Monday, June 14, 2010

Sinners! Sinners everywhere!

Here is my sermon for today: 6/13

Proper 6, Year C

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15, Psalm, 32, Galatians 2:15-21, Luke 7:36;-39

Sinners…I see sinners…everywhere I look, within and without the church, in every Bible story I studied all week long, nothing but sinners! Now why do you think that’s so? Well, I got to thinking about all these stories of sinners, and it became obvious – everyone sins. Everyone but Jesus, that is. We can delude ourselves and start ticking off lists of all the wonderful things we do, and how we don’t cuss, and we remember to pray, and how much we love all the people we know, but I’m here to tell you, we all sin.

Some of us know how we personally sin, and many of us don’t. Sometimes it’s really hard to look at ourselves objectively and see where we are falling short. Some of us are aware that we get really angry with loved ones at times, and we don’t control it. Others of us have road rage. Sometimes we might mutter, “Stupid” under our breath when thinking of a coworker. Some of us don’t control our drinking, and it causes great strife within the family. And others of us get caught in looking at the negative side of things, and yet don’t realize that this too can be a sin. Sins abound around and within us.

So, it only makes sense that on occasion the Lectionary would focus on this pervading aspect of life, that every one of us experiences. Let’s look at these scriptures for today.

First we have the ancient tale of King David, and how, though he had hundreds of wives and concubines – an entire harem of beautiful women at his beck and call – he saw Bathsheba on her rooftop across the way from his palace, and he coveted her, the wife of his general, Uriah. We aren’t told how Bathsheba felt about the situation, but David, as a powerful king, could not be denied no matter what he wanted. Uriah was away, fighting battles for King David, and David is busy impregnating Uriah’s wife.

You probably know the story. How David sent for Uriah to come from the battlefield in hopes that he would be with his wife while at home in Jerusalem, and return to the battlefield, only to believe later that the child was his. But Uriah was an excellent soldier who would not leave his troops even while they were on R&R – he did not go home to see Bathsheba.

So David plotted to have Uriah sent into the most dangerous part of the battle, using his enemies to take care of his problem. Uriah was killed in battle and, after the proper period of mourning, Bathsheba was called to David and he made her another of his wives.

God sent Nathan to challenge David, to point out to him how he had flaunted the laws of God. And David didn’t even recognize himself in Nathan’s story. When David said that the rich man who had stolen the lamb from the poor man should be killed, Nathan replied, “You are the man!” David’s anger suddenly turned to great remorse. He realized his sin, and repented. He still had consequences to face because of what he had done, but his relationship with God was restored.

In our Gospel reading, we heard of someone so much like we tend to be. The Pharisee, Simon, was so sure that he recognized all the sinners around him, though his sin of judging others never entered his mind. He knew that the woman who followed Jesus into the house was not worthy to even enter his door, and yet there she was, crying over Jesus’ feet, drying them with her hair and anointing them with ointment. Simon was interested in who Jesus was and what he had to say, but he didn’t care enough for his guest to even make sure that what was considered common courtesy was extended to him: no one, not even the lowliest servant, came to offer him the opportunity to wash after coming in from the dusty roadways.

Yet when this unnamed female fell down at Jesus’ feet and cared for him, crying over her sins, Simon could only judge and wonder if Jesus really was a prophet, for surely no prophet would let a woman like that touch him! "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-- that she is a sinner."

Jesus is quick to respond to Simon’s unspoken thought: "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

You see, Simon believed in the letter of the law, not the heart and meaning behind the law itself. He never considered or looked at why God laid down the rules: that they might be for healing and for love, rather than simply arbitrary laws to follow with no reason. Jesus was asking Simon to look deeper, beyond what he’d accepted as law…to look deeper to find the love God was trying to embody in his creation.

There are people outside of these walls who do not understand what we’re doing here. There are quite a few who say that churches are full of hypocrites. That we talk a good game about love and compassion, and then we go our merry ways, treating others just like every other cheat and swindler who plots to do evil. What those people haven’t understood (and it’s probably our fault because we haven’t told them) is that church is not a club for the angelic high choir whose members have it all figured out. Church is a hospital for sinners. It’s a place we come to hold up before our eyes the very best examples of how we wish we were. This place is for healing, and for forgiving, over and over again. We all sin, every day.

Oh, excuse me. There may be some here who don’t know the definition of “sin” and here I’ve been using the term all this time. The Encarta Dictionary defines sin as: “an act, a thought, or behavior that goes against the law or teachings of a particular religion, especially when the person who commits it is aware of this.” The second meaning is ”something that offends a moral or ethical principle.” Looking further, Jesus himself told us how we are supposed to live when someone asked him, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied, “To love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Anytime we aren’t living fully out of that place of love, we are sinning. Oh my word! It’s nigh to impossible to live in that love all the time, isn’t it? Jesus didn’t think so. It’s the only thing we are about in this place: reminding ourselves that we are sinners, attempting to grow more loving. Being aware of when we fall short of that love is the most important thing. For when we are aware of our shortcomings, we begin to change, and become more like Christ. When I suddenly realize that I have not been living in a Christ-like place, that I’ve been crabby and short and mean, immediately, contrition and confession pop into my mind. I turn to those I’ve been rude toward and ask for their forgiveness, and ask for God’s forgiveness also. And I repent: I turn around my actions and face God – becoming more loving once again,

This is what we are called to do. We, like all, have gone astray, and our repentance is what God asks of us. To turn our faces into His love, and to carry that love with us, as much as we possibly can. And to continue our striving to become the pure love God desires us to become. When we ask forgiveness, our Lord does forgive. Then we too, can sing with the psalmist, as we read today: “Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!” I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord, shout for joy, all who are true of heart.” Sinners, rejoice in the forgiveness and love of the Lord! Amen.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer of Love

In San Francisco back in the 1960's, there was a certain summer that was called the "Summer of Love." In many ways, that place and time was simply a big, long party for the young people who indulged themselves in all sorts of hedonistic behavior. Though I cannot condone those aspects of that summer, I have also heard stories that vaguely remind me of the early church: stories of people who took in strangers and cared for them, people who shared their food with those who had none.

In the Christian life, all seasons, the entire year through, are designated as times of love. Jesus calls his people to love one another, no matter the place, time or situation. Summer in particular is a hard time for many of the poor here in Pflugerville. The breakfast and lunch programs available for children in the schools suddenly end with the summer break from classes. The Storehouse, our local food pantry, has an influx of people requesting more food because the children are home full time and the cupboards are bare. Remember our commitment to serve those in need. Bring your gifts of non-perishable foods, most especially canned meats and dry grains (rice and beans) for the storehouse.

Our community has many hurting people and they are praying for help. Your hands are God's hands, moving in the world to care for all God's people. Let's make this Pflugerville's Summer of Love by providing for the needs of the people of our town. May God bless you as you serve him through serving His people!