“We are many, but we are one”
After having moved to a small country town, I remarked to my dad how thoughtful the president of the local football club was. He said he was not surprised. Unbeknown to me, my parents had lived in the same town for a short period early in their marriage. They were bottom of the food chain. People of very humble origin and means and new to the town. The father of the football president I mentioned was a large land holder and poultry producer, and local identity. And having heard that mums and dads half a dozen chooks weren’t laying eggs, one day he visited them, introduced himself and spent three to four hours with them trying to work out the problem with their six chooks. My dad told me this story thirty years after it had happened, and it still moved him that a man like that, would give a man like him, two to three hours of his time.
For all intentions purposes this man could have treated them like a charity case and gave them new chickens, or offered them his own eggs or even some financial assistance and Lord knows they could have used it. But this man gave something much, much more. He gave them his time and he gave himself and in him including them into his life, even if but for a short time: he gave them self-esteem, and the Lord knew they needed it.
Imagine the courage it took for the lady in today’s gospel to enter the house of the Pharisee. A “lady of the night” who has the audacity to enter the house of one of the religious elite. You’ve heard the story read and as always it’s easy to have a crack at the Pharisee. But’s let’s put this into perspective. Firstly he’s invited Jesus to his house. Yes, probably to check him out but he still did. This in itself would have been risky among his colleagues. Then uninvited, a notorious women invites herself to the table. It’s like a scene from happy Gilmour who attracts the scorn of his new noble golfing colleagues for the type of “uncouth “supporters he’s attracting to the game. Seriously, what do you think would be the response in the good “Lutheran heartland” if at the induction of the new Pastor with the local and state dignitaries present, his mates and others that had heard of him rock up: the local drunks, thieves, prostitutes and maybe throw in a few outlaw bikie members. To say the least, I would think that there might be some who would doubt of the new pastor or be embarrassed.
And as we know, the women offers Jesus everything that the Pharisee did not. After working the streets in her dangerous and degrading occupation she pours expensive ointment on his feet. Weeping, she uses what she has available-her tears to wipe his feet and dries them with her hair. Yet for all this going on, the reason Jesus says her sins are forgiven is because of her faith.
For all the differences of the people before Jesus that night, the difference that Jesus saw was that one of them was there to check him out, to see if he was O.K., and the other who came to be made O.K., to be released from the bondage of the sin that she knew of herself and that the community and Jesus knew of her.
For the previous weeks we have been talking about “forgiveness and salvation in faith in Jesus alone” and in today’s reading we have “seen” it.
A notorious sinner knowing who and what Jesus is approaches him. No doubt she has a sad and lonely story of how she found herself to be what she has become in the world. Yet she offers no excuses or reasons for her lifestyle. She does not offer one word during this whole story other than the words of her heart and faith as she throws herself at Jesus feet for healing and mercy. And Jesus response, no why’s or now get your act together, only “your faith has saved you, go in peace” and that IS the gospel of the Lord, praise be to God.”
Living in what some would call a “rough and tumble” opal mining town I had “all bases covered”. During the day I worked in the only bank in town and at night in the only pub in town. Mining opal is hit and miss and a person can have nothing one day, and extreme riches “the next”. There’s no guarantees of anything except for a lot of work and the need for a lot of luck and I still remember two miners both in their dirty mining gear, standing at the bar together-one still holding onto the dream and the other who had just found it. Two who were once brothers in arms in situation, now still brothers in arms in extremes. Though one had been blessed with riches and the other not, but both were still as one standing at the bar, the same as they had been the week before.
Standing before Christ are we not these two people. Those fortunate and those less fortunate, but as one before Christ. Those who have heard his call and those that haven’t-but both equally loved by the Lord.
Like Jesus stood amongst a respected Pharisee and a lowly prostitute and wanted nothing of either except for them to know him, he stands amongst all those in our world wanting the same. He loves both the attacker and the attacked, the ungodly and the godly and offers both the same-a new life in him. Some to be released from their harmful ways and some to be released from the pain of being harmed.
In this world we are all as one, as in sin all have fallen short and while God does not love our sin, he does love to release us from it.
In this world we have all fallen short and the Lord sees the chains we have placed on ourselves and the bondage in which we live-and offers himself in their place.
In the movie “Gran Torino” Clint Eastwood, a tarnished war veteran haunted by his past actions is told by a pastor that he can still find peace in the Lord as what he had done as a soldier is what he had to do. To which he responded: “It not what I had to do that condemns me, it’s what I didn’t have to do”. And we may never be able to accept people like Jesus did, or for that matter accept ourselves like Jesus does. That’s just how it is as both sinners in ourselves while being saints in Christ.
Unfortunately, in our human nature and original sin we will all depart this world still as part Pharisees. But fortunately, in knowing of that, we know our only answer is in Christ-the answer he gave with his life that even we will be fully restored on our last day. Because whether in circumstance or in heart, in sin we have all fallen short and stand as one. Yet to a Pharisee and a prostitute, to both a poor miner and a rich miner standing at a bar, to the abuser and the abused and to you and me, Jesus says it’s not what you have done that condemns you nor good works that will save you. For I don’t give you charity, I give you much more. I give you myself, that to me-you may give of yourself and know my peace.
Pray that in knowing the Lord’s peace in our lives and in knowing that in circumstance: “that there bar the grace of God we may have gone”, that to the less fortunate, the hurting and the lost “that in the grace of God, to them we may go,” that in standing alongside them, that as one-they may stand alongside us, in both this world, and in the world to come. Amen.