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Sunday Service 10th March


Lent 4: Acts of compassion

10/3/23

                    

Welcome to our meditation for 10th February.

WE are now in the fourth week of Lent, the preparation time for Easter.

And this week we are asked to reflect on how our actions can be a barometer for how our faith truly is.

 

We will think about that after our reading and prayer for today.

 

Luke 7: 36-50

 

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Often we come to you tentatively, unsure of ourselves,

wondering how it is that you can still love us despite all that we get wrong;

wondering why you persist with us, when all we do is put ourselves first.

We come to you in hesitation, quietly taking our seat, hoping you notice us.

 

How better would be if we could come with the confidence of the woman with her tears and oil; inspired by seeing all that you have gifted us in our lives, brimming with thankfulness.

 

Too often we come to you in trembling, fearful of where you might guide us; afraid of what you might ask of us;

How better would it be if we could come knowing that we totally trust your stirrings and nudges, that we can cast aside our insecurities.

 

Heavenly Father, you are worthy of so much more than our unsure faith.

Your steadfastness never fails, never falters.

 

For failing to grasp this we are sorry.

For judging and forgetting the log in our own eyes., and condemning the speck in the eyes of others...we are sorry.

 

Flinging ourselves at your feet we beg forgiveness and pour out our own tears

praying you will wash away that which holds us back,

and restore us, ready to begin again.

Thank you for never giving up on us,

for loving us even at our worst.

Amen.

 

 

 

Sermon

 

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we are doing really well in life when the reality is that nothing is happening in our life for good or for bad, we are just sauntering along.

We take the lack of struggle, the lack of conflict, the lack of hassle, to be a sign of God’s great blessings,

when in reality we are just indifferent to life and God isn’t happy that we are ignoring the plight and struggle of others.

That was one of the great arguments of the prophets of the Old Testament.

They condemned the people because they thought life was fine because life was fine for them....and they ignored the struggles of the widows and orphans.

And if we are honest we too can be a bit like that.

 

We secretly rejoice in having a heart of indifference rather than having a heart of hatred, when what God wants us to have is a heart bursting with thankfulness and love.

 

That is why reflection on our life is so important; because when we reflect on our life we see not only what we have done, but what we have not done.

 

Like in our reading today.

There are a lot of contractions in this passage that don’t initially make sense.

 

For a start Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus into his home for a meal.

I am convinced that he sees this as a positive thing, an honourable thing, a good thing.

And a woman of ill repute comes up to Jesus and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries his feet with her hair and anoints his feet with perfume.

This is a deliberate act, and the Pharisees condemn such public intimacy.

How could Jesus let someone like this do this to him, it shames her and him?

 

Does any of that make initial sense?

Think about this...

I had a surprise birthday party a few weeks ago.

My daughter invited the family to the party.

There were no strange women that just appeared out of nowhere.

If a strange women appeared at the door asking to come in then my daughter would have asked her who she was, why she was there, and probably even then wouldn’t have let her in.

Now Simon is a Pharisee, one of the strictest sects of Judaism of any time, do we think that this women could just come into his house unannounced and no one stop her?

I don’t think so.

 

So how did she get in?

That then forces us to think that this was not just an invite to Jesus for them to get to know each other, something else was going on here.

So what could that be?

 

Well knowing how much the Pharisees struggled with Jesus’ teachings I imagine that this was a double edged invite.

It was an invite to Jesus for a meal, and Jesus might have taken that as a personal invite where the Pharisee was just trying to understand Jesus and talk off the record, like he did with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who honestly wanted to try to understand Jesus’ teachings and they met privately at night to talk confidentially.

Jesus may have thought that this was what the Simon the Pharisee was wanting as well, and it may be that Simon wanted Jesus to think this.

 

Jesus then turns up to the meal thinking it will be a private one-on-one and then is confronted with a household of the whole village in the inner courtyard of the house, the Pharisees waiting for Jesus with their questions and Jesus unprepared looks bad in front of the whole village and his ministry undermined.

 

With the whole village going to the meal, so that Simon and his friends can expose Jesus, it is easy for the women to go unnoticed into the Pharisees inner courtyard.

 

Now here’s the thing.

I am sure Simon thought he was doing the right thing.

I am sure Simon thought that he was being honourable.

I am sure that Simon didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.

 

But he wasn’t showing his guest any respect or dignity.

In fact he was dishonouring him.

After a long day walking feet got dry and smelly, the custom was to wash the feet of guests as they entered your house, and that was more so if they were invited guests.

Simon, having secretly created an open door policy for the whole village, thought he didn’t need to bother treating Jesus any different than the rest,

but Jesus had been invited, and his treatment of Jesus, his indifference to Jesus, was shown in his actions...even if Simon said nothing out loud.

His actions betrayed his true heart.

 

The sad thing is that if Jesus hadn’t pointed it out to him, then Simon may have always thought that he had done nothing wrong.

Simon may never have noticed how the hatred in his heart was showing in the subconscious actions he was doing.

 

The woman’s actions showed love and respect and concern, Simon’s actions showed indifference at best, hatred at worst.

 

Today’s message is very simple.

What are our actions telling us about ourselves?

 

 

 

If we truly believe that we care for others, then how much of our time is actually spent with others?

If we truly believe that we show others respect, then how do we show others respect?

 

I remember in the 70’s and 80’s the divorce rate amongst ministers was one of the highest among all professionals.

The reason for that was that often ministers would talk about love from the pulpit and how much we had to show others love.

But often they were so dedicated to their calling of ministry that they were rarely at home, and when they were at home they were tired and exhausted.

They were visiting congregations, they were visiting the sick and the bereaved, but they ignored the very people they had promised in vows to show love to...their spouses.

And their spouses felt that if they were going to be ignored, then they were going to leave that relationship for one where they wouldn’t be ignored.

 

And it wasn’t that the ministers didn’t care for their spouses, it was that if they cared, they didn’t show it.

 

It is not enough to love someone in our heart and mind, we need to show that love in what we do.

 

So, as I said, today’s message is very simple...

what acts of love are we going to do this day, or this week?

 

Because if we calm to love someone, then others should be able to see it in our actions as well as our words.

If we claim to care for someone, then others should be able to see it in our actions as well as our words.

 

 

Let us pray

Lord God,

we bring to you our cares and concerns, knowing that you hear us.

And we don’t want this to be just a list of places that we have heard of in the news, or of types of people we think need to be remembered.

We remember people we know by name.

We place them in your heart because they are already in our heart.

Or maybe you have put them in our heart because they are already in yours.

 

Maybe you put them in our hearts so that we could make a difference in their lives.

Maybe you put them in our hearts because we could do practical things to help them.

 

 

Loving God,

you made us each in your image, we mirror you.

So let us mirror you in our lives.

As you left heaven and enter our world to show us your love, so may we enter their world to show your, and our, love to them.

 

You were willing to sacrifice, you were willing to walk their path with them, you were willing to reach out in love, offer a hand of support, tell hard truths...with all those people you have put in our lives, may we do the same.

 

In our actions, may all know that regardless of how today makes them feel

that your love surrounds them.

 

Help us not make

ill-informed judgements and assumptions, projecting our world view and family experiences onto others.

 

Instead, let us uphold each and every precious beloved child of yours.

This we pray in the name of Jesus,

our redeemer.

Amen.

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