The RCL readings for the Fouth Sunday after Pentecost are here.
After a long sojourn through the Gospel according to John, I for one am glad to be back in the narrative world of Luke. We picked up Luke’s gospel a couple of weeks ago just as he had finished his “sermon on the plain,” and we’ve followed along as Jesus healed the centurion’s servant and brought the widow’s son back to life in Nain. Now, skipping Jesus’ conversation with the messengers from John the Baptist, we find Jesus at dinner with Simon, a Pharisee.
At the suggestion of Lucy Lind Hogan at Working Preacher I’ve been considering how Luke uses the gospel narrative to show his audience just who Jesus is, and what that means for them – and for US. So far we’ve seen Jesus as one who acts with compassion to one who is a stranger, even an enemy, one who heals, who speaks and acts with authority, and who is able to recognize faith in unexpected places. This week’s gospel continues to add pieces to the puzzle of just who Jesus is – annd the most obvious bit is that Jesus is one who forgives. Luke illustrates this clearly in Jesus’ conversations both with Simon and with the woman who comes uninvited and interrupts dinner to anoint Jesus’ feet with perfumed oil, and wash them with her tears.
The theme of forgiveness is one that comes up frequently in the gospels, and one that can weigh heavily on us today. As Jesus shares the parable about the debtor with Simon, and when he addresses the woman to offer her forgiveness, the text provides multiple preaching opportunities to touch on forgiveness:
- How does knowing that Jesus offers us forgiveness touch us?
- And what about knowing that Jesus expects US to forgive others?
- When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses/sins/debts as we forgive those who trespass/sin/debt against us,” do we fear that our own forgiveness might be dependent on our willingness or ability to forgive others?
- What does it mean to truly forgive, especially acts that seem, at their root, unforgivable – thing like infidelity? Or causing someone physical harm? Murder?
- Is there a limit on what we must forgive? Is there a statute of limitations on our forgiveness?
Another preaching possibility comes from the unexpected woman herself. The text identifies her as a “sinner” – and many over the years have assumed her sin is prostitution, although the text never says so. Her presence at this dinner party is major transgression itself; she enters the home of a Pharisee uninvited, touches the feet of his guest, an act some believe has sexual connotations, and anoints them and wipes them with her hair, in a culture in which respectable women woul not let their hair even be seen in public. And yet, Jesus forgives her without hesitation What do her identity and her actions reveal to us about Jesus? And what might they show us about what Jesus expects from us?
Finally, at the very end, as Jesus moves on, we here that he is accompanied by other women – Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast seven demons, Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward, Suzanna, and others who “provided for them out of their resources.” This might be a good opportunity to consider all the women mentioned in Luke’s gospel (including the unnamed woman in the story) and talk about Jesus as one who included women amongst his disciples, despite the social taboos against doing so.
LOTS of preaching opportunities with this gospel – and I’ve only name a few. Do you know where your sermon is headed? Do you have particular insights on Luke? Or are are you tackling the readings from Hebrew scripture? Join the conversation and bring your questions, your inspirations, whatever you’ve got!
The Rev. Dr. Kris Lewis-Theerman (the blogger formerly known as Rev.Dr. Mom) is an Episcopal priest currently serving a small parish outside New Yok City. She lives in the city with her husband of almost a year, where they love to wander the city streets admiring architecture and parks. Kris occasionally posts sermons at Run Amma Run.
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