Here is the text version of yesterday’s sermon. I did edit on the fly because I had about 15 minutes to preach instead of the 18 we had scheduled. That is both the joy and the burden of being live on television each week. If I care for the congregation who worships through tv, then trying to make sure they get the whole of the sermon is important and means that sometimes I have to be more succinct than I would like. Then again, maybe that is a very good thing!! I attempt to give credit where credit is due. I think I could preach on this topic for several weeks. Here is the video link to the service.
I was in a meeting where we were talking about leadership. The conversation was around “Good enough” It was an interesting conversation. What does it mean to be good enough. When is what we do good enough? What is the one thing we wish our parents had said to us? Growing up? What do we wish we had heard our parents say as adults? Mostly everyone said they wish they had heard they were good enough, that they were loved and this was okay to fail, to make mistakes. That was interesting conversation and one I have pondered again and again particularly as I wrestled with our scripture this week. How often do people use words or actions to point out why someone else is not good enough, is flawed, has problems or isn’t acceptable. look at our scripture today…it begins with the complaints of people about Jesus and John.
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners! (Luke 7:3-34)
John is too good and Jesus is not good enough. John comes to them with all kinds of spiritual disciplines and they complain, Jesus does the opposite, parties and hangs out with undesirables and people don’t like that either. In fact it’s ridiculous who Jesus hangs out with, prostitutes, tax collectors, undesirable people, with questionable reputations and backgrounds. But it isn’t like he doesn’t get invitations to do exactly that: eat and drink with sinners AND with reputable people, with Pharisees, or for our purposes the religious leaders, the leaders of the community, the people you want to be seen with, you want these people to know your name and to invite you to their events. One of these leaders, Simon, invites Jesus to dinner. At this dinner, an uninvited guest shows up…not just any guest a woman…with a reputation. It doesn’t say what….but she certainly raises eyebrows and isn’t someone who is welcome in such a setting. First, women didn’t eat at the same table with the men, it just wasn’t done. Second, she uncovered her hair. Now that doesn’t matter that much for us, but there are still Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions where women’s heads are to be covered. She takes down her hair, uses a beautiful ointment, bathes his feet with that ointment and her tears and wipes it with her hair. In general, she is making a spectacle of herself. It was shocking and uncomfortable for the men at the table. Simon is thinking to himself, if Jesus knew who she was, really was, if knew how bad she was, what her reputation was, he wouldn’t let her near you. Simon was judging her and Jesus…She was not good enough to be with the men at the table, she was not good enough to be in Jesus presence, was not good enough to touch him.
Jesus, knowing what is going on tells a story. Simon wants to get it right, wants to show he is good enough, that he knows stuff. In today’s terms, it goes like this: there are 2 debtors, one owes just under 2 years salary the other just under 2 months salary. The creditors cancels both their debts. Who do you think loved the creditor more? The answer the one that had the greatest debt!! Right. Here I find myself knowing what is coming next…oh Simon you are so set up! When Jesus points out the woman, the hospitality she offered Jesus that Simon did not….no water for his feet, no oil for his hair, not the basic amenities expected when one was a guest Jesus points out what mercy and forgiveness and grace look like in one who had been outcast.
You see Simon didn’t think that woman was good enough, Simon was looking down upon her from his religious superiority and was wallowing in how he was better….And I, I in my own sense of the superiority am thinking the same thing about Simon. How we work to be good enough at the expense of others being left out, or looked down upon so I, we can feel superior.
Jesus continues to point out how the religious leaders of the day were constantly making judgments about people and in doing so, forgetting that following the law or the rituals was not the only thing important about faith…indeed, Loving God and Loving others is the bottom line, but it seems that they and we get caught up in the definitions…what does it really mean and how do I know whether I am getting it right or if I am good enough or if I have done everything I need to do in order to be perfect, to be loved, to be cared for, to fit in, to make it. Today, there is a mission lunch benefitting the Raise My Head Foundation. This organization is the passion of one of our members Vicki Bond, it’s purpose is to provide a residential community program for women breaking free of sex trafficking, addiction and homelessness. Talk about human beings who have been surrounded with an understanding that they are not good enough. These women have been used and abused in ways many of us can never understand. They have been treated as property and Raise My Head provides a place where they can heal, where they can learn and where they can find a life of freedom and health.
This Christian organization lives out this scandalous good news of Jesus, you are forgiven, you are free, you are beloved. Again and Again Jesus pushed back against the religious institutions of his day, against the culture of his day and with word and action stated that all people were good enough, that all people were worthy of love and grace and forgiveness. Jesus lived out the real truth that God loves the people who are overlooked and left out. Paul describes it this way: Christ is our peace and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between the groups that were far off and those who were near:
you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Ephesisans 2: 19-20)
That would have been shocking for Simon the Pharisee and those around that table…how could this woman be part of the household of God, how could Jesus treat her the same as he was treating them, the leaders, the faithful, the righteous and holy ones….
Because Jesus lived out the reality that everyone of us is good enough….everyone of us can receive and know mercy, forgiveness, peace, grace and love. Jesus looks that woman in the eyes and basically says…I don’t care what you have heard, I don’t care what others have said, In God’s eyes you are good enough, you are loved enough, and you are forgiven. Grace is yours.
Isn’t that what we all want. We drive ourselves so that others will know we are good enough, smart enough, strong enough, successful enough, perfect enough. In doing so, we often try to find ways to point out in what ways others are not: Think about all the generational talk about millenianal and boomers, Gen Xers and Generation Y, we say snarky things because of course our generation is the better one!
Even in the life of the church, we tend to judge on whether or not we think someone is good enough….The church itself draws the lines….you are in and you are out. you are good you are bad….you are good enough, you are not. That isn’t what Jesus says and in fact when Jesus criticizes, I hate to say it, it’s about folks like me and like you. The ones that try so hard to be good enough, that I, we, begin to act and believe we are in, we are superior, we are better. Nothing could be further from the truth….what we have been given is grace, not exclusive grace, but grace that is available to all people in all places and in all times. How do we live it out? Like the woman Jesus’ feet, perhaps first and foremost we need to experience grace and mercy forgiveness. We need to pour out our fears and loneliness, our sins and sorrow at the feet of Jesus. We need to acknowledge what we have done in order to feel good enough, to be perfect enough, to be successful enough. We need to acknowledge how we keep others out in order that we might be in, that we put others down in order that we might be up, that we exclude others in order to feel better about ourselves.
Hear the good news of the gospel my friends….You are forgiven….mercy is for all of us, Grace is sufficient for all our needs, God loves us and because of that good news, we are called to offer the same for others. The challenge is, of our course, to view all people as Jesus does, that all people, all people are beloved children of God, that all people are good enough, for they are our brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter our age, our gender, our race, our ethnic background, our sexual orientation, our maritial status, our immigrant status, our social or economic status, whether we have money or not, ALL people are beloved children of God, members of the household of faith, made one through the gift of Jesus Christ.
This week my friends, may we view every person we meet as beloved son and daughter of God. May we look into their eyes and know they are our brothers and sisters. May God “Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us. Teach us as sister brother each person to embrace. Be present Lord among us and bring us to believe, we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.” (from the United Methodist Hymnal, Help Us Accept Each Other, #560, Fred Kaan words)