POWER SURGE

The Day of PENTECOST,  June 4, 2017                Tabor Lutheran Church
TEXTS: Acts 2:1-21 /  Psalm 104: 25-35, 37 / 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 /   John 20:19-23

“POWER SURGE”
We’re celebrating the festival of Pentecost, the flame of the tongues opening hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s what Jesus had promised his followers, the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  It was that which was promised by the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit….Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Power in the name of the Lord…The Holy Spirit is poured out so that we can name our power source and speak of God’s deeds of power.  This power, the Holy Spirit, will come alongside of us and be with us as an advocate, a helper – one who doesn’t free us from challenges, but empowers and equips us so that we can work together for the “common good”.

I’ve been thinking about power connectors, things that have to be connected to a power source so that they can function to the best of their capabilities.  The power surge protector shuts off when too much power comes at one time, power that will damage pieces of equipment, like a lightning strike hitting a TV, computer, DVD, refrigerator.  It shuts off power that will damage, destroy, possibly could even kill.  Other kinds of connectors are a power cord and an extension cord.  It links the appliance with the direct power source.  It makes it possible for the appliance to work, for the computer to turn on, link us with the internet, connects us with network links for consumer business, for educational purposes, for research, for connections with work associates, friends and family through e-mail.  The power source provides us with entertainment on television, allows us to use our DVD,  I-pad, and other electronic devices; it is used to charge our phones, keeps our perishable food products safe for us to eat, unless we leave them unattended and unused for too long a period of time.  The power source provides us with working appliances that enhance our quality of life.  I further examined the power surge protector… the information that came with it says to use it only in dry locations.  We apparently are not to use it where there is a water source – a precaution against electrocution.  I know that’s true also of the other cords, and true of any device that connects itself to a power source of electricity.  Now I’d like to make our analogy more human, more us.

It’s been 50 days since Passover for the Jews.  In Acts we read that there was a sound from heaven, like the rush of a violent wind, like a tornado, filling the entire house where they are gathered.  This wasn’t a gentle breeze blowing.  Divided tongues of fire rested on each of them, they are filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  Can you even begin to imagine this?  Talk about a power surge!  Can you imagine what it would be like to be there and have one of these believers now empowered to tell the message of God’s powerful deeds, of God’s powerful love for us?  Can you imagine what it was like for these believers to be power-charged from heaven, to know that the power surge came from God’s throne!  Can you imagine what it would be like to understand in your own native tongue the message delivered by someone who appeared to be from another nation, but speaking so you can understand their message, so that you could grasp it, you could get it?  We hear that they were amazed, astonished, bewildered, perplexed, says they even “sneered” and suggested that the disciples were drunk.  If we were there, might we not also feel like they did?  Might we think they were hallucinating or on drugs?  This is just the opposite of the story of the Tower of Babel, where their language was confused and the message spoken not understandable.  Here, the power given brings clarity; the message is understandable to every tribe, every nation, to each person.  The message is with the listeners’ grasp.  Amazing!

Some of these believers had not shared in the experience of the 12, have not been with Jesus and other followers. They weren’t with Jesus when he promised to send the Advocate.   They weren’t present for the final words of encouragement, of direction and explanation.  Jesus reminds them that there’s more for them to hear, but at that particular time, as his time leading to the cross nears, they can’t hear all that they need to know.  It is the Spirit of truth who will come and guide them, will speak and declare all that is from Jesus and from God.  What amazing days these must have been for the close-knit band of followers.  The church was just beginning…infants in Christ’s love, in Christ’s message.  There were these 50 days since Passover, since the Resurrection, final words, final meals together, words of guidance, words of encouragement.  Words of promise!   The power surge from heaven comes…the tongues of fire are visible marks of the Spirit’s coming.  No surge protector!  They are now power charged, as if an extension cord now connects them to the Spirit of Truth.  They in turn are empowered to go and tell.  The first evangelists are given their mission statement…go and tell.  Here we have the first Evangelism Committee, and they’re not supposed to stay secluded in the upper room.  They have walking papers and are empowered to be about ministry.  They are to proclaim the mystery of Easter and gather the community into the Triune God.  They are not asked if they’d like to change and grow – they are changed.  The church will grow!

