Friday, June 11, 2010
Readings are here.
Sermon notes for Holy Communion, Rock Springs.
A reflection in our EfM group and some sermon notes by Robert Cornmer, turned my thoughts to the comparison of the woman and the Pharisee in today's gospel. The two main characters are a study of us in many ways.
The woman comes to Jesus in her poverty. She is at the end of her rope and rushes in all hair and tears to offer everything she has. A woman of the city is a polite way to say a sex worker. Someone who earns her living selling her only commodity - her body. She is an object to be used by whomever has the money to pay, but looked down upon by all those who are the "good" people. She is like us when we are lost - do not know what else to do but turn to God and throw ourselves on the mercy of the one who created us. The person who has lost everything: family, wealth, status, home, mind, body, spirit. We are her when we have no security and no one to turn to, when our lives are out of control.
Simon, the Pharisee, on the other hand, has everything: position, power, wealth, family, even a name. He knows how to move in the circles of power, is respected in the community, a pillar of the synagogue (church). He follows the religious and purity laws in the most righteous of ways. He lives a life that does not encounter "sinners" - he stays in his own group. He is like us when we are feeling control of are lives, when our job and our lives are going well, we have health insurance, our families are not falling apart, when we have it all together.
Jesus comes into the picture as a bridge between these two. He offers his love to both. He asks them to see one another as he sees them. To the woman who comes with nothing he shows compassion and raises her status to a person of faith. For the Pharisee, he shows that although Simon considers himself a person of faith and person with everything - he really has as little as the woman - in fact perhaps less because his faith is built on an illusion of control. Whereas the woman realizes that she has no control in her life. She has so little that she is willing to break all the taboos of her time - coming uninvited into a dinner party of men - unbinding her hair - touching a man public, spending her money on alabaster and ointment. She does not see Simon as a person any more than Simon sees her as a person. They are both objects to one another if they notice at all. Jesus calls each of them to live into their humanity - that human image of God they were created to be.
Although as individuals we are like both the woman and the Pharisee - as the church, the body of Christ, we are called to be Christ in the world to make spaces for people to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ - as God's beloved children. Your thrift shop for instance - provides people with clothing that allows them to feel good about their appearance - and it raises funds to support other opportunities for the community. Those who come for clothes and those who provide the clothes are the same in Christ's eyes. We are called to give without condescension but to respect the dignity of each person as we promise in our baptismal covenant. When we get to feeling "holier than thou" - we know we have moved out of following the one who tells us that the leader is the one who serves. We have become our own little gods when we think we have earned our own way - forgetting the gifts we have been given and the support along the way - the doors that have opened for us. When we feel less than others - we have also slipped away from God - that is not the humility of Christ but forgetting that we are the beloved and have a claim on a space of grace as much as any other person.
From today's Collect - the prayer before the readings --
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; -- may it be so. May we be a place where all are welcome and all feel the sense dignity and acceptance and the love of God.
additional thought --
I heard our Presiding Bishop quote this recently: The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. This is our mission - creating spaces of grace - may it be so.