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.

JESUS MAFA. Jesus speaks about forgiveness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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!

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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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11 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary~Unexpected guest edition 

    1. Rachel, this is really powerful – thanks so much for sharing it. I wrote my comment below before I read this, and now I wonder even more how to preach on what Jesus is calling us to here.

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      1. I wrote mine below, too, before reading this. Sorry. And, thank you for clarifying some of my own thoughts. RCL is on point this week, for sure.

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    1. Great reflection. I, too, am not likely to preach on this (and we’re following track 1 besides) but I’ve been thinking about it. Following what I preached last week – that Jesus’ healing not only relieved the widow’s grief, but also meant that she would be provided for with her son restored to life – if Jesus’ welcome of the unnamed woman, and the inclusion of the women and the end might say something to us about addressing the plight of women around the globe today.

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      1. I just finished a draft of my sermon, and I did up with this notion – that Luke is showing us a Jesus who has a profound respect for women, and loves and accepts women as beloved children of God, same as men. And some examples of where we are falling short of this gospel imperative. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow!

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  1. I AM preaching this week and am focusing on the Luke 7 text. The verse that keeps nudging me is “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table (verse 36).

    It makes me ask, “What are our motives at inviting Jesus to the table/into our lives?” It also makes we want to shout, “Ya better watch out who you invite your your dinner table/life…you never know what could happen!!”

    We talk a lot around my dinner table about the unexpected places this journey with Jesus will take a person.

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  2. I am preaching the Luke passage this week as well. And I’m wondering if anyone else is finding places of connection to the news of the week–a woman goes to a party/dinner uncertain of how she will be received. She risks her reputation, whatever status she had, not knowing the consequences. As did a young woman in California.

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  3. I’m preaching “This Week In Uppity Women”, given the historic events of the latter half of the week. We have Jezebel. the woman with the alabaster jar, the listing of women that traveled with Jesus [jez like those also-apostles-of-the-male-variety], and Grace, which is feminine in the Greek. Half the world has full participation in the kingdom of grace! Oh yeah, and we made a little hxstory this week, too! Mostly grace, grace for all, grace-grace-grace!

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  4. I am preaching this week and in the midst of a sermon series entitled, “Be the Miracle.” I am looking at the miracles behind the miracles in the stories of the lectionary cycle. I am going to focus on how Jesus stood up for the woman and said “no” to those who wanted to shame her. I think it can then be a challenge for us to be the miracle of standing with the victims (i.e. the woman raped at Stanford) and others who are victimized and marginalized.

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