Now, I also do this because Jesus tended to eat and drink with folks, a lot. So much so he was even accused of being a drunkard, see Luke 7:33-35. Jesus used the time where people relax and socialize, times when they often feel the most community, to teach love, forgiveness, acceptance, and grace (Luke 6:37-38). Therefore, what better place for me to hone and refine my sermons then in a bar? It's a great place to strike up a conversation and tell someone about Jesus, plus there's beer. What could be better?
Enough of an introduction, let's get to the beer and the sermon. Here's last weeks sermon editing beer: Boulevard Brewing Company's Coffee Ale:
This beer is delicious!!!!! It has a wonderful coffee aroma and great balance of coffee and beer flavors. I even got a hint of chocolate in there, which we all know how well coffee and chocolate go together. However, since it is an Ale and not a Stout, it is not thick and has a refreshing drinking sensation. Now, I love me some good Stout most of the time, but there is a time and place for everything under heaven. I usually try a different beer every week , but I might just have to get another one of these.
So, that was last week's beer. Here is last week's sermon for Pentecost 4, Proper 6, Year C:
“She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair.” Luke 7:38
May I speak with you in the Name of God; who invites us all to receive forgiveness. Amen
Our gospel passage this morning is full of shocking invitations. First, Jesus accepts an invitation to a large dinner at a pharisee’s house. This is shocking because already in the Book of Luke tension between the pharisees and Jesus has started to mount. Now we don’t know the motivations of Simon the pharisee. Was he looking to learn from Jesus, possibly even become a disciple? Was he looking to trap Jesus in some breach of custom or the law of Moses? We don’t know, all we know is that when Jesus is invited, even by a potential enemy, he accepts the invitation. Consequently, when we call upon Jesus, when we invite God incarnate into our lives--no matter if we are a sinner, a saint, or both--we can be confident Jesus will accept the invitation.
Now, Jesus does not verbally invite the sinful woman to wash his feet nor anoint his head. But let’s ponder this woman’s courage for a moment. First off this is a small town culture. We might find it hard to connect with the small town worldview living in Omaha, but you need to know that in small towns everyone knows everyone’s business. Luke doesn’t name the woman’s sin, but he say that her sin is known. She is notorious. She is shamed. Believe me when I tell you shame in a small town is an intense and weighty burden to carry. This woman walks into a room where people probably stare and openly gauk at her audacity, where people whisper and point, maybe even sneer and scoff.
Yet, when she enters the room, she must be sure. Something must know something that confirms that her offering will be accepted, that Jesus will welcome her.
Now, it’s a big risk for her to take. Women weren’t supposed to talk to men in public, much less touch them. So, when this notorious, shamed, woman is touching the honored guest of the dinner, she probably risked the pharisee dragging her out of the house by her hair and beating her, and that being alright with everyone in town.
Yet, again she must be really sure. Something within her assures her the offering will be accepted.
This leads me to believe that Jesus lived invitation. His existence, his words, his actions, his very breath offered an invitation to the woman. Jesus’ way of being gave her the confidence that she would be welcome and her offering accepted. Without saying a word Jesus instills faith in her that she would be forgiven. Would that we all live in a way so that others would just know that God loves them and forgives them, welcomes them and accepts them.
That’s the message that Jesus invites Simon the Pharisee to learn. Jesus invites him to listen to a parable first, telling of two people each forgiven debts, one large one small. Jesus asks a question with an obvious answer: Who values the forgiveness more? Simon offers the obvious and right answer, the one who was forgiven more. Now we might think that when Jesus turns to the woman and forgives her that she is the one with the greater sin. In a way, she is, but Jesus gives a scathing critique of the pharisee’s hospitality. It is a big deal for Jesus to blast Simon for being inhospitable. Hospitality codes were of major important. Jesus might have been saying that the Simon presumed he was righteous and the woman as impure all the while it is Simon who is failing to live up to code. I think Jesus is using a rhetorical devise to say the pharisee is the bigger sinner. Jesus uses his observation of Simon’s neglect to strip away Simon's pretense of self-justification and the arrogance and hostility that emerge from it.
