Do you see this woman?

This question is posed by Jesus to Simon the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his place for dinner. Simon, the righteous, pious host of Jesus – Simon the one that his community would have looked upon as the holy one.

Who was he asked to look at? A woman who had intruded into this dinner. Uninvited, unnamed, unwelcome. Acting scandalously as she unfurls her hair and dries and kisses Jesus’ feet and anointing them with rich perfume. A sinner is her description, known as such by Simon. Her sin must have been great, giving her actions. And it’s speculated that she was a prostitute.

It’s difficult to communicate how scandalous her actions were. One commentator opines it would be like seeing the Queen doing a pole dance.

This is outrageous behaviour. By someone who ignores the boundaries of propriety (right and honourable behaviour).

And yet it is she, and not Simon, who is approved by Jesus. Simon had not shown to Jesus the honour due to him as a guest, but the woman had. By her actions, she demonstrated her devotion to Jesus. And yes Simon saw this woman – he watched with eyes of criticism and disdain.

But Jesus saw her as a woman who was conscious of her sin, and who responded out of love to the one who forgave her, healed her, restored her and set her free.

As church are we aware of what Jesus has done for us? Are we honouring him with all that we have because of the gift of his forgiveness?

Are we looking at those who don’t understand the boundaries in church with criticism and disdain? Are we acting like the Pharisee, or like the woman? Are we reaching out to Jesus with intimacy, with courage, with humility with generosity?

Are we living lives that reflect a knowledge of what Jesus has done for us, and acting desperately to get close to him?

Are we living life in the knowledge that forgiveness is there waiting for us? Do you know the power of Jesus forgiveness? How are we going to respond to Jesus and his love this week?

Seeking God’s face

On Sunday we looked at the church as being a place of transformation – mysterious transformation – We don’t understand all that happens, we often don’t even see what is taking place – but being part of the church see a transformation taking place. Strangers become family, enemies become brothers and sisters, the rich and powerful become servants the broken are healed, the lonely are loved!!

While there is a transformation that occurs at an individual level, God has called a people to be his who will be a transformed community.

That is the message of Christianity, that what was is not what is. That who we were is not who we are. This is absolutely fundamental. We cannot enter into a relationship with the creator God and not be changed, not be transformed.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Ephesians 2:4
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.

Here are the examples of change old to new, darkness to light, death to life.  This is not minor adjustments, this isn’t a small correction of an annoying fault this isn’t a slight change this is a transformation. This transformation comes about not because of who we are but because of What God has done. In Ephesians 2 Paul writes this:

remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Alienated
Strangers
Without hope
Without God

Do you hear the negativity associated with all these words – this sense of lostness.

And here we are told that that is no longer the case our situation has been radically changed – it’s not a circumstantial change but a change within us and for us. Don’t forget how it was, Paul says, and realise that what was is not what is.

Paul uses the metaphor of a dividing wall, a barrier. And he says that it has been broken down. We easily create our own barriers.

The comparisons that we will make to elevate us above another – we are culturally superior, financially superior, racially superior, physically superior.

There is that more tragic barrier between us and God – a barrier that has eternal consequences and a barrier no one could break down but God and he did it through Jesus Christ.

And friends, this is where the hard word and work for us as a church is. A wonderful relationship with Jesus is incompatible with a lukewarm relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not to have dividing walls between us.

We are not an example to the world because we meet on Sundays, we are an example to the world when we show them that the barriers do not exist. We must live to show that we belong to Jesus Christ – we live a life of sacrificial obedience to him, and we live as if we belong to each other.

How do we do that? By caring for each other. By connecting with each other. By being hospitable, inviting folk into our homes. By being generous sharing what God has given to us.

We are not a club – we are a Spirit-filled community loved by God, his special possession. We must be a witness to the world that God who we confess we follow has transformed us. Our lifestyles, our habits, our ambitions our values are evidence that we belong to Jesus

Here is a prayer from the book Seeking God’s face,

Brother Jesus, out of the entire human race, from beginning of time to this worlds dying seconds, you gather together the most unlikely of people as family. Politically left and right, rich and poor, crooks and commoners, adolescents and aged, skeptics and scholars, all united together as a family of faith in Jesus. In a world that struggles to live together with all our differences, make your church a beautiful display of created diversity and gospel unity. Amen