Today we began worship with music and the Confession and Forgiveness, linking our baptism to the power source we have as we have been made children of God.  If I were to bring out a power cord, plug it in to a power source and then headed for the baptismal font, I would hope you’d be a bit nervous about that, as I would be getting quite a jolt from the electricity connecting with the water.  That power connection would threaten to destroy me.  But I tell you that as you and I stand at the baptismal font, remembering that we are wet people, baptized and wet with Christ’s promise to send the Spirit of Truth into us, we are empowered by the Power Source, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God; it is a power surge that is life-giving, life-sustaining, life-changing, transforming us.  We empowered to serve.  We have a mission statement to tell the mighty deeds of God handed down through the generations.

Our own mission is to understand that we are a worshipping, learning, witnessing, and serving community of forgiven followers of Jesus Christ.  We have a powerful message to share where we strive to foster spiritual growth in ourselves and others through all our actions and decisions.  We welcome and value the talents of all who are brought to us by God’s will.  Have you, who are empowered through your baptism, told the mission statement given by God that you are chosen, loved, forgiveness, reconciled, and that there is a feast here for you?  Have you told others that we celebrate who we have been?  Have you told others that we are excited about who we are today and about the possibilities for who we will be in the future?  Have you told others that there is a place here for everyone?  We likely have “dropped the ball” on telling others that we really do have something special that we are about – that we want them to come WITH us, sit WITH us, and work WITH us as we carry out the mission we’ve been given.  We often bemoan the fact that we are declining, but it also is a fact that we have declined in inviting others to come and be with us, partner with us for the “common good” of our community as well as our church.  We need to sense the breath of God blowing on us!

Today we are welcomed to the banquet feast.  We share the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; we are recharged with spiritual food that fills us with Jesus so that we can go out and share this good news.  I urge you to take seriously that God is calling you and listening for your response –send me, Lord!  Send me to feed children, clothe and help the needy, be a witness in all that I say and do.  Make the message clear so that all who hear can understand it, can get it.  No need for a power surge protector.  God is with you!  God IS your POWER SOURCE!  Thanks be to God!

BE MY WITNESSES

BE MY WITNESSES
Ascension Day was Thursday, and those who gathered in worship services heard scripture that spoke of Jesus being lifted up.  It is the same words used as he is lifted up on the cross to be crucified.  The image and the actual meaning of the verb used for ‘lifted up’ put Jesus’ resurrection in proper perspective.  He is lifted up not in a direction, but in a place beyond the political scene, lifted up beyond the Roman Empire.  He is lifted up to have power over sin, death, and the Devil.  He is lifted up to have a place in people’s hearts.  He was lifted up not to be captured in fine paintings; he was lifted up to become the head, the name above every name.

John’s gospel has painted us many pictures of who Jesus is.  He is the Word made Flesh, who came to dwell among us, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Resurrection and the Life.  He is the Good Shepherd.  He is the crucified one, the resurrected one.  He is the one who sits at the head of the table, our great high priest.  He is the one who makes God known to us.  In this High Priestly Prayer, Jesus speaks in terms of endearment of “those whom you gave me from the world.  They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.  All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.”  He then asks for God to protect them … he knows what lies ahead for them – they would be hated, persecuted, killed for their witness, for their testimony.  They would be hated for the kind of love they wanted to bring to the world.  Jesus knew the struggles, the challenges that would come to those who loved and served him – not just in the days ahead for the disciples and followers present with him even to the day of his ascension, but for those followers who were yet to come, followers in 2017 as well.  There would be all kinds of worldly powers which would seek to pull them away, divide them, scatter them, makes them less bold in their witness.  There would need to be faithful followers who would devote themselves to prayer and coming together to be nourished in scripture and in the Supper he established.  As the Acts text closes today, it says, “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”

There is so much more to our human experience than often meets the eye.  There is so much more to our life journeys than ever is recognized, ever is told.  Some years ago, I attended the production of “The Laramie Project” at Augustana College.  This theatrical event speaks about the importance of acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness in our diverse and changing world.  This play is more than just a story about Mathew Shepard who was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die on October 6, 1998.  It’s not a play about homosexuality, gay bashing, or hate crimes, but is a play about the impact this horrendous crime had on the townspeople of Laramie, and whether we are consciously aware of it, it’s about the impact it has on us.  The characters share what they witnessed and how it has impacted their lives.  The play’s author, Moises Kaufman, tells how he and members of the Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie six times to conduct interviews with the people of the town.  They transcribed and edited the interviews, and it is presented in a unique format of townspeople and the experiences also of those doing the interviews.