Now, there is something for us to learn here, especially those of us like me who grew up in the church. I started going to church nine months before I was born. I have been involved in almost every aspect of Church life and church communities that there is from various traditions and regions of the country. When I was 13, I was too old for our vacation bible school, but since I was the preacher's kids I had to be there...such is the way things go in a small town. So, my dad had me work in the kitchen. Like a host of Southern Baptist congregations, the kitchen was run by the senior matriarchs of the congregation. The kitchen was run like a top too, the swiss army had nothing on these ladies. The attention to detail and the level of precision these ladies brought to their ministry was a glorious and beautiful thing. However, throwing me in there was like sending a pacifist to an NRA convention, one of these things was not like the other. Now, it took some doing, and I had to use every ounce of charm that my 13 year self possessed, but by the end of the week they literally made me an honorary kitchen lady.
I also remember a business meeting we had at that same church about that same time. My dad brought up an evangelism project for the congregation to talk about and there was absolutely no discussion. I mean crickets. The next topic of business was new doors for the church and an hour and half fight broke out over glass versus wood. I mean it almost came to blows. I still to this day do not know what glass or wood doors have to do with Jesus, but some of my brother and sister christians sure had some serious opinions about it. Now, I’m not telling those stories to brag. I am saying that I get how churches and more specifically how church people work because I am one of them and have decades of experience immersed in the depths of Church life. If anyone can say, “I’m a church going Christian,” it’s me. If anyone could say, “My righteousness if justified by my church attendance and membership,” it’s me. But as we heard from the apostle Paul this morning, “we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.” We cannot be justified by our membership or affiliation, by our history or our tradition. We can only be justified by faith in Jesus the Christ.
Furthermore, the challenge for us all, including and especially me, is to realize that we live in a generation where more and more people didn’t grow up in church. More and more people are not intuitively aware when to kneel or when to cross themselves. More and more people have never heard of the either the New or the Old Testament. More specifically, less and less people know the current Book of Common Prayer from 1979 is the so called “new prayerbook.” To bring it home to our community, more and more people aren’t aware of whose pew to avoid and whose seat not to take at lunch. And I believe this phenomenon is the greatest opportunity the church has had in at least fifty years, maybe longer.
Remember the outcast woman we were talking about earlier, the one Jesus lifted out of her shame in order to shame the pharisee. Now, in this day and age, we get the chance to live like Jesus. We get the chance to not be concerned about who sits where and whether the carpet is red or blue or cool-ade stained as it ought to be. We get the chance to be about Jesus, to practice prayer, worship, and scripture in a way that welcomes all into every aspect of our church life. Especially this year, as we embark on our Year of Invitation as part of the Unbinding the Gospel Series, we get the opportunity to live invitingly and to welcome any and all into every aspect of our church life. From the vestry to the choir, from the altar guild to st. Teresa’s Guild, from the garden to the kitchen, from the Core Outreach to the Purls let it be known that all are welcome to meet Christ here. Let it be known, my brothers and sisters, that no matter what we are doing it’s about Christ and Christ welcomes all.
But to live that way we must accept Christ’s invitation to forgiveness. We must come to this altar stripped of our pride and self righteousness. We must come to this table bare and unburden by self justification. We must come into God’s presence acutely humbled by our shame and sinfulness. We must come and accept Jesus’ invitation to make an offering confident that it will be accepted. We must come and experience forgiveness in the Body and Blood of Christ’s sacrifice; so that we can go out there into a world just as broken and battered as we are and BE christ’s invitation to wholeness and holiness of life. My brothers and sisters, Jesus invites you today to accept his invitation to be forgiven, his invitation to be inviting. Will you accept Jesus’ invitation?