Sunday, June 12, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Stories. They’re what make up life. We were created to communicate with one another and to share our stories. Maybe that’s why movies are so popular. The Disney movie, Finding Nemo, as I mentioned in the children’s sermon is one that reminds me of the faith of the woman in today’s gospel story. Dory, in Finding Nemo – took chances and risks, yet Marlin was always worried and played it safe all the time. That is until he met Dory. And on that fateful day when things were so uncertain he asked her, “How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?” Dory said, “I don’t.” But that didn’t stop her from taking the risk to try and find Nemo.
Thrivent Representative, Ron Louder, is with us today and the Thrivent slogan on the banner is Live Generously and Positive Change Begins by Taking Action. These words are so fitting to the story in today’s gospel (and we didn’t even plan it that way; yet the Holy Spirit it seems had a plan in it.) The story we hear today is about a woman taking a chance, perhaps the chance of a lifetime. You see, she – like Dory- was an outcast. In the movie, Marlin said about Dory, “There’s something wrong with her.” They people in the city said the same thing about the woman in our story. She was known in the city as a sinner. It wasn’t written down what kind of sin she was guilty of – although over the years people have assumed they were certain sins and so the stories began – but one thing we do know was that everyone was talking about the stories about her. They all said there was something wrong with her. She had a reputation of being someone you shouldn’t be seen around. She was looked down on by the rest of society – even the devoted religious communities and their leaders. They only saw this woman for her sins.
And she- like many people today – began to believe the stories being told about her. She began to believe that she wasn’t worthy of love and belonging, that she wasn’t good enough like the rest of the religious community, that her life was never going to amount to anything spectacular. And so she kept to herself. She was lonely and she came to believe that this was the way her life was always going to be. Until one day….
She heard about Jesus. Our story doesn’t tell us where or when, but she heard about Jesus and the things he spoke about. She heard about the healings that he brought about. And she heard that he was eating in Simon, the Pharisee’s house. He was a well-respected leader and she was an outcast – a woman who in our story isn’t even respected enough to mention her name – but Jesus was going to be at his house and she decided to take action. She was going to take a chance.
It was a big chance she took that day going into the house with all those important people there- particular Jesus. People were telling stories about her – and not good ones – and she ran the risk of being thrown out and even worse killed. She could have been stoned to death at that time for doing what she did. But this woman decided that an encounter with Jesus was worth the risk. Jesus was there and it was the chance of a lifetime. So she brought an expensive alabaster jar filled with ointment – maybe the most expensive thing she owned – and she went in the house where Jesus was and….in his presence she felt something. He didn’t even have to say a word, but she could feel the love that emanated from him. She could feel that he did not judge her. She could feel his forgiveness and grace even without him saying a single word. And she was overwhelmed by this encounter with Jesus and began to weep. And she kept on weeping until her tears bathed his feet. Then she took the only thing she had – her hair – and began to dry them. Then she kissed his feet and anointed them with oil. This encounter with Jesus – without the exchange of words – changed her life forever. And she couldn’t help but overflow with a generosity of thankfulness expressed in her actions. She took action when she heard Jesus was going to be there. She took a chance – a great risk – and she experienced a more than positive change in her own life. She experienced a transformation.
You’d think the rest of the people in the room would have been moved to tears themselves, but that wasn’t the case. They were stuck in the same story that they were used to telling. “This woman is a sinner. She has no business being here. Jesus shouldn’t even be talking to her. If he really were a prophet he would have never allowed this kind of action to take place.” And the talk continued. They knew only one story. We’re good. She’s bad.
But Jesus tried to help them to see a different story. They only saw her great sin, but not her great love and gratitude. They only saw her great sin and not their own lack of hospitality and generosity. Jesus was right there in their midst offering the same forgiveness, grace, and love to them, but they didn’t respond with generosity, because they couldn’t see who Jesus really was. And they couldn’t see it because they didn’t see themselves clearly. They were sinners in need of a Savior who was right there among them and they didn’t even see it. The faith of the woman however, saw Jesus. And the response when you experience Jesus is nothing short of extravagant generosity.
We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We – like Nemo – are all lost. We are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves, but Jesus is the Savior we need who can and has freed us through the cross. He lived, and died, and rose again from the dead so that we would have eternal life. He offers us forgiveness, acceptance, love, mercy, and grace upon grace. Jesus offers us an extravagant amount of grace, and once we really take that in then we too can’t help but be overcome with emotion and tears. We may have challenges in our life, things may not be easy for us, disappointments will come, heartache will hit us, but Jesus will stay with us every step of the way. That is what faith assures us. That is what faith motivates us to do. It compels us to take chances and risks for the sake of Jesus, because Jesus risked everything for us. We have been given an abundance of grace and love by being accepted and embraced into living a life as disciples of Jesus. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” This is reason to live a life of generosity just like Jesus.
Jesus gave generously – all he had in order to save us and bring us back to God. We who are called to be disciples of Jesus are asked to give generously of ourselves too. If Dory and Marlin in the story Finding Nemo never took risks, they never would have found Nemo. If the woman in our story today never took a risk, she never would have encountered Jesus. We need to have the faith to take risks too in order to encounter Jesus. And we don’t have far too look because Jesus is here among us and in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Starting today don’t be afraid to take risks and chances for the sake of the gospel. Don’t let a single opportunity go by without trying. Have the courage to risk making mistakes and live generously. Make each day matter. Live a life of generously loving and accepting all people with the love of Jesus. Live a life of generously using your gifts and talents to show others that Jesus cares for them. Live a life of generously giving of your time to the needs of others Live a life of generously giving of the finances God has blessed you with to the work of the church so that God’s mission may be spread through this congregation. Live a life of generously telling the story of how much Jesus means to you every day so that others can know him too. Invite someone to worship with us next Sunday. Invite them to an encounter with Jesus. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts individually and as a community of faith this week to make every moment count by giving glory to God. Every day we have the chance of a lifetime to encounter Jesus. Live it generously. Amen!