Sermons 2007
"In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Proper 6C 2007 Luke 7:36-50

In the late upleasantness in Southeast Asia, better known as the Viet Nam War, there were several institutions in the entrepreneurial infrastructure, for lack of a better description. These institutions were generally known as massage parlors. And some of them actually were. I have to admit that, having been an innocent or simply na´ve about many things for much of my life, I was never in one, massage parlor or otherwise. In fact the first massage I ever had was at the Homestead in 1986, the year Pauli and I were married and her Leaders’ Real Estate Agent reward conference was there. It was a deep Swedish style massage for an hour and I loved every minute of it. And when I become creaky these days, I seek out shiatsu massage.

One of the most sensual parts of a massage can be when the feet are being massaged. The toes in particular seem to take on a permanent tingle. Especially when we’ve been on our feet for a long time.

No doubt it was this way with Jesus that day in Galilee. He and his disciples had been tramping up and down the hard hills of Palestine, their sore feet dirty and raw from the heavy road dust and grit that filtered through the straps of their sandals. One of the rules of hospitality in those days and in that place was to offer a guest water to wash their feet from the large stone urns kept for that purpose just inside the entry door of every house. Including the house of Simon the Pharisee, where Jesus had been invited to eat that day.

Jesus, frequent yet frequently notorious dinner guest, was at the top of Simon's list of invitees. While the list of invited guests was small, Simon's courtyard was open to all, so the crowd was large. While dinner guests reclined on couches to eat, hangers-on sat against the walls and waited. Into this expectant gathering came one of the town's notorious women. She made her way to Jesus. (1)

There was so much at stake, not only for her but for everyone : Jesus' response would be critical; Simon's reputation as a host hung in the balance.

It was incredible. This untouchable wretched person had come into a good man's house, defiling his hospitality, and now she was touching his guest of honor in ways that scandalized everyone who saw it. There was yet more scandal. She let down her hair and used it to wipe Jesus' now perfumed and tear-soaked feet. Still Jesus said nothing as she continued to weep and kiss his feet.

Simon the Pharisee and everyone else in the room were scandalized and outraged. Who wouldn’t be, even today. Imagine the body language of the people around the table. Jesus and the Pharisees are reclining, or sitting at the table. Perhaps the Pharisees become tense and rigid with suspicion as the woman "of the city," a sinner, enters. She might have crept in quietly, or, gathering courage, pushed her way through the obvious layers of disapproval. She stood behind Jesus weeping holding an alabaster jar of precious oils, then she bent over and knelt down, while flow of oil and tears begins. She moved side to side, as she brushed her hair over Jesus' feet, wiping away her tears, loving him who understands and forgives her. (2)

Jesus then told a parable about two men who owed debts to a lender—one for money for a donkey, the other for finances to purchase a house. The lender forgave both debts when they couldn’t repay him. "Which one loved the lender most?" asked Jesus. (1) Simon answered reluctantly, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” But he and the other Pharisees were upset and offended when Jesus forgave the woman her sins.

Jesus understood the woman's acts as gratitude for forgiveness already received and Simon's lack of appreciation as evidence of little forgiveness received. So the story does not teach only that those who love much are forgiven much, but that those who need forgiveness the most will be forgiven the most. This is pure grace. This is the heart of the Gospel: God comes to us on God's own initiative with free forgiveness, and when we realize this and accept it, gratitude overflows in extravagant deeds of devotion.

But be careful when you listen to the message from the Gospel because the same story can invoke opposite responses. While it thrilled the woman and moved her to self-forgetful love, it offended Simon and stirred him to self-righteous contempt.

It is not so much the Gospel in words that offends as the Gospel in action. When Jesus pointed out God's unlimited forgiveness and demonstrated God's mercy in accepting this woman completely, all of Simon's legalistic learning and prejudices rose up in protested. It is one thing to hear a person talking like Christ, but quite another to see the person acting like him. (3) Jesus wanted her in the Kingdom of God; Simon did not.

Who’s in and who’s out? Who’s included and who is not? Who do we want in the Kingdom of God? Who does Jesus want? Do we want the ones that Jesus wants?


1. From Pulpit Digest, March/April, 1993, p. 57 ff, as reported in Sermon Briefs, Luke 7:38-8:3, Lectionary Homiletics,
2. Sermon Ideas For Luke 7:36-8:3 Part 3,
3. Selected Sermon for Proper 6C 2001, Worship that Works,