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A little more for Jesus

August 11, 2013

Anointing Jesus“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

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

Luke 7:36-50

 

The message for this Sunday, which we draw from the preaching text taken from the Gospel of Luke, draws our attention to the urgent need to love God plenty.

Why do I say in plenty? Because the character trait of the sinful woman that Jesus valued the most in this story is her ability to love God. Above all things, he valued ​​ her love: “as her great love has shown”. Jesus wants us to be very loving. Firstly, we are to love God very much if we truly want to receive His favor. I’m sure each one of us, when we cross our hands in prayer every day at home or every Sunday at church, wants to receive blessings from God and that we want to receive God’s favor and blessings ‘to the full’. The text for this day teaches us to love fully, plentifully. We long to be filled with the Spirit and we often ask to be blessed greatly. We often ask God to answer our prayers generously. A good question for this Sunday would be: are we giving plenty to God?

A woman, apparently a prostitute, came to the house of the Pharisee Simon, a law-abiding (or religion) man. We could say that he was probably clean in his behaviour before God and men. He, along with others, was horrified that Jesus showed love for sinners and especially for this impure, sinful woman, who was not dutiful to God’s commandments.

I often think of this. And so as to not address this towards anyone of us here today, I think of myself only as an example.

We grew up in a Christian family. We went to church, where we met with the church and God’s commandments. We cannot say that we were ‘sinners’; we did not commit adultery nor did we steal, we did not kill nor did we forget the day of rest (Sunday). There are many families who, therefore, are not sinful. People without sin are pure in the eyes of God and other people. I can imagine that the lifestyle of these Pharisees and Simon from today’s’ story was something similar.

But Simon gets a lesson from Jesus. He asks, “Do you know why I forgave her even though it was not considered good by people? I saw that she loved much and loved fully, despite the burden of her sin, transgressions and despite her life not being in order.

She bowed herself at the feet, (she was humble), cried (she showed her emotions, she showed her honest feelings she was sincere by allowing sobbing) and she poured expensive and beautiful perfume (of the material she had, it was the most precious and expensive she had, not just a leftover which would not affect her budget). Jesus loved her so well and decided to forgive her, not because she asked for forgiveness but because of her honesty, respect and for the love she showed to Jesus.

And that’s what Jesus wants from us. He wants us to show the love that we say that we have to the fullest. He wants us to cross the limits of love if necessary, to have a love that goes astray and breaks the formalities of society, for our love to be unique, for us to have a love that allows us to change our ways if necessary and that our love be great enough that we show God that we are willing to make a sacrifice. Loving within limits, without hurt, without costing us a sacrifice, where we take care to not lose or spend too much, that is not love, that is just a fulfillment. What would happen if God should answer our prayers in the same manner as we show love for Him? I do not know how many days we would survive on this earth. I believe that God is loving and that he takes care of us a lot more than we deserve. Mother Teresa from Calcutta said: “Love until it hurts. If it hurts it is a good sign; Love, to be real, must cost us.”

The question we asked at the beginning, “How can get God to bless us plenty so that he answers our prayers in full?” Certainly it will depend on if we try to love God to the fullest too.

This applies at a personal as well as a congregational level. If we want to see a church that is changed, renewed and growing, we must also do everything possible, even beyond that which seems comfortable and does not involve major changes, sacrifices or effort. And all of this we want to do for the love of God because he wants a living church, a church that is renewed, growing and that makes room for new people so that others can hear the message of salvation in our church. If we focus on the task of the church, which is for others to hear the gospel and to be saved, then, if we love God, we will use all of our material and spiritual resources to make this happen. That is the mission of the church, for the word of God to be preached and for people to obtain the salvation that will grow them in faith and make them stronger spiritually. That’s our mission. That’s what God asks us of us as churches. If we focus on it and give it all of our love and enthusiasm for God, God will bless us abundantly.

Surely, this morning, we can ask ourselves a very important question: How can I show God that I love him plenty?

How could God see that my intention is to love Him fully? Today, we have seen that the person who loves much is forgiven much. And that’s the same as saying that the person who loves God much will be blessed a lot as well. What specifically are the things that I can do from now on to start showing love  to God that I have not been doing intensely enough? What is it that I can do for God and his church so that it costs me a little more? If you really want to love God, surely you will know exactly what you can do to please him. That’s a good question and also a good exhortation for this morning. Surely, today, you came to church to find answers, guidance, to seek more of God and to seek God’s blessing. God is giving us an answer this morning through the example of the sinful, repented woman who loved much. Do love much and in concrete ways. Do something that you can do where God can see that it costs you, that you try, and he will reward that love.

If we really want to love Jesus with our works of love, we must ask: How can we express that love and what gifts have we received from God? The gifts that we have received we must joyfully use in service to God, for the love of him.

And there are many examples we can mention, but the best one you will know in your heart.

Anyone with a voice can sing or talk or read to him. Who knows how to take children to attend Sunday school so that they hear the gospel when they are young? Anyone with manual skills or craftsmanship can take care of the maintenance of the church. Whoever has the gift of approaching people can invite people to church services. Anyone with artistic skills can handle the adorning of the church. Whoever plays an instrument, can work in the services and gatherings for the glory of God. This list of the ways that it is possible to show God love is very long. We think of those who have the gift of prayer, are faithful helpers or friendly hosts, those with the gift of counsel, of those who may also donate generously…

I’m sure that none of us are missing opportunities to show our love for Christ in the church and wherever we are as long as we recognize that he has already forgiven us so much. And so what is stopping us from acting abundantly in the same way? Amen

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