This morning we find ourselves in the midst of a pretty familiar story.
It is a story of contrasts… the holy man on one hand and the sinful woman on the other.
It is a story of grace… and a man who doesn’t think he needs any and a woman who is begging to be forgiven.
It is a story of paradox… where the tables are turned as the holy man is proven to be not so and the sinful woman is shown to be the one who is in the right.
So let’s break this tale down just a little bit. Jesus has been invited into the home of a Pharisee. And we start to wonder… maybe this is a guy who gets it. Maybe this Simon fellow has his head on straight and not only lets Jesus into his home, but wants to invite him into his heart also. Way to go, Pharisee!
But then, this woman shows up… a woman that Luke makes clear is a sinner. We aren’t quite sure of what has classified her as a sinner. Perhaps it was sleeping with the wrong person. Or perhaps she milked a cow on the Sabbath. We don’t know. But whatever it was – it made her desperate for God’s grace.
And so, she seeks Christ out. It didn’t matter where he was, or how uncomfortable it was going to be for her to enter this holy man’s house. She sought out Jesus and wept and anointed him. She went to where he was and poured out her love upon him.
And by the end of the story, the tables are turned, and we find that this sinful woman is the one who has done right by Jesus. She is the one who receives grace, while the Pharisee receives a tongue lashing for his lack of hospitality.
Who are we as the church? Are we the holy ones who hole up inside of our buildings and invite the poor, the hungry the sick to come to us?
Don’t just go to church, BE the church.
It’s a subtle difference really. But it is the difference between the holy one who invites Jesus to come in and the sinful one who seeks Jesus out in the world. It is the transformation from a Sunday ritual to feed our souls into a daily living out of our faith beyond the four walls of the church.
Recently, the United Methodist Church has been thinking about being church. For about a year now, the “Rethink Church” campaign has been going on to help us to ask the question… what if church was a verb? What if our faith was something we lived instead of thought? What if the love we experienced from God was shared with others?
In that video, Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, says that the real focus of Jesus is not getting more people into the church, but getting the people who are already in the church into the world. Love one another as I have loved you… that is the command that Jesus gives us.
It is what we heard in our gospel reading from Luke this morning… Jesus asks who has loved Jesus more – the one who obeyed all the rules, but forgot hospitality or the one who was found to be in the wrong and yet bowed down before him in service.
As Jesus loved us, and died for us, the only appropriate response is to love with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.
And it’s the same word that we hear from the first letter of Peter. Peter writes to a number of communities in order to encourage them in their daily living.
Love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully! Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let them be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help.
When Peter writes these things– he is not talking about a special set of rules we live under in the church… he is talking about how we should live our entire lives. In all things, everywhere that we go, at work, at the playground, at the city hall meetings, in the hospital where we volunteer… be a good steward of the manifold grace of God. Be generous with the grace and the love that God has given to you.
So, are you wondering why we are even here this morning? Why do we have worship at all – if God wants us to be out in the world loving others?
Because it is here in this fellowship of believers that we find the strength to go out there and to serve. It is here in this community of faith that we are fed the bread of life and the cup of salvation. It is here in the presence of God that we confess the failings of the past week and are able to let them go so we can love and serve anew.
A pastor of mine once described worship as a cup of cold water during a marathon. We stop and renew ourselves and we give thanks to the one who has provided. But then we go back out there and keep running. We keep serving. We keep loving. Thanks be to God! Amen.