Homily: June 12, 2016
June 12, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar
In our gospel reading today,
we are at a dinner thrown by a Pharisee,
whose guests are likely as prominent in the community as he is.
At the center of this meal is Jesus,
the young prophet about whom everyone is talking.
Expectations, no doubt, are high.
This is more than simply a dinner;
it is, in a sense, a salon,
a gathering of the respected and respectable
to discuss important matters.
Into this gathering comes this woman.
Except she doesn’t just come into the gathering.
She interrupts it.
First by her mere presence.
She is, after all, a sinner.
We don’t know the precise nature of her sin.
But its obvious everyone else there does!
Her sin must’ve been public
and it must’ve been monumental.
Then to make matters worse,
she lavishes attention upon Jesus, the guest of honor.
She stands behind him weeping,
and proceeds to clean his feet,
washing them with her tears,
drying them with her hair,
finally applying ointment she has brought.
How does she think she can get away with this?
What prompts such audacity?
Jesus, apparently, has no doubt about
what has prompted her display of extravagant hospitality and extreme devotion.
“Who do you think would be more grateful,” Jesus asks,
a man whose debt of five hundred denarii was cancelled or the one forgiven fifty?
Who the heck knows what a denarius is?
Just know that the first man is forgiven ten times the debt that the other is.
The obvious analogy is to the woman who has been bathing his feet with tears.
She apparently has been forgiven much, perhaps ten times what others have been forgiven.
This explains why she is devoting herself to Jesus,
weeping as she does.
She is overcome by gratitude,
the kind of gratitude which can be understood only
by someone who has been given everything.
But is forgiveness really everything?
Can it possibly be worth that much?
forgiveness at heart is the restoration of relationship.
It is releasing any claim on someone else for some past injury or offense.
That’s why the analogy to a debt works so well.
Forgiveness cancels relational debt and opens up the future.
Which is why it’s so important, so valuable.
But it’s also something more.
Forgiveness also gives us back ourselves.
After a while, being indebted, owing others,
knowing yourself first and foremost as a sinner –
these realities come to dominate and define us.
We become no more and no less than what we’ve done,
the mistakes we’ve made, the debt we owe.
When we are forgiven,
all of those limitations disappear.
We are restored, renewed, set free.
So, yes, forgiveness is everything.
After his exchange with Simon,
Jesus turns and addresses the woman directly,
saying “your sins are forgiven.”
I think we typically take such pronouncements
in a present-tense kind of way,
assuming that Jesus is offering forgiveness right in that moment,
as a response to the woman’s devotion
and, perhaps, supplication.
But in this case I don’t think that’s how it played out.
I think that Jesus had already met this woman,
already forgiven her sins,
and that she is now demonstrating her extreme gratitude,
unable to hold back,
unaware or uncaring of the surprise and stares
and even disapproval of everyone else.
Just to make sure she realizes that this new reality
that has broken her heart with its beauty is real,
Jesus says again,
“your sins are forgiven.”
Some things, you see,
are so good it’s hard to believe they’re true.
And so Jesus repeats the words of forgiveness
that they may sink deep into her broken and reborn heart.
She needed the assurance of forgives from another person.
It’s a great story, isn’t it?
And here’s the thing. It’s not over.
It happens again every time
We take an honest look at ourselves
And say to ourselves
“God forgives me.
I am forgiven.
I forgive myself”
That’s why we keep on confessing our sins
Weekly during the worship service.
It’s not because we aren’t yet forgiven-
It’s that the wonderful and ever present fact of God’s forgiveness
hasn’t fully sunk in yet.
Its not really the clergy who forgives our sins
When we confess them-
We just proclaim the word of forgiveness.
It is God who does the forgiving.
But as we can see both from King David’s life
And from this gospel story,
Forgiveness needs to be embodied,
By someone human.
David has his prophet Nathan
Who both accused and then assured David
After he committed adultery with Bathesheba,
Got her pregnant,
Then had her husband killed.
The sinner woman and perhaps Simon the Pharisee had their in-the-flesh Jesus
In both cases,
The presence of someone actually there-
Prompted the whole forgiveness experience.
Wherever there are people
There are hurt feelings,
Sometimes heinous crimes,
Like David’s adultery and assassination.
But just as surely
Wherever there is forgiveness
There is also someone human there
Who will do that for you?
Will it be a priest,
A family member?
You yourself even?
Who will make forgiveness a living reality for you?
All three work.
So we’ll be doing the confession and absolution as usual in a few minutes
But for now,
in memory of this audacious woman,
Her oil, Her hair,
Her weeping, Her forgiveness,
repeat after me:
“God forgives me.
I am forgiven.
I forgive myself”