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Sermon for 16 June 2013

FIRST READING 2 Samuel 11:26—12:10; 12:13–15

Chapter 11 26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD,

Chapter 12 1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan said to David, “Now the LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house. The LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill.

PSALM Psalm 32

1Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away! 2Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile! 3While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, because of my groaning all day long. 4For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer. 5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. 6Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. 7You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. 8″I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye. 9Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.” 10Great are the tribulations of the wicked; but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD. 11Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

SECOND READING Galatians 2:15–21

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

GOSPEL Luke 7:36—8:3

Chapter 7 36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Chapter 8 1 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.


I need to be honest with you this morning, as I looked at the assigned texts for today I didn’t know what to do. When you consider our Old Testament reading about David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, the New Testament reading about the sinful woman and Simon the Pharisee and the fact that we’re celebrating Father’s day today, well you can see my problem. In 2 Samuel we see a father who made a mess of things with his choices and in Luke we see a religious leader, who we can speculate was a father as well, who suffers from an attitude problem. All I can say is pray for me this morning! With this in mind, I thought I simply share with you a couple of quotes from the very hilarious father and comedian Dr. William Cosby.
Some years ago Bill Cosby wrote a book simply entitled FATHERHOOD. It’s thoroughly humorous and you’ll also learn a few things along the way. So in honor of our father’s here today, I’d like to share with you two observations that Cosby makes about fathers. He writes: Now that my father is a grandfather, he just can’t wait to give money to my kids. But when I was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, he would tell me the story of his life. How he got up at 4 A.M., when he was seven years old, and walked twenty-three miles to milk ninety cows. And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his little hand and then walk eight miles to the nearest can. All for 5 cents a month. The result was that I never got my 5O cents. But now he tells my children every time he comes into the house: Well, lets see how much money old Granddad has got for his wonderful kids.” And the minute they take money out of his hands I call them over to me and I snatch it away from them. Because that is my money.
The other story that Cosby tells, that I like, is the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. He insists that Mother’s Day is a much bigger deal because Mothers are more organized. Mothers say to their children: Now here is a list of what I want. Go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mother’s Day. You do that for me. For Father’s Day I give each of my five kids $20 so that they can go out and by me a present–a total of $100. They go to the store and buy two packages of underwear, each of which costs $5 and contains three shorts. They tear them open and each kid wraps up one pair, the sixth pair of underwear going to the Salvation Army. Therefore, on Father’s Day I am walking around with new underwear and my kid’s are walking around with $90 worth of my change in their pockets. I wish I’d have read this story years ago, I might of saved myself some money!
As you know, Father’s Day isn’t technically a religious holiday; it’s a secular observance. But, it’s not, for that reason, less appropriate for our consideration. We also don’t simply want to give equal billing to fathers this morning because we gave homage to mothers a month ago. We want to recognize dads for another very important reason. The message that’s going out to so much of society today, is that fathers are simply not needed. While the number may numerically be small, there are some women who actually chose to be single parent mothers. And there are far too many men in America today who father children that they have no intention of raising. For example I read about a father who was being taken to court for child support. To date he has 27 children with 18 different women. It’s nothing short of tragic.
The church, therefore, needs to send out the message, loud and clear, that fathers play a critical role in the life of the family, that they are needed, and that God expects something of them. Fathers, you will have a powerful impact upon your family if you connect in three crucial areas.
1. The Role of the Father is to Connect with God.
2. The Role of the Father is to Connect with His Family.
3. The Role of the Father is to Connect with His Church.
In other words, fathers play a crucial role in being the role model of a happy, healthy and spiritually balanced family. It’s a tough job and it takes a real man of God to accomplish it. With this important task in mind, I thought it might be good then to look at our gospel lesson for today.
Jesus was dining at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. They were reclining at Simon’s table for the evening meal. There was a woman, a resident of their community, who was there uninvited. The Bible doesn’t specifically say that she was a prostitute, though it is generally assumed that she was. Luke simply tells us she “lived a sinful life.” Prostitution was a common occupation in biblical times for women. There weren’t many ways for an unmarried woman to survive financially, so many were forced into this profession through slavery or situation. Despite the reason or circumstance, one thing we do know, is that despite the notion that this is a victimless crime, this profession has a way of inflicting great damage to both party’s souls. I believe she knew this and she needed forgiveness and healing.