What was striking to me during this drama was the way living in, through, and telling of this story teaches us something about ourselves and about our human natures.  There are the religious leaders of the community with varied doctrines, and yet one boldly steps forward to beg of the interviewers to “tell the truth, not to make it more or less than what happened.”  There were interviews with his college professors and his advisor; the emergency room physician who was the person who found him, who came to believe that God directed his bike ride so that Mathew would not die tied to that stark fence.  There was the gay-bashing preacher, infamous Fred Phelps, who proclaimed the perfect hate of God, and yet beyond that is the witness of those who experienced God’s amazing grace and God’s perfect love beyond this hateful crime.  There was the testimony of his parents, particularly his father, who asks that Aaron Winkleman not be given the death penalty but a life sentence so that every day he would remember that Mathew did not have that day because of Aaron’s hatred.  There was the message that something good did come out of such evil, such hatred.  There was the message that it matters what we teach.  There was the message that we need to think about what we do with what we learn when we encounter hate in our world.

When I think back to the experience of being there at the play – immersing myself in the witness of the characters portraying those who actually were interview, I think of the importance of nurturing and nourishing one another.  We are called to love not hate.  We live in the midst of tremendous atrocities even in just this week: children killed in their own alleys, people shot because they were bystanders not even involved in the conflict of others; children and youth killed at a concert in Manchester and Coptic Christians killed for the sake of control and power.  We are lifted up to be witnesses to the one who prays that we will all be one, not divided by color, race, social status, gender; witnesses to God’s unconditional love, who bathes us in baptismal waters, claims us and names us, loves us to death in Jesus Christ, who is raised up above victorious over hate, over sin, over death.  It matters what we teach – that we teach respect for God, that we teach that we gather to worship out of love rather than duty.     It matters that we teach each generation to be stewards, teach the importance of generous hearts and giving because we are loved and we give back out of love.  It matters that we teach responsibility, accountability, and discipleship as core to who we are as children of God.  It matters that we teach the love of Jesus Christ and the grace and love of God. Every day of our lives should be a day that reflects the love of God as we interact with others and with all of creation in our actions and in the words we speak.  It matters that we continue to proclaim beyond this last Sunday in Easter:
Christ is risen.   He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

My Rock, My Living Stone

The familiar gospel text we so often hear at funerals, the words spoken to Christ’s closest friends and followers after he’s washed their feet, told them of the coming betrayal, that Peter will deny that he knows him, and eats with them the Passover meal, but now tells them that they will eat this in a different way from this night on.  Body, blood, given and shed for you.  New Covenant, eat, drink, remember.   He speaks words to them that they can’t begin to wrap themselves around, and yet in just hours they would be more vulnerable, more heart-broken, more frightened than they might ever have imagined.  They will wonder if things will ever be the same, if they will ever be able to find their place in the world, in their families and their communities.  They can’t begin to imagine what these words will come to mean to them.  And they have many questions… don’t we?  Their hearts were troubled, not knowing what was really taking place, what the future would look like, how it would all turn out.  Aren’t those some of our questions as well?

It’s so important that we know that we have a place for us.  We all long to find our place in life – a place in our family, a place with friends, a place in our work-a-day world, with our colleagues and co-workers, with our neighbors.  Most of us go to great lengths to carve out our place, although some of us may do it less consciously.  We begin in our childhood seeking love and a niche to fit into.  As adolescents we are especially aware of what others’ are wearing and we want to dress like that, too.  That seems to follow many of us for the rest of our lives.  Just catching a few minutes of television here and there this past week, I realize just how fashion cycles, and we’re back to wearing things we wore twenty years ago.  Bermuda shorts and seersucker are back big time for summer fashion.  Flip-flops continue to be foot fashion.  Even nail polish colors cycle…we wore some of the funky colors that we watch everyone now wear.  There are those of us who are non-conformists and want to say that it doesn’t matter – we’re our own person and we don’t need time-specific fashion, hair styles, or the latest slang or text-messaging to speak for us.  We are who we are.  Yet, I believe that internally we all long to know that we belong, that there’s a place for us.

