Sermon for Our Saviour Lutheran Church,
Croton on Hudson, NY
June 12, 2016
May I begin with a confession?
You are my people, you have laughed and cried with me. You sat vigil with me as I worried over the safety and welfare of my children when suicide and illness threatened, you carried me home from the hospital after my car accident, you prayed and celebrated each step of my candidacy process. We confirmed two of my 4 children together and celebrated communion together week in and out for 4 years. You are my people and we know each other.
So I confess to you, that when I committed to preach today, I had no idea what the lectionary readings were- and when I began reading each lesson, my emotions began to rise- culminating with tears when I read the Gospel. My confession is that I have never cried over a passage of scripture. I have been angry, confused, happy and inspired by scripture, but never brought to tears- and this one did it not just because of the story, but because I am blessed to share with you the Good News related to it.
Let’s set the scene and maybe we can journey with this passage together for a while longer. The woman was a sinner- that means that she wasn’t very good at keeping the laws. For example, maybe she didn’t attend temple services every week. Maybe her goats for offering had blemishes and maybe, just maybe, she was not as ritually clean as she should have been. Sound familiar at all? It did for me. Every day I get in my car to head from Santa Monica to northern Los Angeles, I inevitably call someone a name for cutting me off in traffic or being thoughtless. I even do it wearing my collar. I am a sinner just like her.
In fact, it reminded me of the opening words to a new country song called My Church sung by Marin Morris.
“I’ve cussed on a Sunday, I’ve cheated and lied,
I’ve fallen down from grace a few too many times”
So here is this woman, who is not perfect at keeping the law and she is standing at Jesus feet and begins to cry- in fact she weeps, with tears so plentiful that they wet Jesus feet enough to clean them. We don’t know why she was weeping, but my heart tells me it was something similar to the gratitude I felt at the idea of preaching this Gospel story for you today. It was an honor for her to be there, washing the feet of her Lord and she KNEW it, deep inside. She was so full of emotion that she wept. Jesus’ words clue us into this- this woman knows she isn’t perfect and this knowledge makes her far more aware of the gift of Christ’s presence and promise.
She does not have a life of perfection to offer up- but she has herself and she offers herself as a living sacrifice to the Lord. She not only offers up the tears of her own eyes, but uncovers her hair, something no woman did except for her husband, and uses the silky strands to dry his feet, kissing them as she does. She recognizes that this Lord Jesus is worthy of seeing all of her, of receiving all of her- and she bares her head, her heart and her soul, not just in front of Christ, but for Christ in the presence of others. In that moment, she becomes a disciple, one who shows and teaches who Christ is. She is showing those around her that our Lord is worthy of response.
So let’s go back to Marin’s song. She starts the chorus by singing,
Can I get a Hallelujah, Can I get an Amen? Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya, when I play the highway fm, I find my soul revival, singing every single verse, yeah, I guess that’s my church.
Marin’s very own voice, her words of song are the epitome of who she is and when she offers up her voice, she too feels connected to God, and feels the presence of the Holy Spirit. Just like the weeping woman, she knows she has nothing but herself to give, so she gives it all- driving along the highway with her voice singing loudly and with all of her heart. She too has bared her soul to reveal the work of the Lord in her heart.
Here is the best part of this: Jesus response. He does not tell the woman to cover herself, or that she should use water instead of her own tears, he is not turned off or away by her use of her own body as offering in gratitude. In fact, he honors her and her intimate hospitality. He holds up this meager and embarrassing display as beautiful, as lovely. He receives her gift.
This is the God we worship! This is the Son who came to us, who pursues us for intimate relationship- and he knows intimate offering when he sees it. This woman’s gift to him was about as amazing as a 2 year old’s scribbles compared to Monet, but she gave it whole heartedly and without any reservation- knowing she would be ridiculed or harassed for her actions. And our Lord, like any proud parent, holds it up as a masterpiece.
We live in a world that tells us we are not enough and we spend so much effort trying to be. We let the world lie to us and tell us that we are also not good enough Christians. We let ourselves build walls and keep secrets from each others, suffering in our worst moments alone, rather than sharing openly in the body of Christ. We hold up some perfect image of what Christian should look or be like and then we hide all the things of our lives that don’t match out of shame.
But our God sees through that. Our God wants us in community, sharing and baring. Crying and removing the veil to reveal our beauty and self, sharing our selves like the woman shared her tears and her hair with Jesus. Our God loves our intimate efforts of love and gift- not because we need to do anything for God, but because God loves us. A 2 year old does not need to make artwork for Mommy or Daddy to love them- they just do. But the gift of art is lifted up as a special moment, an effort that is recognized and praised. And when we do these things, when we bare and offer ourselves up in community, as community, we hold up Christ as Lord and Saviour and we too, become disciples.
As Lutherans we do not believe we can do enough good works to earn salvation- we believe in faith alone. We do believe that good works matter though, and we do them in response to the love and joy we feel over God’s love and passion for us. If you ever wondered if it mattered to God, then this is the story for you. This story reveals how much God loves and craves our efforts of giving our most vulnerable and intimate self to God. There are no strings attached, just pure joy.
The woman teaches us that we need not be afraid we are not enough for God. We don’t have to pray just right, give just the right offering, wear the right clothes or even preach the perfect sermon. She teaches me that I do not need to be the perfect pastor. I don’t need to do anything and I am still loved- but my efforts, as imperfect and unskilled as they may be, are pure pleasure and gift to our Lord who loves us.
Do not be afraid that you are not enough. When I started this candidacy process, I feared I was not enough. Even today, as I read this sermon to myself one more time, the little voice rose up telling me it would not be good enough. But the Gospel tells us different, our Lord, Jesus tells us different. In our faith, we have been saved. We are good enough- because he said so, he died for it to be so. Just believe in Jesus- he believes in you.