Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Today’s text

Luke 7:36-39

One of the Pharisees invited him to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee's house and took his place at table, suddenly a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is and what sort of person it is who is touching him and what a bad name she has.'


You did not care, Jesus. You are unfazed by the tension that charged the air.

The irony is that the one who criticized you for being no prophet knew nothing of prophecy. If he had, he would have known that what glorifies God is mercy to the poor, the widow, the outcast, the alien. He would have understood that the Holy One desires mercy not sacrifice, compassion not self-righteousness.

But faith for him was a matter of division--separating the clean from the unclean, the divine from the common, the holy from the unholy, the righteous from the unrighteous.

Draw lines and stay on the ‘right side’ and all is well. Cross the line and you enter the disfavor of God and the rejection of those who know better.

His religion was a tool of prejudice, rejection, arrogance and self-aggrandizement. It was a device to lift him above the common run of men and women.

His understanding was a tool of detachment, with which he kept humanity’s crying needs at arms length, pretending he was not as needy or vulnerable as the woman weeping at your feet, Jesus.

It’s an attitude with which we are most familiar. We turn on the television and see CEOs and politicians able to accept anything except responsibility for their errors, failures and shortsightedness. Masters of the universe--then and now--are quite alike. Image control is always at the front of their minds.

Of course, denying one’s humanity and frailty is a sure way to fan mistrust, destroy relationships--and avoid receiving anything from you.

For the face you turned to the world showed little concern for purity or image control. You had nothing to give to those living the illusion of their mastery of life.

You were and are a paradigm of the prophetic faith of Isaiah and others before you who were consumed by the incomprehensible mercy and grandeur of the God who transcends our every thought and attempt to understand.

Faith in the face you reveal has nothing to do with drawing lines or separating oneself from impurity. It is about trusting an unspeakable mercy and loving each other in the holy fellowship of gratitude for what we will never fathom.

Pr. David L. Miller