A Revolution of Grace: Week 3

Luke 7:36-50 NASB Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. (37) And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, (38) and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. (39) Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." (40) And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher." (41) "A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denari, and the other fifty. (42) "When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" (43) Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly." (44) Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (45) "You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. (46) "You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. (47) "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (48) Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." (49) Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?" (50) And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

I would venture that most of us have never known anyone who eats peas with a knife. It sounds like quite a feat. It sounds more like the beginnings of a food fight or youth group game. But Pastor King Duncan shared Cori's story about this very thing.

Cori's mom grew up during the Depression. Her family was poor, like much of the rest of the country, but they had a vegetable garden that kept them from starving. Strangers passing through town in search of work were welcome at their table. They never turned anyone away hungry. One day, her father brought home a man named Henry. Henry didn't know much English, but his gestures of gratitude toward the family were easy to understand. At dinner that evening, the family waited to let Henry start his meal first. Eagerly, he grabbed up his knife and dug into his peas. The children in the family were astonished. Henry had an amazing ability to balance all the peas on his knife perfectly. The children began to giggle at this strange eating habit. But the father of the family, giving his children a silencing look, picked up his own knife and began eating his peas. Although he had much less success than Henry, he kept at it and eventually captured every last pea. That day, Cori's mother saw a concrete example of acceptance, of treating people with dignity, in spite of our differences. And now, years later, that message has been passed down to her children and her grandchildren. Who knows how many generations will learn from the example of a father's acceptance of a man who ate peas with his knife? (1)

Go with me now to our Scripture for the day. A Pharisee invited Jesus to come to his home for lunch. Jesus accepted. As they sat down to eat, a woman who had led a sinful life heard Jesus was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume. Now, a party in those days was a public event. Homes had open courts, and the uninvited could stand around and observe the guests and the festivities. This woman knelt behind Jesus weeping, with her tears falling upon his feet. In those days it was forbidden to unbind your hair and only loose women did so, and yet this woman not only unbound her hair, but she used her hair to wipe her tears off of Jesus' feet. Then she kissed Jesus' feet and poured the perfume on them. Now understand, religious leaders such as the Pharisee and Jesus weren't even supposed to touch a woman if possible. Doing so would pollute them. When Jesus' host saw what was happening, he thought to himself, "This proves that this man is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!"

Philip Yancy noted in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew,” how today, the church is more often associated with the respectable people than the outcast. Yet, this story is typical of the life of Jesus throughout the Bible. The respectable kept him most often at arm's length and the outcasts regularly sought him out. Books titled, “Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary”, “The Unchurched Next Door,” and “Jim and Casper Go To Church” are just a few of the titles that highlight how separate people who regularly go to church are from those who don't. And so Yancey asks the question, “What was Jesus' secret that we have lost?” (Pg 149)

The answer in one word is Grace.

One person in Yancey's book talked about how unappealing grace actually is to her. She notes that she would prefer the old joke, “I wish they'd stop worrying about whether or not I exist and start obeying my commandments!” Many Christians come to feel the same way about faith. The church takes on a more business mindset and we focus on measurable outcomes and good investments. Our spiritual growth in pop-Christianity is measured in achievables.

Jesus, however, looked at the breakables – our heart, our spirit, our soul.

When a leper came to Jesus – Jesus wasn't made unclean – the leper left whole. When the woman came to Jesus in her immoral – sinful state – she left forgiven.

I remember as a teenager, going to a Methodist Children's Home in Kentucky. It was at a time before “Safe Sanctuary” programs and “Youth Protection Certification.” Those in our ministry would actually share a room with a teenager in the Children's Home. We would get up with them, spend the day with the them. We became, for one week, residents. Something about that struck a chord and it forever has kept my mind drifting to the breakables in our lives and world. As a youth pastor, I had this crazy idea that maybe Spring Break could be a time for missions rather than beach parties. No one thought that would work, but 15 of us went to homeless shelters in Baltimore. Six years later, almost 50 were in rural Florida working for welfare recipients.

Jesus' mission was a mission about grace. The story of the woman and the pharisee highlights the resurrected Jesus that you and I have the chance to met is NO DIFFERENT than the one who living on this planet before his crucifixion. He is out of our control – seeking out those who are most broken, most willing to be broken. As the saying goes, you've got break a few eggs before you can make the omelet!

At times I've wondered about the vision of Crossroads – this commitment to one loving act at a time. If we changed it, tweaked it, maybe even let that go, would more people come? Maybe, but then we wouldn't be Crossroads either and, I think, might lose what we value the most – a people needing grace offering grace, one act at a time.

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