6/12/2016 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Luke 7:36-8:3.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Years ago, a movie came out that is best known by a one-liner that goes like this, “Love means never having to say that you’re sorry.” To the characters in this movie, “Love Story,” that’s what love is…a carte blanch acceptance of the total person, questionable behavior and all. But is that really what love is? A blindness to faults and mistakes and a license to betray and use others? Or is there something more to love than simply not having to say you’re sorry?
I know of only one person whose love was so deep, so pure, so perfect that he never had to apologize. For him, love was something given freely. He was full of compassion, a compassion that showed in his dealings with others…in his willingness to reach out to help and in his selfless sacrifice of his own life that that others could live. To him, love was something more than never having to say you’re sorry. According to Jesus, love was more like being able to admit that you’ve done something to be sorry for and then being able to say you’re sorry, knowing that a loving person will forgive you and send you away in peace to live again in grace. According to Jesus, this love freely given by the forgiveness of debt was a love to be shared.
In “Love Story,” the characters were unable to do this. They failed to see their wrongs and even if they did see them, they were unable to admit them. Maybe that was because they feared that their confession would not be met with forgiveness. We will never know, for it was only a movie. But, in real life, as with the movie, none of us is perfect in our love, and our love of God, self and others needs to be something more than blind, soupy romance.
What a contrast the woman in today’s Gospel gives to those unrealistic characters in “Love Story.” She is a sinner, someone who errs, and she knows it. She is very much aware of her mistakes, but she is also a person who knows love when she sees it and through faith, she sees it in Jesus. Her faith in a compassionate and loving God enables her to turn to Jesus and confess her guilt, believing that he, the one who is greater than herself, will not reject her because of her mistakes, but that he can and will forgive her. Her desire to receive this grace is so great that she crashes the dinner party where Jesus is eating with a Pharisee. In her repentance and thanksgiving, she washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, and then wipes away the tears with her hair. Unlike the Pharisee, who has only done the minimum of what was expected and nothing more, this lowly, sinful woman treats Jesus as an honored guest. She dares to go where she was never to go. She dares to do what she was never to do. All out of love for a man who gives her something which she would never expect to receive – a chance for a new life through forgiveness of sins.
Love is never having to hide your sorrow. Love is a willingness to say you’re sorry. And true, life-giving love, the love of Jesus, reaches out with forgiveness and embraces the sorrowful. This is a love which forgives the person and hates the sin. This love can turn a life around, giving joy for tears and returning love for love.
The woman in Simon’s house loves much for she is forgiven much. She is forgiven and made free to live outside the chains of her errors and of her guilt, not by the Pharisee who lives according to the letter of law, but by Jesus who lives by the intent of the law and by the grace of God. It is God’s will that all should come to him with repentant and open hearts, so that he may fill the empty soul with the power of his love and forgiveness, and provide a new life those mired in sin.
The woman rejoices over this gift of God. She rejoices over the lifting of the burden of her sins. She rejoices over being in the presence of her Lord. And, this woman finds a way to show her thankfulness in a vivid and fragrant way. She gives what she has to the Lord and author of her life – some perfume and some tears, to pay him homage.
We all have something to give in thanksgiving for what we have received. Even the people in a small war-torn village who thought they had nothing to share found that they had something to give on the day that three hungry soldiers came into their village. The soldiers asked for food and the villagers claimed they had no food. So, one of the soldiers decided to make “stone soup.”
The soldiers got a huge kettle, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. The curious villagers gathered around and watched. The soldiers selected a flat, smooth stone and dropped it into the boiling water. After a minute, he took a spoon and tasted the stone soup. “Wonderful,” he said, “but it needs some salt.” Two children ran away and returned with salt. “It sure smells good,” said another soldier, “but a little cabbage would make it better.” A woman went home and brought back a cabbage.
Item by item was donated and tossed in as the villagers found they did have something to give. Through their expressions of care, the villagers helped to make stone soup. The people set up tables and chairs in the center of the village. They lit torches. The people ate with laughter, music and the shouts of children. On that day, the villagers rejoiced over what they had to share. As they learned that it only to takes a little to make soup out of stones.
In today’s Gospel, the woman in Simon’s house gave what seems to be so little, but what she gave was an expression of honor and joy. And, it was received graciously by the Lord who loved her and forgave her.
What do we give to the Lord for his great mercy and love to us? Do we give from our heart as the woman? Do we give in thanksgiving? How we answer these questions tells a lot about what we think about what we have received. The woman in the gospel had little. She didn’t even have a good reputation. But, this woman, who had little to give, gave much – for what she gave came out of her love and her understanding that she had received much.
How much would you give for a life? How much would you give for undying love? How much would you give for a love that enables you to admit your weaknesses and receive forgiveness a hundred times over? How much would you give in thanksgiving for all of this and much more? The woman returned love for love, repentance for forgiveness, tears for joy; and the Lord looked kindly upon her and sent her away in peace, with a chance to begin again.
When we think of giving, we usually think in terms of dollars and cents. But, how much more valuable a gift is a life? The woman, in repentance, gave her heart and her soul, her very life to the God who forgave her. For, she saw herself for what she was and Jesus for the Lord that he is. If our vision was that clear, we too would give all in thanks to the God who frees us, forgives us and enables us to live in his kingdom of grace forever.
May we delight in the love of God and may we rejoice with thanksgiving in the fact that we can say we are sorry, knowing that God reaches out to forgive us and free us from the chains of our guilt. And may the peace the God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.