When she learned that Jesus was eating at the house of Simon the Pharisee, she decided to crash the party. Evidently Jesus’ reputation for compassion preceded Him. So she came bearing an alabaster jar of perfume. She stood behind Jesus at His feet and she was weeping. As she wept, her tears fell on Jesus’ feet. She bent down and wiped His feet with her hair, then she repeatedly kissed them and poured perfume on them. It was a great act of love and contrition. But Simon, the host for the evening, couldn’t see this; all he saw was a common street walker; an outcast, a sinner who sold her body to others.
This was more than the host, Simon the Pharisee, could bear. With a heart full of pride and soul full of contempt, Simon thought 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.” Stop and consider Simon’s attitude here for a moment. How often do we allow our own self-righteous condemnation of others get the better of us? We also have to be careful here, it’s easy for us to sit in judgment of Simon until we realize we’ve done the very same thing. We’ve been just as guilty of allowing pride and self-righteousness get the upper hand. But Jesus aware of Simon’s thoughts, said, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” Simon said. So Jesus proceeded to tell Simon a parable. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred pieces of silver, the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now,” asked Jesus, “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 Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You didn’t give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t 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.” Then Jesus came to the punch line: “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” It’s a profound statement. “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Could this be why many of us are so halfhearted in our love and witness for God? Is it because we’ve never really thought of ourselves as sinners? Is it because we really don’t hunger for forgiveness? Is it because we downplay the sins we commit daily or try to explain them away? In a conversation with another pastor this past week, the question was asked, “When does temptation become sin?” The answer is, “When we stop asking if it’s right or wrong and start looking for ways to excuse or justify our actions.” “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” How often have we sung the words to that ageless hymn but never experienced the emotion: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” When did we ever feel ourselves to be a wretch, or lost, or blind?
A young pastor was in his first year at a certain congregation. The congregation had traditionally had a Confession of Sin as part of their worship liturgy. However, the pastor’s predecessor had eliminated this prayer of confession from the service. Feeling this was an error, he tried to reinstate it. But to his great surprise, resistance to the proposed change was fierce. Some members thought that a confession of sin was too morbid a thing to do in church, where one’s spirits were supposed to be lifted up. During the heat of the debate, one woman, an elder in the church, exclaimed, “But I don’t need to apologize to God for anything!”
The pastor, as you might expect, was dumbfounded. He later said, “My seminary training hadn’t prepared me for this.” “I thought everyone knew we had to confess our sin.” Here’s the problem: what if we have no consciousness of sin? What if pride has blinded us to our need for God’s forgiveness and grace? That was the situation of Simon the Pharisee. He was blind to his need for God. And because he didn’t feel a need for God’s mercy, even though he was quite religious, he missed the joy of being bathed in God’s love. Notice what happens next in our story.
Jesus says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” I can’t think of a more wonderful proclamation for this woman to hear. Your sins are forgiven. What comfort, what peace, what joy! There are at least four times in a service when a pastor is filled with the same kind of joy. When you respond to the Apostolic greeting, when you return a greeting of Christ’s peace to me, at the end of the service when I pray God’s blessing on you and at the beginning of the service when I declare the forgiveness of your sins in response to your confession. Your sins are forgiven. What words of power and healing. But not everyone, that was there that day, felt the same way. Luke tells us, the other guests in Simon’s house began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Simon and the other guests had somehow missed the whole point of Jesus’ parable. They were hung up on the fact that Jesus professed to forgive sins. That’s probably because these guests were also Pharisees, as Simon was, or they were at least pharisaical in their attitudes. When Jesus gave His punch line, “whoever has been forgiven little loves little,” he wasn’t talking about the woman. He was talking about Simon, and everyone who’s like Simon. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves committing the same sins as Simon. We may find that our love and need for God is covered over by our pride and self-righteousness. Like the story of the publican and the religious leader, we need to realize that there are at least two sinners involved in Jesus’ parable, the woman and Simon the Pharisee.
And in a twist that I’m certain was shocking to those there that day, Jesus forgave the sins of the prostitute who was contrite in her heart, but didn’t forgive the Pharisee who thought he was so superior and didn’t really need to be forgiven. She, according to the text, recognized her need, while Simon allowed his pride to make him oblivious to his shortcomings. This is the constant temptation of church people; we’re tempted to allow our pride to mask our need for forgiveness.
