Proper 6+Year C The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
16 June AD 2013 St Thomas Parish Isle of Hope GA
Brennan Manning, recently gone to be with the Lord, was one of my great spiritual mentors. In one of his books he relates a story My understanding is that he once gave a conference here!
" The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. 'They won't let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.'
'What are you complaining about?' said God. 'They won't let Me in either.”
'What are you complaining about?' said God. 'They won't let Me in either.”
Scandal! On the news right now! Benghazi, the IRS, Eric Holder, the White House? What next? But
this is nothing new. In fact, we are gathered here this morning to commemorate the greatest scandal in
human history! Or didn't that ever occur to you?
Paul wrote: "we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. " ( I Cor. 1:23-25)
The word "stumbling-block" is the Greek word "scandalon". Jesus the 'scandal' of God. Ask the
Jewish community--Messiah won't die! Ask the Moslem community: "God can't become man!" With
the increasing restriction of Christian speech in the public sphere, prayer at football games for high
school graduations, one might ask "what are they afraid of?" But this is nothing new in Christian history
beginning with Jesus himself and the apostles all of whom but one, St John, died a martyrs death.
With all of this in mind let us turn to our readings for this Sunday. First we confront the story of David.
and Bathsheba. Surely you'd heard the story before this morning! David observes the wife of one of
his officers bathing and using his position as king has her brought to him. As the reading narrates, he
seduces her, they spend the night together and shortly thereafter, she is pregnant. Now the scandal
begins… In order to cover it up, he winds up getting using his own commanders to have her husband killed while he is in a battle. Scandalous!
Jesus is invited to a Pharisee's home for dinner. While there a woman comes into the dining area and sits
at Jesus' feet. It was the custom to recline on your side while you ate at a low table in those days. As you may know, the Pharisees of the day were all about outward signs of their spiritual piety., a quality not unknown to us in the Christian Church. Immediately upon seeing what the woman is doing to Jesus, washing his feet with her hair. He makes a judgment about Jesus and the woman. Scandalous!
Had you really thought about how the Bible just puts it all out there for you to see? If it was you, wouldn't you have edited out the really 'bad' stuff to make everything look good. No, it record things as God sees them. The greatness of God's Love and Grace are shown most dramatically by contrast to the thoughts, words and deeds of the human race! Scandalous!
David somehow thought that God would not see his sin! He knew better! He was THE MAN! What did he do? Rather than deny his sin, he immediately confessed it. The Pharisee had no idea that Jesus would hear the judgmental thoughts in his mind, he found out better! The glory is that when confronted by a 'parable' from the prophet Nathan about a "supposed person" he actually confessed what should be done to himself! He realized that HE was the man. He repented. He confessed. Shockingly, God still placed him in the line of Messiah, and Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon the successor king! In fact, looking at the character's lives in the Bible in the line of the Messiah can be a bit startling!
Abraham lied about who his wife was and put her in a position to commit adultery to save his own skin.
Isaac his son, did the SAME THING! Jacob lied about who he was when it was time to bestow the blessing, which would make that heir the primary heir and he deceived his father and underhandedly received the brother's inheritance. He tricked and lied to his father.
And then there's Moses. Do you remember that he had to flee Egypt when he was young because he killed and Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew and David, well we've already covered David. The list goes on and on! What it tells us is two-fold. God even uses our sins to praise him. Our God loves sinners. God loves not because of our thought, words and deeds, but in spite of them! Hallelujah! The grace of God turns a curse into a blessing! Scandalous!
When Jesus perceives the thoughts of the Pharisee, he tells a "story" in the form of a question. It is about money, something that the Pharisee understood. Who is more grateful the one forgiven a little debt he owes or the one who is forgiven much that he owes? The Pharisee likewise judges himself with his own answer. Then Jesus points out the breaking of the Sacred Laws of Hospitality the Pharisee had broken and how the woman fulfilled them instead. Remember how the Older Testament stories tell of strangers coming into a settlement and they prepare lodging and food for them? It was a given, cultural law. Again: Thou art the man! And Jesus says a remarkable thing: "I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” He saw the sense of her acknowledgement of her own failings, her self-hatred and he gives the medicine of her liberation! She lived in shame and Jesus set her free. Do we like the woman not realize how much we have been forgiven?
Did you realize that two thirds of Jesus' teachings were about forgiveness? That should tell us something. In contrast God forgives without merit and his forgiveness has no logic as we would see it. In the case of Jesus when he touches the 'unclean' according to the law he does not become 'unclean' by the Jewish Laws of Purity, but rather the unclean whom he touches or who touch him become clean! When we forgive we are most like God. Even Jesus, dying on the cross said: "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing." Jesus also said in the gospels: "Forgive and you will be forgiven." "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Proverbs 28:13 says: Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and
renounces them finds mercy. Yet what is the first thing the average human does when they have done something wrong? Try to "cover it up". You know like they do in Washington,.. or Atlanta.. or Savannah ...or perhaps even at St Thomas Parish occasionally. You know what the Bible says we are to do about covering? Peter writes: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.(I Peter 4:8) We each have been forgiven much and before each of us stands before God we will be forgiven much more! Because of God's great love.
Love covers...it doesn't broadcast. That's why gossip is so poisonous. I heard gossip defined as "confessing other peoples' sins." Jesus said: love one another as I have loved you..Paul when writing to the Galatian Church confronted something every Christian must deal with: personal failings and seeking to follow Christ in all that we do. We of course won't because we of course can't. It is the issue of works versus grace. That is why the 'collect' says: "keep us in your steadfast faith and love". Why? Because in reality we can't keep ourselves in that position. God wills to do that work of GRACE in us through Jesus Christ. God knows us better than we know ourselves.
Brennan Manning said: "God does not ask us to: pray, grow and be good in order to love us, rather God loves us, so we can pray, grow and be good! That is the WONDER of the gospel. Good news so good, some can't believe it's true. It is the very opposite of the way the 'world' functions. When we forgive as we have been forgiven, we liberate ourselves and we reflect the actions of God. What we would not and could not, God willed to do and only God could do!
I want to close with a Bible verse. Perhaps you've heard it before? It says something profound about God's love.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
AD MAJOREM DEO GLORIAM