4th Sunday After Pentecost June 12 2016
But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins.”
I wonder if those at the table were also able to “go in peace,” like the woman?
The early 17th century English poet John Donne, wrote in his Meditation 17; “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Because of this he continues: “any man’s death diminishes me, therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
John Donne speaks to the oneness of humanity, our connectedness. So much so that when you hear the funeral bells tolling, they are bells that indicate the grief of all humanity, including us.
We like to live on islands.
Our current political landscape is a collection of islands. We have those on the left, the right, and in the center. We have islands of the establishment, and the extreme; islands of the insiders and the outsiders.
But it’s not just politics that divide. Religion is a collection of islands.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said; “11:00 Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.” That was back when everyone went to church at 11:00 Sunday morning.
And it remains true today. I read this week that 86% of congregations in America are compromised of one main racial group.
But it’s not just race that divides. We also have our islands of particular theologies.
I was surprised to read recently that there are 313 Christian denominations in America. Even under the banner of Lutheranism we have our islands. We know about the ELCA. Most of us know about the Missouri Synod, and maybe even the Wisconsin Synod. But I googled Lutheran denominations this week and found we have 38 Lutheran Denominations in North America.
We live on islands, and many of these islands are very far apart.
And most of these islands are driven by our egos; egos that seek to justify ourselves, while they seek to diminish those living on different islands.
This is why we need to read our gospel this morning, because in this reading humanity is connected through Jesus Christ.
The focus today is two people who live on two very different islands.
The story begins with a Pharisee, a Pharisee who has a name, Simon. We know Pharisees were religious leaders, experts in the law who considered themselves righteous.
This Pharisee held prestige in the community. Simon had a home. He was able to invite guests over for dinner. And one of those guests today is Jesus.
The second person we meet today is a woman. We don’t know much about her. We don’t know her name. We don’t know where she lives. But what do we know about her? She is a sinner.
We don’t know her crime, but she has a bad reputation. We hear this Simon as he says to himself,
If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him- that she is a sinner.
She lives on a different island.
As the story is told this woman crosses the boundary. She moves into the Pharisees world.
Having learned that Jesus was in Simon’s house she enters. She is not welcome, but it doesn’t stop her.
Next, she expresses her devotion to Jesus by anointing his feet.
She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
This woman has a bad reputation. Not only does she enter Simon’s house uninvited, not only does she touch Jesus, but she expresses an intimate act of love.
Simon was offended. Those at the table were offended. And if I’m honest, if I was at that table I would have been offended too.
Islands are meant to segregate, but this morning boundaries are crossed. The woman enters Simon’s world. How dare she?
But Jesus does not condemn. Neither does he condone.
Jesus acknowledges her sin. But Jesus was able to see beyond her sin.
I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven.
This anointing of Jesus’ feet is a little weird, until you understand how deep the tears flowed from this woman.
Jesus saw her humanity. He looked beyond her sinfulness. He accepted her personhood. He offered this woman his forgiveness.
Jesus tells her:
Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
No man, no woman; is an island.
Does our faith save us? Can we go in peace?
Typical of the gospels, Luke drops this scene and goes on to the next. Hence, we never hear of Simon, or of the rest at the table who witnessed this interaction between Jesus and the woman.
Did they get it?
Luke doesn’t end the story because he puts his readers into the story. Never mind how Simon and the others responded. How do you and I respond?
Humanity is diverse. We look different. We think different. We believe different. But does this keep us forever separated?
The gospel this morning teaches that no man, no woman is an island. Humanity meets in Jesus Christ. We all belong to the continent of God’s creation.
And we will go in peace, when we are able to forgive.
Jesus says in the gospel of John, “forgive as you have been forgiven.” In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Sin runs deep in humanity. The tears flowed deep within the woman’s soul. But forgiveness begins with Christ. On the cross Jesus prays for his perpetrators; “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
As sin segregates, forgiveness connects. As humanity connects, we all are able to go in peace.
Wayne Dyer, in his book Wisdom of the Ages, comments on John Donne’s poem.
When you see yourself as connected to everyone, you immediately cease your judgment of the other. Therefore compassion becomes an automatic reaction to everyone. Once you can view all others as family members, rather than competitors or traitors, you will reach out with love, rather than with a weapon of defense or destruction.
I’ve heard our political climate labeled as toxic today. Race relations continue to be strained. The gap between rich and poor is as wide as ever. It seems we are all living on our islands of judgment and condemnation.
We need Jesus. Yes, we have our differences. Yes we have our conflicts. Yes we hurt others as others have hurt us.
But we need to see that our egos don’t save. It is only the love of Jesus that saves.
The woman in our gospel got it.
We too can go in peace, when we are able to approach Jesus, confess our sin, and express our great love to him. That’s when we enter this same story and hear the words of our Savior:
Your faith has saved you; go in peace.