June 13, 2004

Luke 7:36-50, 8:1-3

[36] One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down at the dinner table. [37] Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume [38] and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. [39] When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him."

[40] Jesus said to him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Oh? Tell me."

[41] "Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. [42] Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?"

[43] Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most."

"That's right," said Jesus. [44] Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, "Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. [45] You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn't quit kissing my feet. [46] You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. [47] Impressive, isn't it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal."

[48] Then he spoke to her: "I forgive your sins."

[49] That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: "Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!"

[50] He ignored them and said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

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[8:1] He continued according to plan, traveled to town after town, village after village, preaching God's kingdom, spreading the Message. The Twelve were with him. [2] There were also some women in their company who had been healed of various evil afflictions and illnesses: Mary, the one called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; [3] Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's manager; and Susanna—along with many others who used their considerable means to provide for the company.

 <The Message>

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 1. "You shouldn’t think so well of folks labeled by the community as not well." "You shouldn’t think so well of yourself."

 So we get the double-whammy that keeps us enthralled to external authority. We can’t trust what we think about others or what we think about our self. In both cases we will run the eternal risk of getting it wrong. Folks won’t be as good as we think them. We, ourselves, aren’t as good as we think we are. Since that is the case the choice is to trust simple goodness of others and of self (that is, love your neighbor as you love yourself).

 2. I’m still struggling with how a lot-times-zero is more than a little-times-zero. This gets us into the unenviable position of grading thankfulness. This is as problematic as trying to limit the abundance of G*O*D by setting up a zero-sum speculation. We are called to keep pressing our experiences to keep finding more and more to be open and thankful about. Here the famous story of the Taoist Farmer might be helpful.

 3. While we need to listen to the world around us reflecting ourselves back to ourselves, we also need the gift of ignoring such information. It is quite a trick, of course to try to figure out when to listen and when to ignore. A good rule of thumb is to be about the business of affirmation of the best that can be seen. In fact, to be so generous in affirmation, that we take it to the next level. From a single act of kindness or thankfulness we are able to extrapolate the forgiveness of all that hadn’t been kind or thankful. This is an amazing jump that can still be made. It will astound today just as it did in days of yore.

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