The question most college and post grad students may have asked last month and high school students have just asked, “How’d you do in your exams?” with the response varying from “aced it” to “flunked it!”
In today’s Gospel a dinner party is turned into a classroom as Jesus, a guest meant to be flattered by being invited, becomes the Master Teacher announcing test results. To Simon, the host, He says, “You’ve flunked the course!” To “a woman of the city, a sinner,” He says, “You’ve aced it!” and then Jesus dismisses her with His commencement-like blessing, “Go in peace.”
Our high school English teacher, Miss Baylson, had a distinctively grating voice that engraved her definition of “commencement” on our minds. “Commencement,” said Miss Baylson, “means ‘to begin.’ When you leave this school you are to commence to practice all we’ve tried to teach you.” Today, in the church’s dinner party setting of Holy Communion, we are guests of the Risen Christ, who comes to us through bread and cup, and, at Meal’s end, sends us forth with the same blessing He gave to “a woman of the city, a sinner,” “Go in peace.”
“Go,” to “commence to begin” to live the test Simon failed. “Go” to wherever that is, “go” to whomever you will be among; to practice the test the woman aced.
TO WASH FEET WITH OUR TEARS AND DRY THEM WITH OUR HAIR…not so much literally, but symbolically
as we carry our poured out confessions to Christ into our confessed involvement in the plight of others.
Harvey Cox, whom many came to know through his book The Secular City, began his ministry in Seoul, Korea where he worked to bring the street prostitutes to Christ.
After seven years he could not report a single convert!
When Harvey Cox saw himself as Simon looking at that woman and seeing her in Seoul’s prostitutes, seeing their sins, not his, God opened his eyes and his heart to know them not so much as sinners, but as people sinned against; they were young girls who had been sold into slavery by their fathers. "The Pharisee and Prostitute," Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington.
Isn’t that what we communing Christians, at Meal’s end, are to “go” to “commence to begin,” to be a forgiven and a forgiving people? The test “a woman of the city, a sinner” aced.
TO KISS OTHERS…again, not so much literally, but symbolically
as we carry our poured out devotion to Christ into our devoted relationship with others.
Kate Huey who writes on each week’s Scripture lessons, says today’s Gospel prompts her to tell her mother’s story about her brother Dan who is five years older than she.
When he was told he was going to have a baby bother or sister,
he announced if it was a girl he was going to throw her out the upstairs window.
Well, reports Kate Huey, the baby was a girl, and they brought me home with more than a little nervousness. Under close – very close – supervision, Dan was brought to the edge of my bassinet so that he could look down at his new baby sister. They say that a beatific smile spread across his face and his dimples were in full bloom as he said, "I didn't know she would be like THAT!" SAMUEL at ucc.org Pentecost 3, 2010, Reflection by Kate Huey
Years ago, residents in the Upper Perkiomen Valley attended a public meeting where those for and those against an issue glared and shouted at each other from opposite sides of the room. When the meeting ended, stayed Pennsylvania Germans were seen shaking hands and hugging “those hippies” they had previously shunned.
They found themselves on the same side, united by an issue.
Isn’t that what we communing Christians, at Meal’s end, “go” to “commence to begin,” to be a welcoming people who, as one marriage counselor said of the church, puts the “fun” in dysfunctional family, because Christ’s embrace of us makes it possible to embrace, if only to tolerate, one another in the dysfunctional life of the church that is Christ’s chosen family? The test “a woman of the city, a sinner” aced.
TO ANOINT OTHERS’ FEET WITH OINTMENT…again, not so much literally as symbolically
as we carry our poured out service to Christ into service to others…
at a cost that may be as costly for us as it was for the woman who gave up an alabaster jar’s ointment.
If the woman in the Gospel story was “of the night,” turning her body into a marketable item to be abused and degraded at the hands of others, she gave her only tangible gain for her lost worth as a person.
If she was a widow living off an inherited estate, she relinquished her source of security.
If she was a successful business woman, she depleted her assets.
Whatever gave her the means or the money to practice extravagantly selfless service; she was setting the example for the church to be a serving people; some of whom make the headlines as the world’s leading philanthropists, but most are unnamed servants whose service may be tending an ailing family member or neighbor, or living on a limited budget so someone may receive an education and get the job they never qualified to hold, or doing mission as it happens here with a schedule to announce the times but no fanfare
that turns the workers into stars and the work into publicity.
Communing Christians, who at Meal’s end, “go” to “commence to begin,” to serve others as Christ serves us,
a servant church of the Servant Christ. The test “a woman of the city, a sinner” aced.
So, let’s come to the Table in the church and every table in our homes or restaurants - or wherever we eat in the company of others, and celebrate our eating and our time together as a Gospel-like dinner party with Jesus. AMEN.