Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Luke 7:36-8:3

This passage occurs in the RCL during year C, most recently June 2016. 
This passage also occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 3, most recently Feb. 2017.

Summary:  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. story.  It is a beautiful story of what forgiveness looks and feels like.
It is profound that this passage is paired with the Galatians 2:15-21 reading.  In that passage we hear about what the process of justification (forgiveness) and sanctification (Christian living) look like in propositional truth form.  In this passage, we see what it looks like in narrative form.  I love the Paul passage, but the Luke one may be easier to preach on.  What does justification look like:  The world's opinion of you has not changed, but you can worship the crucified savior.  What does sanctification look like:  The world's opinion of you has not changed, but you can go in peace.  As either Paul or Luke portray is, sin does not go away, either inside or outside, but Christ's love, given to us in faith, gives peace and joy.

Key words: 
ηλειφεν (from αλειφω, aleipho, meaning "anoint", 7:38)  This word is interesting because of where it appears in the Old Testament (or the Old Testament translated into Greek, the Septuagint).  Priests were anointed (Exodus 40:13; Numbers 3:3); those in grief mourn (2 Samuel 12:20; 14:2).  Either of these offer great ways to think about Jesus:  He is being anointed priest by a grand sinner; or the woman is in mourning over his death.  I vote for the later because she uses μυρον (7:37) or myrrh, which is used for the burial of the dead.

Note:  Although this word means anointed, it is not the same word as anoint like a king.  That word in Greek is "Christ"!

αγαπη (agape, meaning "love", 7:42)  The proper/necessary/automatic response to forgiveness is love.  Duh.  But...why is this not always the case for us when we experience forgiveness?  Perhaps we do not believe we have sinned; perhaps we do not know what love is.  The story suggests that the Pharisee, being unaware of his sins, did not appreciate his forgiveness and therefore did not love (or know how to love?).  If this is the case, then good preaching should make us feel really bad (right!?) in order to make us realize how much Jesus loves us.  I think this is somewhat true, but I wonder what else there might be.

Another take: the new creation loves and rejoices in forgiveness.  But this is often hidden from us.  We don't feel forgiveness and we don't feel love when we are in church and experience church.  God preaching reminds us that even when we don't "feel" it, God is still present, forgiving us and renewing us, even amid death and sin, that are always present realities.

To put it another way -- how do I know I am forgiven?  We have permission to worship the cruficified savior.

εχαρισατο (from χαριζομαι, charizomai, meaning "forgive" or "grace", 7:42)  It is important, at least to me, to acknowledge that humans do not forgive each other.  We can be gracious to each other and cancel debts, but forgiveness of sin belongs to God.  This is why there is such consternation that Jesus actually forgives (αφιημι).  Outside of commissioned priests, finding examples of humans forgiving each other is truly rare in Scripture, if arguably at all.  We are called to be gracious to one another and forgive (if not bear) one another's burdens.  But when it comes to a final reckoning, this belongs to God, and not my neighbor.

σεσωκεν (from σωζω, sozo, meaning "save", 7:50)  Beautiful use of perfect tense in Greek.  The faith saved her in the past but creates a future state of being saved.

ειρηνην (Irene (extra "n" is because its accusative case), meaning "peace" 7:50)  This is a stark look at the peace of Christ.  The community looks down on her, yet she has peace.  Peace in Christ does not mean the external reality has changed.  It means inside we know who Jesus is and that Jesus loves us.

αυτιας ("of theirs", 8:3)  This feminine plural dative...means this:  women were funding Jesus ministry.  They were also commissioned.

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