The Church Learns to Open Doors, Hearts & Minds

Sermon given on Sunday, June 12, 2015

Scripture connection: Luke 7:36-8:3, NLT

 

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.[a] 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[b] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 

Women Who Followed Jesus

8 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

 

 

Looking over a large crowd, the observer begins to make some mental notes about who is there. The first visual scan seeks any familiar face—someone you might call a friend or maybe someone you know just a little bit. The crowd at Annual Conference is much the same.

Among the faces are those who are some very close friends, some you know pretty well from other meetings or trainings, and some are complete strangers. Among the speakers are those familiar faces who take the podium year after year. The milling around gives everybody an opportunity to reconnect or to be introduced for the first time.

The church really is the people who attend and serve together side by side. Church is not just a building where people gather, church is wherever God’s work and fellowship is going on. Church may be worship on Sunday morning or maybe it is Saturday or Wednesday evening. Church is static, not constant.

One of the most delightful parts about conference is reconnecting with friends who share the same belief foundations. The stories shared by other laity members, other local pastors, elders and deacons encourage each other. The face-to-face conversations provide new ideas or rehash issues that continue to frustrate the denomination. The learning time opens up new ideas and shares the lessons that hopefully help other churches.

The church is filled with people who no longer look the same, either. This annual conference marked the 200th Missouri yearly conference. Not only did it mark that anniversary, but it marked the 60th anniversary of the full ordination of women clergy. And personally, I marked 10 years attending conference. In Missouri, the churches are filled with diversity and are continuing to move towards full reconciliation with all minority sectors of humanity. The church is the people.

When Jesus joined Simon, the Pharisee, for that dinner, he was placed in an awkward position. The Pharisees were still trying to figure out just who he was. This meal positioned Jesus in a more relaxed setting than in the Temple, but surely he was acutely aware that he was being scrutinized.

If I compare Jesus’ situation with attending Annual Conference, I can see how each opportunity I had to talk with others could either make or break a relationship by my position on various issues. I was in a position that the leaders of our denomination could question or ridicule my efforts. I was also in a position that potentially could improve my efforts. At those times, I am so preoccupied that I miss other people passing around me. Therefore, I can understand how the significance of the woman at my feet would not take me away from the conversation I was having with the host.

The “Sinful Woman” came to Jesus to serve him with all that she had. He accepted her loving attention; but all knowing, he also knew of her sin. The Pharisee could not see beyond what was happening. He could not understand how Jesus seemed so unconcerned. The Pharisee judged the Sinful Woman and did not think it was appropriate:

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

 

But Jesus did know. The Pharisee did not jump up and tell her to leave. In fact the scripture shares that this thought was said to himself, not out loud to others.

Yet Luke goes on with the story to show that Jesus did know who she was:

,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

 

The Pharisee was the student in this case. He was not shouted at, not scolded, nor kicked out of the denomination. Jesus used the situation to teach about forgiveness. The methods that Jesus shared with the disciples are still used today.

The last 12 years, Bishop Robert Schnase has lead the Missouri conference teaching pastors and laity of both large and small churches how to be fruitful. He has not waivered from the practices that John Wesley developed over 300 years ago. In fact, he has removed much of the hierarchical rhetoric that can destroy churches focusing more on the methods to share God’s word with all who are hungry, so to speak.

Who the church is depends on how Christ-like members are. This means being inclusive to both genders, to all ages, to all races, and to all sinners. Churches have the responsibility to open its doors to include all who seek God. Congregations have the responsibility to open hearts to all who are hurting and seek God’s love. Each individual Christian has the responsibility to open minds to all the ways that can share God’s word.

Jesus knew what was in the Pharisees mind:

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[b] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

 

The Pharisee was learning from Jesus. We must continue to learn from Jesus, too. We are and have been so fortunate to have Bishop Schnase who has taught us to apply Jesus’ lessons yet today. Regardless of where a congregation meets, the doors must be open, the hearts must be open, and the minds must be open if we are to follow Jesus’ model of loving one another.

Closing prayer

Dear Loving and All-Knowing Father,

Thank you for the gift of your Son, the Master Teacher,

Thank you for the leadership of Bishop Schnase.

Thank you for the leaders of our church, past and present.

 

Moving forward in ministry may not be easy

But with the lessons learned

And with open doors, hearts, and minds,

We continue to share your word.

 

Guide us through Your Word.

Guide us by the example of Your Son.

Guide us by the Holy Spirit.

 

May we open our hearts and minds

So others may find our doors

To your love, forgiveness, and salvation.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

 

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