no longer apply. However, those former rules are more deeply imbedded in how we see the world around us, and in how we judge ourselves, and others. Jesus is inviting us to be hospitable – to welcome and receive as we have been welcomed and received by God; to offer an open and receptive space within and around us for God’s work in others. The lectionary reading invites us into the house of Simon, a Pharisee, where the old rule of law and judgment and the house rule of grace come into conversation with each other. Listen; watch; as you read Luke 7:36 – 8:3.

When Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner, someone else hears about it. We are not told her name, but as we enter story, we are shown how she is labeled: “a woman in the city, who was a sinner.” Carrying the goods of her trade, an alabaster jar of fragrant ointment (which was common for prostitutes to use), she enters Simon’s house. Drawn beyond her need to earn a living, beyond the protective wall around herself which shields her from feeling the physical and intimate reality of bodily enagement, she is drawn from deep within her soul to this teacher, this man who welcomes tax collectors and sinners, who receives and heals. She hungers, not for food, but for cleansing and peace, acceptance.

First she stands at Jesus’ feet, and as she stands there, she weeps. Tears begin to flow from a deep well of pain and longing within her, breaking through the wall of protection, and falling on Jesus’ feet. She kneels, bathing his feet with her tears, and then drying them with her hair. Bending lower, she kisses his feet and anoints them with the ointment she had carried with her.

Simon recoils within himself. A Pharisee, he would not touch – or allow himself to be touched – by such a woman. He would be unclean before God, and therefore a sinner. Such were the rules, the law he lived by. Within himself he is thinking, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.” Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, tells a story to him, about persons in debt being forgiven by the creditors, asking Simon which debtor will love his creditor more – the one forgiven five hundred days’ wages, or the one forgiven fifty. Jesus affirms Simon when he responds, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” But now Jesus goes further; he knows that although Simon loves God and wants to be obedient, he does not understand God’s welcome of the prodigal who comes home. He lives by the law. Simon cannot see the gracious work and presence of God in the woman as she weeps at Jesus’ feet. In response to the pharisaical criticism and skewed judgment Jesus says,

“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. . . . You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came she
has not stopped kissing 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, have been forgiven; hence
she has shown me great love. But the one to whom little is
forgiven, loves little.”

Then Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Your sins are forgiven. . . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

As we sit in the courtyard of Simon’s house, Jesus invites us into the household of God’s grace – to see as God sees. He knows we get caught sitting in the blind corners of religious and cultural traditions, arranging and labeling persons accordingly. Simon could only see this woman from his corner – and he withdraws. She had a reputation and thus was to be avoided. Most of us have a Simon within us.

Moving to a different place of seeing means leaving the vantage point offered by the rules of society, of the law. Sitting beside Jesus can get messy, especially when women, men, and children come and weep all over our feet. This is the kind of hospitality to which Jesus invites us. This is the hospitable space in the household of God’s grace. As we
Begin to notice Jesus’ presence dnd perceive how Go is at work in our own lives, our eyes will be opened to grace and love, and we will begin to see God’s grace and love at work in others.

(Some portions of this meditation were taken and adapted from Invitation to Presence: A Guide to Spiritual Disciplines. Ch.10. Published by Upper Room Books, 1995. Now out of print, but available from the author)

For reflection:

In what way do you notice how you feel as you turn towards God?
As God comes close?

In what way do you respond as you see others?

How does living in the household of God’s grace touch and change
your life, your engagement with others?

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
6/10 Monday: Luke 7:36 – 50
6/11 Tuesday: Luke 8:1 – 3
6/12 Wednesday: Psalm 32
6/13 Thursday: 1 Kings 21:1 – 21a
6/14 Friday: Galatians 2:15 – 21
6/15 Saturday: Luke 7:36 – 50
6/16 Sunday: Luke 8:1 – 3