Pentecost 4 – June 16th, 2013
Luke 7:36 - 8:3
Trinity, Millstadt, IL
"Big Sinner. Big Savior"
The contrast couldn't be clearer. The self-righteous pharisee and the sinful woman, grieving at the feet of Jesus. The parable is a no-brainer, who loves more? The one with the bigger debt that is cancelled.
The Pharisee didn't honor Jesus as he should have, but the woman showed him persistent, humble, heartfelt honor.
So the point is be more like the woman and less like the pharisee. Amen. Sermon over. There's your food for thought for the week. Right?
Not so fast. It's true, we would be like the woman, though we are often more like the pharisee. And if we truly know it, it should drive us to tears as well. Maybe it's the straight-forwardness of this account that lends to us so easily passing if over, without a very personal application. But since I'm a guest preacher, and I can maybe get away with some things more easily, I'm going to be a little more straightforward today, too. And I'm not going to let us get away with it. In fact, I'm going to talk to you – but just understand that as I do so I am talking to me, too.
You – you are a big sinner. You're like the pharisee in this way – that you think your sins are small. But they are a mountain, squashing you like a bug. You may look at the sinner next to you and think that guy is really far worse. You're not THAT sort of sinner. But don't be fooled. You're just as bad.
And how do you know it? Just look at your life and compare it to the 10 commandments!
The first commandment – have no other gods. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad – how often you break it. How many little gods you parade around in your life, all far ahead of the true god. Your job, your family, your hobbies, your comfort, all these things you put before the true God, all these things you fear and love and trust more than him. All these things, good things that God gives you, you turn into idols. You might as well be bowing to a golden calf.
You misuse God's name. Oh you might not utter the big G-D, but you find other ways. You bear the name of Christ after all, so when people see you sinning it reflects poorly on his name. And you don't call upon his name as you should in prayer and praise and thanks.
The sabbath day – well, I'm here, aren't I, pastor? I come to church every week! Sure. And you can pat yourself on the back for that as you continue to despise the preaching of his word even from the pew. When the sermon's a little boring, when you're more interested in what's for lunch. Or even on non-sabbath days, when you act like doctrine doesn't matter and why can't we all just get along?
And we've just scratched the surface of sins against God. Your sins of thought and word and deed – the things you have done and left undone – it's not just a nice little formula for the beginning of the church service – this is a humbling confession that our sins against God are so inclusive and expansive that we just couldn't list them all.
And if sinning against God isn't enough for you, there's plenty of sins against your neighbor. Your despising of authority, whoever it is in life that you have to listen to. Your boss, your government, your parents, even your pastor. Your sinful nature balks and chafes at this. You want to be in charge. But you'd rather do without God's gift of authority. You think you could do it better on your own.
And you murder. Sure, you might not have ended a human life. But you tear away at life. You harm others and fail to help them. Often it's the people you are closest to that you hurt the most! And then there's your own life. You don't take care of your own body as your should. You drink too much, smoke too much, eat too much, exercise too little. What a nice way to honor the temple of the Holy Spirit.
And adultery. We're good at keeping these sins secret. But imagine if all your sexual sins were put on open display, here, today. Then you might get a taste of what that woman was feeling at Jesus' feet.
Theft. Your neighbors possessions – you don't care about them, or your neighbor as you should. You'd rather have them yourself. Your greed for things leads you to dishonest gains and stingy-ness. Things are a problem for you, too, even though you might not have committed armed robbery.
And words – the way you talk about other people. The way you rationalize gossip about your neighbor as genuine concern. Or maybe you don't even play that game and just hope they won't hear you talking behind their backs.
And coveting – a sin of thought – wanting what's not yours, and not being content with what you've been given. Sins of the heart are so hard to see, and so maybe we're fine if we just keep them to ourselves? No. Those count against you, too.
Well that was exhausting. And it was only a short glance at each commandment compared with our lives of sin. You may not be in tears, but I hope it poked some holes in your conscience, as it did mine. Perhaps now we can once again join the woman at the feet of Jesus. For only there can we find comfort. Only there can we find an answer to the sins which plague us, and which we ourselves plague upon others. Only Jesus. A big savior for big sinners like you and me.
Jesus. Who does all things well. He actually kept all those commandments. He actually loved God fully, entirely, completely, perfectly. Never put anyone or anything ahead of his Father. It could only make us feel like more of a failure unless we realize all this he did for us! His perfect righteousness was for us! His keeping of the law was for us! So when God looks at us, he sees not our laundry list of sins, but the pristine record of perfection that is Christ's! Jesus kept the law for us, born under the law, to redeem us who were under the law.
And furthermore, he takes all that gunk of sin, and you know it well, Christians, he nails it to the cross. Every pointing finger that ever rightly accused you of evil – points instead at Jesus on the cross. Every time you've coveted another's wife or house or things – Jesus has it covered. Every time you've talked smack about your friends or enemies, Jesus has it covered. Every time you've stolen or lied or cheated, covered. Every unchaste and impure thought and deed. Covered in his blood. Every hurt and harm you've done to yourself or another – he was bruised and smitten for those transgressions. Every little rebellion against authority, he has the authority to forgive, and he does. Every time you've turned your back on his word, he is quick with a word of pardon. Every time you've dishonored his name or dragged it through the mud, he will point you to his gift of washing it away in baptism. And all your guilt for all your little idols and gods– all of that is put away in the cross of Jesus Christ. Where the Father's forgiveness is won, and where sin and death are finished.
Jesus isn't a little savior, just dealing with some of your sins. He is a big savior, for all of your sins. His blood is a flood of mercy and grace that covers every tiny little sin and every elephant in the room sin. Even that one deep dark sin, that you've struggled with for years, that you wonder in the dark of the night, “can God forgive me even for this?” Yes. He can, and he does, in Jesus Christ.
His words to the woman are his words to you: “Your sins are forgiven”
And let us not pass over these lightly either. “Your. Sins. Are. Forgiven.” Not my words. Jesus' words. No caveats. No conditions. No buts about it. Words of pure grace.
Words spoken to you by your pastor in Christ's stead. You hear them often. But they are more than just reminders. They are the powerful and active promise of Christ, effective and real. They are proclaimed here at this pulpit week in and week out. Words of forgiveness that never get old, that are always a joy to hear. Words also attached to bread and wine, and a promise of his presence, also for your forgiveness.
The woman who wept, she came to Jesus, weeping over her sins which were many. Your sins are many, too, dear Christian. And they should grieve you just the same. But fear not, for the same Jesus who spoke forgiveness to the poor sinful woman, is the Jesus who speaks a kind word of forgiveness to you, even you, even today. Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.