Sunday, June 13, 2010
Jesus Turns the Table
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)
Perhaps you have a couple of questions about this story in the gospel.
How is it that Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner
but then failed to show him the customary courtesies of the day?
And the unnamed woman in the story, let’s call her Rebekah,
how did she, known all over town as a sinner,
how did she get access, get so close to the dining room table
in the Pharisee’s home?
What’s easy to miss here is that Simon’s invitation to Jesus
was probably as disingenuous
as Rebekah’s attention to Jesus was genuine.
This would not be the first time a Pharisee tried to set up Jesus
to question his teaching and authority.
That Simon offered his visitor
none of the customary gestures of welcome
is likely evidence of his lack of respect, even his disdain for Jesus.
And it’s even possible that Simon let Rebekah in
precisely to embarrass Jesus.
And what does Jesus do?
He turns the table on the dinner party!
Now it might seem Jesus forgave Rebekah her sins
because she bathed his feet with her tears
and dried them with her hair.
But not so.
Jesus welcomes her approach, her anointing touch and her kiss
- because he has already forgiven her.
She's not crying over her sins,
her tears flow from finding herself forgiven and accepted.
The proof of this is in the question
Jesus poses to Simon about the two debtors.
It’s after the creditor has forgiven the two debtors
that they come to love him.
Before their debts were forgiven
they feared and avoided the one they owed.
So it is in this gospel story and so it is in our own lives.
The forgiveness of our sins is always right before us.
The Lord holds an alabaster jar to anoint us with his mercy
if only we will reach out and accept what he offers us.
Of course, to draw near enough to receive that mercy,
we must first recognize that we need it.
Often the debt of our sins leaves us afraid of God
and we begin to deny our failings and isolate ourselves,
even with God’s mercy and love within arm’s reach.
But the greater the debt of my sins, the greater God’s mercy for me
and the greater God’s mercy for me, the greater love I have to return.
It’s significant that this story takes place at a table -
so much of Jesus’ ministry took place at tables and banquets.
It’s at a table we gather each week
and we begin our prayer by remembering our sins and God’s mercy.
At least the invitation, the opportunity to do that is offered:
“As we prepare to celebrate this sacred mysteries,
let us call to mind our sins and remember God’s mercy…”
What sins did you and I call to mind today?
Were they old sins - sins that haunt us?
Were they sins we return to over and over again?
Were they new sins - sins we're surprised to find are ours?
Like Rebekah, we come to the table
remembering our faults and failings
and we meet the Lord who welcomes us with mercy.
Here at the altar Jesus turns the table once again.
It was on the Cross that Jesus wept for our sins,
bathed us in the tears of his blood
and anointed us with mercy of his sacrifice.
In the bread and the cup of the Eucharist,
Christ’s body and blood are offered for us again:
with forgiveness, freely and fully given.
Let us draw near the table to receive the gift of his love.
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Posted by Austin Fleming at 4:00 PM