We feel more secure when we know our place in life and our place in relationships.  We can find security in knowing that there is a place for us in God’s kingdom.  Jesus reassures us that he has gone to prepare a place for us and that he will come again to take us to that place to be with him.  He makes it very clear: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” Not only do we hear these words of reassurance in John’s gospel, but Stephen’s witness to us as he is stoned for his convictions and testimony shows us that he knew that he belonged to God’s kingdom, and that Jesus would receive him even as he dies confessing his faith.  Jesus is Stephen’s living stone, his strong rock, his tower of strength, the one who redeems and receives him, rescues him from his enemies.  Jesus is the cornerstone of Stephen’s faith.

Our world may try to show us other cornerstones:  build your life on athletics, build your life on academics, build your life on how many acres you farm, build your life on how much you earn in the work force, build your life on so many competitive cornerstones calling you, promising you success, wealth, popularity, happiness.  But like the old Sunday School song of the foolish man and the wise man and where they build their houses, sand or rock, if we’re not rooted, grounded in our faith, our houses, our lives will go “plop” or “crash” like the house built on the sand.  We hear strength in the Lord being called “my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, my tower of strength.”

In 1 Peter we hear that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  We hear that we have a place with the one who has become our cornerstone, Jesus Christ our Risen Savior.  We bring ourselves and our children to our baptismal fonts to claim a place in God’s kingdom as a child of God.  We are washed and made new.  We are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit.  We are chosen.  The cornerstone of our life is Jesus Christ.  As we have grown in our faith, we have continued to build our lives on that cornerstone, a foundation of faith for each of us.  Our faith communities, our parents, our sponsors, were called to witness the promises that Christ has proclaimed to us in his life, the mission of his serving, healing, teaching ministry among us, his death and victory over sin and the devil, and his resurrection that gives us lives of hope and a promise that there is a place prepared for us in eternity.  We then become the witnesses and the ones to proclaim what Christ is doing in our lives and in the world; we share the good news that Jesus Christ is our rock, our living stone, and a place is carved out for us in his earthly and heavenly kingdoms.  We have the calling and the opportunities to be Christ’s hands and feet, to serve and go; his mouth to share God’s Word, his heart to love God and love one another.  We have the promise that he will take us to himself.  I picture that to mean even in this day and in this earthly kingdom that where Christ is, we are called to be.  And we live in the hope and promise of being with him for all of eternity.  So even with the questions Thomas and Peter and the others had, and even with the questions we ask and hope for answers that will reassure us, we can still trust that Jesus is the way; that Jesus always tells the truth; and Jesus promises us life – abundant life, life eternal.  We are children of God, and nothing can separate us from our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, the Risen Christ.   He is our way, our truth, and our life.  That’s good news!  Let not your heart be troubled!  Alleluia, Amen.

Shepherd Me, O God

Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2017      Good Shepherd Sunday

Our text starts out by Jesus saying – very truly – or better yet, “I tell you the truth”.  Jesus always tells us the truth.  At first it sounds a bit like an Abbott and Costello routine with who’s on first – “who’s the gate, who’s the gatekeeper, whose voice,     who is the Shepherd?”  Even as Jesus makes the “I am” statements, it sounds like he  has multiple identities.  And there are other players in this scenario as well, bandits and thieves, those looking for what they can get by snatching it away.  He also notes that there are thieves and bandits out there, those who will try to steal you away from the fold.  Sometimes we are our own thieves and bandits.  We steal from ourselves when we wander off and forget to come back to be fed and nourished with others in the flock.  I wonder what you know about thieves and bandits… what steals you away from being who you want to be?  Who or what steals you from Jesus?  And what about this abundant life?  It seems like there’s at times a very fine line between what offers us abundant life and what steals life from us.

We had sheep on the farm I was raised on.  There were at least three sheep that I can say knew my voice … Ike, Skeeziks, and Emma.  I was about six when Ike was born on a wintry night in the era when Ike Eisenhower was President.  He came to the house to be warmed up and his mother refused to feed him when taken back to the lambing pen.  So he became a bottle baby and it was my job to give him the early evening bottle.  As he grew he would follow me around the barnyard from chore to chore, knowing that I usually would stop at the grain bin for a pocketful of oats.  At six, I believed he loved me because I loved him and took care of him.  Growing older, I began to realize that he probably loved me more because I fed him.  We had a relationship – they trusted me and linked me to sustaining life in those morsels of oats and pasture they grazed in.  Skeeziks and Emma were ewes in the flock, and they too sought the pocket-filled treats of oats, but did allow us to have a brief ride clutching their wool-laden backs.  They also tend to have weak hearts, and too much exertion or running can drop a sheep in their tracks.  They were easily spooked and would run themselves into corners in an effort to get away from their perceived enemy.  They were fragile creatures in many ways, and needed watching.  Because of their boxy structure, if they ended up on their side on a hillside, they could not right themselves and would suffocate.  It was the shepherd, the one tending them, who needed to come and help them get back in balance, to right them.  They also preferred to be lead than pushed or driven from behind.  They wanted the shepherd to be the one out front, making sure things were safe for them.

