1 Kings 21:1-21a; Luke 7:36-8:3
God's abundant love is fully revealed in this wonderful story. First in the woman, we don't know why hearing Jesus is dining in the area is important. We don't get an explanation of why she is so moved to this extravagant act of love. Because love is apparent to everyone in the room. This is why the Pharisee is so appalled Jesus is letting her carry on in this way. There is an intimacy of love in the act of being at Jesus' feet, of wiping her tears off with her hair and of anointing his feet with oil. Scandalous.
Yet Jesus just sits there and allows her to continue. His comments are saved for all those at the table who stand in judgment of who she is and what she has done. If he was any kind of prophet...This is done to discredit Jesus and the woman. Jesus doesn't let this stand though. He tells the story of debts forgiven. How much more it means to the one with the bigger debt. Then ignoring the men he tells her she is forgiven because of her great faith.
A faith which didn't care about the boundaries of hospitality, which Jesus points out to Simon the Pharisee as lacking. She comes and lavishes the washing of someone's feet in a beautiful act of love, weeping, kissing, anointing over and over again. Radical hospitality, full love in being owed nothing, in knowing the stories of this man from before healing a Roman Centurion's servant, raising a widows son from Nain. All free acts of God's love shown in Jesus.
It stands in sharp contrast to Naboth's vineyard and King Ahab's greed as well as to the length his wife Jezebel goes to obtain it. Their's is an economy of scarcity even though they are the ones with all the abundance. Kings are not poor. Yet he has to have that land in that place and he really doesn't care how he gets it. More for me, more for myself, more because I want it. When we get caught up in scarcity we end up like Simon the Pharisee judging others as lacking because our own self-righteousness is what matters. We are better then...
Lavish forgiveness, radical hospitality, open arms, love displayed in tears. We stand at the crossroads of an opportunity. We run a food pantry on Wednesday's out of our parish hall. For a month I have been joining in visiting there. There are many stories of scarcity and we reply with as much abundance as we can. One person who came I know from another church, we have worked together on things in the community. They said they never expected to find themselves here. This was hard for them to bring themselves to do. It was this or starve. Shame, shame kept this person from reaching out sooner, a desire to show all of the things we would judge. Do we give out of the abundance with which God, Jesus has forgiven us or do we stand saying we don't have enough?
I'm sure the woman didn't have enough for the perfume, yet she did it. Radical loving hospitality and Jesus gave back to her the same, your great faith has forgiven you, go in peace. Can we stand in that? Facing a huge repair bill and saying we need to talk about questions of where God is leading us does not mean becoming Ahab, we don't have enough we can't give. It means trusting in God's abundance to us. It means being lavish with what we have been given. It means having faith we will get through.
We have more than any third world church will ever have and yet they display more faith. Faith funds will come through for projects, faith God will somehow provide, faith that even being run out of your own country for fear of dying will only last for a season. Where is our faith? Resting in the hands of dollars and cents? Resting on the facts of reality, in our own control? Do we have faith like Luke shows us again and again. In healing, raising, forgiving. Where we choose will determine who and whose we are. Do we have faith?