Monday, June 14, 2010

Sermon for Proper 6, June 13

Maybe I'm adopting a different style of sermon-writing, but this is two weeks in a row that I've written an almost-manuscript sermon ~ so I might as well post it for the three of you who might be interested.

With the recognition that a sermon is not the written word but what happens in the midst of the interaction between preacher and community, and with apologies because the line breaks and indents from my word processing document that help what's written make better sense don't translate into this blogging software, here's last Sunday's sermon.

The Gospel text was Luke 7:36-8:3

We all do it ~ it’s how we make sense of the world
we put people into categories
we label each other, often based on those many factors
that aren’t even essential to who we are
it starts early
I remember the distinct groups in high school
jocks, kickers, stoners, smart kids
and the group I fit in, band nerds
but it starts earlier than that ~ we were already starting to segregate ourselves in middle school
if nothing else, there were the cool kids, and the not-cool kids
and it started earlier than that ~ there were even distinct groups in the very earliest grades
which were probably based on where we lived,
and where we went swimming ~ country club, stock pond, or not at all

but it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it, for us to categorize one another
and to categorize ourselves
it’s how we make sense of the world,
it’s how we know where we belong

So we’re not completely surprised
when Simon labels this woman immediately after she enters his house
he’s categorizing her, based on what, the text doesn’t say
maybe it’s the way she’s dressed
maybe it’s the way she acts
maybe he knows her in a different context

but Simon judges her, judges her a sinner
and judges Jesus by his association with this sinner
and the judgment, at least in part, is probably accurate
consider that Simon is a Pharisee,
one of that group who is particularly concerned with keeping the law
and in this brief encounter,
Jesus has allowed himself to become ritually unclean
he allows this woman, to whom he’s not married, to touch him ~ that’s generally frowned upon in his context
and beyond that, she’s probably works in the sex industry
(that’s how Simon could identify her so easily ~ she very well could be a prostitute)

so now, to Simon (and probably the others around the table)
the woman, who is an unclean sinner,
has just made Jesus unclean, too
and Simon has something to say about it, even if it is under his breath

Simon is just like the rest of us
as soon as he sees her, he categorizes her
and as soon as he categorizes her, he judges her
we all do the same thing, none of us is exempt
remember, this is one way we make sense of the world
one way we find the place where we belong
by categorizing ourselves over against others

Simon immediately judges her, without recognizing
that Jesus seems to have already judged her … as forgiven
without boring you too much with greek
the verb for his forgiveness of her
tells us that it happened in the past
and that the effects of the forgiveness continue in the present
her sins have been forgiven … already,
not based on tears and perfume
it looks like she was forgiven before she ever came into the house

we have to be careful here,
because forgiveness can be dangerous business
forgiveness upends the world, throws everything out of kilter
at least out of the kilter that we’re comfortable with

see, we don’t usually want forgiveness
well, we want forgiveness for ourselves
we want to be forgiven for our sins, probably because they’re not really that bad anyway
we’re not like them,
those other people whose sins are much worse than ours

we tend to want mercy for ourselves and justice for others
that we don’t seem to see our own shortcomings

we’ll condemn immigrants coming across the border without documents,
looking for a better life like our ancestors did
while we complain if the price of produce rises too much

we call for justice for the oil executives,
but fail to recognize that our demand for cheap gasoline to fuel our cars makes us complicit in the gulf oil spill

we tend to want forgiveness for ourselves
while we look for justice for other people

When we see those others, them, the ones who are sinners
or at least who are worse sinners than we are
when we see them receive forgiveness
it throws us for a loop

what did they do to deserve forgiveness?
why do they receive what rightfully ought to be mine?
they’re not in the same group as I am ~ they shouldn’t get what I get …

we only tend to want the kind of justice that we ourselves have no need of
we only want justice for other people
saving mercy and forgiveness for ourselves

radical forgiveness, the kind Jesus shows us, upends our world
forgiveness is destabilizing
forgiveness destroys our categories, breaks down the borders between us and them
and that’s problematic,
because we need our categories to make sense of the world

yet where we long for judgment and justice
for those who are so deserving,
God speaks a different word

Our justice and our judgment are on a collision course
with God’s mercy and forgiveness
and forgiveness wins

In contrast to Simon’s judgment of her as a sinner
Jesus has already judged her as forgiven
and she knows it
she knows it not just in her head, but in the depths of her being
she knows she is a sinner, and that she is forgiven,
and this is the story of her response,
her gratitude, her thankfulness

what Jesus seems to have done is to create a new category
forgiven child of God
this is how God makes sense of the world
this is where she, and we find a place to belong
alongside the other sinners
hearing God’s word to you and to me
God’s word of forgiveness and mercy
spoken into the midst of our community
and into the depths of our being

this, people of God
here, in the body of Christ, is where we belong
and this baptismal belonging is becoming
the very essence of everything we are.



No comments:

Post a Comment