Monday, June 14, 2010

Sermon - Luke 7:36-8:3 - Pentecost 3

3rd Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 7:36-8:3
June 13, 2010
“Big Sinner”

Do you know someone who's a really big sinner? Someone who really sins a lot – and in big ways. Someone who's a bad example to those around them. Someone who's always doing and saying the wrong things, for petty, selfish reasons? Someone who could really use some guidance, or maybe a good kick in the pants? Someone who should really get their act together. Who is that really bad sinner that you know? Is it you?

Today we read about Jesus visit to the home of Simon the Pharisee. And like most of us, Simon was a whole lot better at seeing other people's sins than his own. When the sinful woman comes in and makes a big fuss over Jesus, Simon is appalled! “How could Jesus welcome such a big sinner like her? Doesn't he know what kind of woman she is? He should be hanging around with respectable people like me – not women of ill repute. After all, I'm a pretty good guy – a pharisee – my credentials are impeccable. I deserve Jesus' approval – but her? This Jesus must not really be a prophet after all. For everyone can see that SHE is a sinner.”

Simon thinks it, and Jesus knows just what he's thinking. He probably didn't even need any miraculous insight to know Simon's thoughts. It must have been obvious. He probably wore a look of disgust on his face. How did this woman get into my house, anyway?

But Jesus has a lesson for Simon, and for us. Two debtors owe a man money. 50 or 500 denarii – both are forgiven. Now who loves the moneylender more? Of course the one with the larger debt. And even Simon the Pharisee can understand that.

What he couldn't see was that he had a debt at all. The woman's sins were out there. They were for all to see. And they were serious sins. Sexual sins, certainly, we might call them “lifestyle choices” today. But they never really let her have peace. Even as she sinned, she knew – it nagged at her. She must have become a prisoner of her own guilt and shame.

But Simon – he lived under an illusion. Like a person in denial that his monthly mortgage is too much to pay – or that a bill would be coming at all. He didn't think he even had a debt, much less a big one. His sins didn't really bother him – if he even admitted to having any. But the most dangerous sins are not the most spectacular. The most troublesome sins are not the ones most people see. They are the ones that are not admitted. They are the sins of the heart that we hide in the shadows of our denial. Pride. Lust. Selfishness. Sins of omission – failing to do what we ought. Lovelessness when it comes to our neighbor. Thoughtlessness when it comes to our God.

But like Simon the Pharisee how many of us stumble through life without much thought to sin until some “ big sinner” crosses our path and inconveniences us. How dare they? Who do they think they are?

The dirty little secret is that our sins are big too. That you and I are the big sinner too. We should be weeping at Jesus' feet along with the woman. Weeping in sorrow over our sin. And weeping in joy at our forgiveness.

Yes, your sins are a big deal. Admit it. Let's not rationalize our sins away. Let's not live in denial and only admit it when someone points it out – but then only in a really general way, “Oh, we're all sinners”. Let your sins be what they are – ugly, wicked, troublesome bringers of pain and misery and death. Instead of making a big deal about someone else's sins... a little honesty about our own is in order.

And then notice what Jesus does with such a sinner. He doesn't say the sins don't matter. In fact he admits that the woman had sinned much. But when she comes weeping, he doesn't beat her down even more. A bruised reed he does not break. He speaks kindly to her. He assures her. Most of all, he forgives her. Just like he forgives so many other sinners who know their sin. Like he does for all who are weary and heaven lady – he gives rest. Like he heals the sick, not the healthy who need no doctor. Jesus sinners will receive, always, always with his forgiveness.

The woman who washed Jesus' feet knew the forgiveness that washed away her sins. Not an expensive perfume, but the precious blood of Christ. She shed her tears on his feet, but he wept drops of blood, and suffered the wrath of God. She anointed him in humble thanks, whose body would be anointed for a hasty burial. But death had no hold on him. Now alive forever, he is the victor over sin. And our life and victory are sure – in him.

Jesus says one other thing here we might notice. “...her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Jesus is not saying that our love for God or neighbor is the basis for our forgiveness. She was not forgiven because she loved much. Rather, love flows from forgiveness. Love for God and love for neighbor increases in proportion to our appreciation of forgiveness.

The more you know your sin, how big it is, how many your sins are... the more you'll know your need for Jesus and his forgiveness. And the more you know his forgiveness, the more the Spirit works to show his love in your life. You will love God. You will love your neighbor. Because you know his love for you in Christ. Big sinner. Bigger Savior. Much love, in Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

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