We may not want to see ourselves as these fragile creatures, but we get ourselves boxed in corners, too.  We sometimes have trouble getting in balance unless we have assistance to get back on our feet.  Jesus, our gate, is here to guide us, to right us and help us find our balance, to offer us food that will nourish us spiritually – more than a snack at his table, but real body and blood that fills us and strengthens us.  This gate, this shepherd knows us, calls us by name, and is with us to do battle with that which is evil and steals us from being about God’s mission and steals our very lives in ways that we sometimes can’t describe.  Jesus acts as our passage way to the abundant life that we have been promised.  Jesus says, “I am the gate.  Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jesus is the door, the gate, and Jesus knows us, calls us by name, leads us – tells us the truth. We enter the gate to God’s Kingdom through baptism, being named and claimed, made a child of God, and the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us.  Jesus Christ indeed is our Good Shepherd, and models for us how to care for God’s sheep, and how to lead.  As he is our gate – our door, so we can lead others through this gate so that we might grow in faith and grow in our own faithful serving.  There are many thieves and bandits – those things that steal us away from an abundant life… it might be the latest fad, such as those new “mud-stained” jeans that cost over $400, or food, beverages, vehicles, or electronics that promise us a better life if we only add them to our lives.

The text from Peter today speaks to us about being disciples, followers who can be about God’s work with conviction because Christ has already cleared the path, destroyed sin, death, and the devil by his sacrifice on the cross for us. Sometimes we can use the excuse, “I don’t get all this Bible language – I don’t understand what God’s trying to say to me.”  It’s baseball season, and perhaps some of us are more into baseball than others, have a team we especially root for.  One of my favorite players from years ago was Ernie Banks who played for the Cubs.  He used to say, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame … let’s play two!”  Ernie loved the game and he loved being on the field, playing through some rather dismal losing seasons and some very near challenges for the pennant.  He was always eager for the new season of spring training and those summer days of game after game, giving it his all.  We are in a variety of seasons of our lives.  Some of us are just beginning spring training; others have been playing for many innings and have had a variety of kinds of seasons – losing, struggling, elated with great hits and moving up the ladder of success.  Some have retired but still love the game and keep coming to the ball park because “it’s a beautiful day for a ballgame.” God is our manager, Jesus our coach, and regardless of what part of the season you’re in, it’s a beautiful day, week, year, lifetime for God’s game.  Let’s hustle out through the gate of Jesus Christ and play our best ball for the mission of God is in front of us, and we’re being called to give it our best effort.  There will come that day when we will be called to God’s Hall of Fame, and that’s a promise worth hustling for.  That’s an Easter Promise the Shepherd keeps for us.   AMEN

Texts:  Acts 2:42-47,  Psalm 23,  1 Peter 2:19-25,  John 10:1-10

Saved By Faith

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know it was you until someone pointed it out to you, or someone was telling a story and you began to wonder if they were telling it – hoping that you would get the point and that it was told for your benefit?

A traveler arrived at the airport, checked her bags and stopped to buy coffee and a bag of cookies that she would take with her on the flight.  The dining area was crowded, but she found a table where there was another traveler reading his newspaper while drinking his coffee.  He offered that she could join him.  She began to read a book she had brought with while drinking her coffee.  She reached into the bag of cookies on the table and enjoyed the cookie with her coffee as she read.  The man also reached into the bag and took a cookie.  She thought, “how rude.”  He didn’t even ask if he could have one.  She ate another, and so did he; she seethed inside to think that he would be so bold as to eat her cookies when she hadn’t even offered them to him.  They both reached again for a cookie in the bag, but there was only one left, and he broke it into and offered her the other half.  She was hot with fury! He finished and as he left, wished her a good flight.  She was fuming as she boarded the plane and got her carryon in the overhead compartment and sat down to ready herself for take off.  As she reached in her bag, her hand felt a bag – a bag with cookies, the cookies she had purchased with her coffee and had put in her bag to have on the flight.  She had eaten his cookies, all the while angry that he would eat hers with no invitation or offer of hospitality.  She was the sinner, the one who had taken what wasn’t hers, while he had even gone the extra mile to share the last portion with her.