Another young pastor was visiting in a very humble home in the mountains a bit west of here. The home wasn’t really much more than a shack. A layman, a middle-aged man of some means and a pillar of the church, was with this pastor. They’d come to deliver a Christmas basket which was obviously much needed. There were several children in the family and it was also obvious they were in need of social assistance. Their home showed much neglect both inside and out.
The young pastor tried in every way to show the love of Christ to this family, to show acceptance and to epitomize the Christmas spirit. But just before he and the layman left this home, the layman showed how he really felt about the family, by walking over to the TV and drawing his finger across the top and displaying to all in the home the layer of dust that was on his finger. He then shook his head somberly in disapproval. The young pastor wanted to sink through the floor. All the good intentions he had for showing the grace of Jesus Christ was completely undone by his ungracious layman. The sin of pride and a judgmental attitude can blind us to our own need for repentance. This is why Jesus tells us to remove the plank from our own eye before we try to remove the splinter from our neighbor’s. (Luke 6:42)
There were at least two sinners in the house that night; one was a prostitute and the other a Pharisee. It’s easy to recognize the prostitute’s sin. What Jesus saw that day was a penitent soul and a self-righteous sinner whose pride had blinded them to the need for God’s grace. There was little hope for Simon because he saw no need for change. The prostitute knew she was missing the mark; Simon was blind to the entire target. Instead of having compassion for the woman, Simon and the others turned their noses up at her.
How often do we find ourselves playing judge and jury when it comes to the behavior of others? That’s what Simon was doing. “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.” Yes, she was a sinner, but that wasn’t for Simon to decide. He had his own sins for which to repent.
Evangelist and author F.B. Meyer once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we don’t know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we don’t know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. But there is another thing we don’t really know: We don’t know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
Who here remember Ann Richards, the colorful Texas politician who suggested of a prominent political candidate that he had been born on third base and thought he had hit a triple? She was talking about many of us, at least spiritually. We need to remember another statement Jesus made, “To whom much is given, much is expected” (Lk. 12:48). This is to say that it’s our job to love people and to leave judging to God.
This is how we best witness for Christ by reaching out to others in the same way Christ reached out to us. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us . . .” writes St. Paul (Romans 5:8). And that’s the same attitude we should have in our relationships with others, loving them and not judging them. Simon felt no need to show compassion toward this woman or to help her to a better life.
There was a story on NPR sometime back about a 31-year-old New York City social worker named Julio Diaz. Diaz customarily followed the same routine each evening. He would get off the subway to the Bronx one stop early, just so he could eat at his favorite diner. But one night as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.
As he was walking toward the stairs, a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife and asked for his money. So Diaz gave the boy his wallet. As his assailant began to walk away, Diaz said, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people all night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” The young man looked at him like he was crazy, and asked, “Why are you doing this?”
Diaz replied, “Well, if you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner . . . and if you want to join me . . . hey, you’re more than welcome.” “I just felt maybe he really [needed] help,” Diaz said later. Remarkably, the boy agreed, and the unlikely pair walked into the diner and sat in a booth.
Shortly the manager came by, the dishwasher came by and the waiters all came by to greet Diaz. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?’” “No,” Diaz replied, “I just eat here a lot.” The boy responded, “But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.” “Well, haven’t you been taught that you should be nice to everybody?” Diaz asked. “Yeah, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the boy said. The social worker saw an opening. He asked the boy what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz said. He couldn’t answer or he didn’t want to.
When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for it. But if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.” The teen “didn’t even think about it” and handed over the wallet. Diaz gave him $20 . . . he figured maybe it would help him. But Diaz asked for something in return, and the boy gave it to him. It was the knife which the boy had used to rob him.
Two sinners were present that night when Jesus went to Simon’s house for dinner. One was a woman who knew and was remorseful about the sin in her life. The other was a Pharisee, one of the most respectable men in his community. Sadly, it seems from the text that, only one found forgiveness that evening. God’s grace is our only hope, we can’t let our prejudices and pride blind us to that.
At the beginning of the sermon this morning I said I didn’t know what to do. However, based on our gospel reading for today, I do know what I shouldn’t do. And that’s let pride and a sense of self-righteousness blind me to my own need for God’s love and grace. As a father I understand the responsibility I have to be a model for my children and for the children with whom I have influence over. It’s not an easy task, but with God’s help and a humble heart, I believe God can enable us to be the kind of example we need to be. May God richly bless the father’s here today and the men who have a Godly influence in the lives of our children.

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