Thursday Reflection — June 19, 2016

The Allabastor Jar

Luke 7:36-8:3

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And 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. She 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. Now 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-- that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then 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. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in 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 were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And 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, 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.

My sons joked around last night, playing a humorous video at dinner.  The comedian commented: men’s brains are full of little boxes which men use one at a time to examine single subjects, separate categories carefully arranged so as never to touch.  Women’s brains are a tangle of wires in which all subjects are interconnected and emotionally charged.  The comedian’s images rang true for me.

I have been listening and learning.  I receive heartbreaking individual stories of disempowerment, addiction and violence.  I read/talk of Brock Turner’s sexual assault conviction and of the stunningly grace-filled words crafted in response by the woman whom he assaulted.  I parent normal teenagers who are testing boundaries.  I stand in systems of church and family, speaking difficult words with compassion and respect.  I observe political shenanigans and deep struggles influenced by racism and sexism and fear and ignorance.

And I read our Old Testament lesson for this coming Sunday in which innocent, virtuous Naboth is murdered at the direction of a greedy queen of sorely limited vision. (1 Kings 21:1-21a – read it now.  If you need a bible, let me know – I have one for you.)  And I read our gospel lesson in which an uninvited woman cares intimately for Jesus and is judged by the powerful religious patriarch and, shattered and accepted, is forgiven by the Son of the Living God.

And it all feels connected!  That tangle of wires in my head is buzzing.  I believe we are in kairotic times when our witness as Church is vital and timely and needed.

It heightens the passion of my prayer life and brings the sacrament to life.  As the Psalmist says, …I make my prayer to you…Lord…early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.  For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, and evil cannot dwell with you…  But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house; I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.  Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness… make your way straight before me.

How shall we equip ourselves as Church to love the world in ways that bring life-giving change?  Somehow, as people of faith, we are called 

  • to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers to persevere in resisting evil
  • to repent and return to the Lord
  • to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ
  • to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves
  • to strive for justice and peace among all people
  • and to respect the dignity of every human being.

We are all in this together and only together can we hope to follow God’s deep invitation to meeting the challenges before us.

Our passions as a congregation seem to focus on two fronts: on educating young people and equipping them to live well in this amazing, demanding world, and on sheltering those who have no place to call home while challenging the structures which support this lack.  Education and homelessness, two big issues.

Those of you with separate little boxes in your heads, we need you to help us think clearly and carefully about individual situations and to speak grace into each specific moment.  Those of you with wires connecting the many and varied facets of experience, we need you to help us see interconnections and implications amid individual truths in our corporate life, to see the impact we have together and to choose with wise intention.

In short, we need each other.  We are all in this together.  It is a tall order and only through God’s grace may we, shattered and accepted, proclaim God’s truth with boldness and minister God’s justice with compassion.

Hmmmmm…  Let’s get to work.