It would seem that there is some of that going on with our lessons today.  In our First Reading, Nathan has to tell David a story about a poor man’s lamb being slaughtered for the meal for the rich man’s guest in order for David to begin to have some sense of what he had done in having Uriah sent to the front lines where he would surely be killed so that David could seduce Uriah’s grieving widow and have her for his wife.  David was the man!  He had authority and the Lord had already given him much.  He had wealth and power beyond all others.  Yet he wanted something more, something someone else had.  Tragically, his sin would cost him the life of the child they conceived.  Not a picture we like to sit with for very long.  But at least we read and hear that David recognizes his sin, claims it and is remorseful, repentant.  He lives with God’s judgment and though his faith is shaken, he remains faithful to God as he reigns as king.

In our Gospel lesson, Simon the Pharisees invites the itinerant preacher to be his guest at his home for dinner.  It more than like is a bit of “show and tell”, as Jesus has begun to get a reputation as he has traveled from town to town.  It would be a well set table, Roman style, with couches for the guests to recline on as they ate, their sandals removed, servants to wait on them, and likely an outer area where folks from the community could come in and make requests.  One such person enters – a “woman in the city”, we are told.  Simon is irritated – in one sense by the behavior of the woman, and in another sense, by Jesus’ response to her.  Surely if he is this prophet others are talking about, he must know just “what kind of woman she is”!  Jesus tells the story of two debtors, and as Simon gives his response, Jesus carries it to another level.  Not only has Jesus pointed out that this woman has sought forgiveness and recognizes Jesus’ authority to forgive sins, Simon has not even offered the most common of gestures of hospitality, to not offer water for bathing a traveler’s feet, no kiss of peace to a guest who has been invited in, no anointing oil that would make one smell better after having traveled dusty roads.  Simon supposed that his wealth, his rank, his authority as a Pharisee placed him in a position where he didn’t need anything or anyone – he was the man!  Yet it is the sinful one, the one with no name, who was marked by her past that comes humbly seeking to be restored, offers hospitality with gestures of gratitude.  It is this one who leaves with the peace of Christ.  Her faith in this one who was sent to forgive, heal, and restore to newness of life – this faith in this one has saved her.  Simon was so convinced in his own self-righteousness that he felt no need for forgiveness – nor did he have sincere love for others in need of such redeeming.

“Who is this who even forgives sins?” asks those who are at the table with him.  Who is this man?  Jesus indeed was not a prophet, as Simon had supposed.  Jesus is something more – he is the Messiah – the one sent to save sinners.  He eats with sinners and outcasts; he touches the untouchable; he loves the unlovable.   There is a sense here that Simon and his wealthy guests have no sense of being in need of a Messiah, a Savior.  They’re fine just as they are – in fact, they are more fine than those people “out there,” the ones who don’t fit their mold or status or station in life.

How do we receive Jesus?  Do we want to make Jesus our buddy, have him sit beside us as if we’re on equal footing?  Or do we come seeking mercy, humbling ourselves, reaching out with gratitude for what he has already done for us, and seeking once more to be forgiven as we know we fall short of the mark?  We recognize that even with our best efforts there are those things we have failed to do that we should have done, or seen ourselves a bit more righteous than others.  Are we the ones who are caught with our hand in someone else’s bag of cookies, as if they were our own?  Do we carry the marks of our past as if tattooed with all the ways we have not shown love and mercy towards others?

The Good News is that we are marked – we are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit in our baptism.  As repentant and forgiven people, we are offered the peace of Christ so that we can be reconciled with Christ and with each other.  We too are offered the peace of Christ as we are forgiven and we can go out as restored, forgiven people.  Our faith has saved us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Grace, mercy, peace, and the love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ has made us new.  It is not the law that justifies us.  It is our belief and faith in Jesus Christ that has made it possible for us to be made new and whole.  Thanks be to God!   Amen

Texts
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
Psalm 32
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3