First Lesson: 1 Kings 21: 1-10, (11-14), 15-21a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 5: 1-8
Second Lesson: Galatians 2: 15-21
Gospel Lesson: Luke 7: 36 - 8:3
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin with a story about with story about Grandma. Grandma was one-time hosting a dinner party. Grandma put out her best napkins, finest china, and the sterling silver. Grandma then invites the guests to gather around the table. Everyone wondered what Grandma was going to serve? Grandma proceeds to place boxes of Girl Scout cookies on everyone’s plate. People were unsure how to react. The answer to what would be the main course on this day people would soon receive as Grandma proceeded to sit down and open up her box of cookies. Now what I love about Grandma is I know very few people who would ever think of doing what she did here. Grandma always keeps people guessing. Grandma refuses to look at the world like other people look at the world. What I want to talk about today is why our judgments of “How the world should work?” often need to be abandoned especially when it comes to forgiveness.
Many of us know the story of a woman that I’ll call Sarah that lived in a town in Samaria called Sychar. Sarah had been married five times before and was now living with another guy. Sarah was one day out fetching water when she encountered Jesus. Sarah and Jesus meeting each other would have been a scandal on three different levels. 1. Jesus was going to be talking to a woman that wasn’t his wife. Such a form of outreach would have been unheard of for a religious leader within Jesus’ day. 2. Sarah was a Samaritan, Samaritans and Jews were long-standing rivals. Samaritans were considered to be “sell-outs” or “phony” Jews on account of their marriages to a foreign woman and worship of foreign gods. 3. Besides being a Samaritan, Sarah had an extremely questionable reputation besides this. There would have been no reason other than grace for Jesus to interact with Sarah from Sychar. Sarah’s past didn’t stop Jesus from offering her “living water” which sprung forth from the spring of forgiveness. We know this story of Sarah. But maybe what we haven’t considered is what happened to Sarah after she encountered Jesus. Did Sarah backslide in her relationships and her faith? Did Sarah maybe get married a few more times? How did people respond to Sarah after she encountered Jesus?
What I want to do this morning is tell you the story of a woman who very well could be Sarah. I want to tell you the story of a lady who had nowhere to turn in the world until she encountered Jesus. A woman who was so moved by her previous encounter with Jesus that she had to see him again. She would even go so far into break into a dinner party uninvited to see him. I want to tell you the story of the sequel to the woman at the well in Sychar.
Simon was a successful and serious man. Simon never missed a Sabbath day at the synagogue. Simon was generous towards others with his income. Simon’s language was always wholesome. Simon was never a drunkard. Simon was a good and faithful husband. Even those who knew Simon best couldn’t say anything bad about him. Simon had heard about Jesus and wanted to invite him over to dinner. Simon’s invitations because of his place in the community where always accepted. Sure, Jesus was becoming quite well-known as he joined Simon for dinner. Word had been spreading about him raising The Widow of Nain’s son throughout the countryside.
As Jesus walked into Simon’s house, though, he noticed something about Simon’s greeting. Simon was friendly, but Simon was cold. Simon offered no sort of embrace or touch towards Jesus. Simon was failing to make eye-contact. Simon didn’t offer Jesus any traditional amenities given to guests such as a basin to wash his feet or oil to wash his hands. Simon was acting like he was the one doing Jesus a favor by inviting him over for dinner.
On the other side of town was a woman like Sarah from Sychar. The woman with the questionable past heard that Jesus was eating at Simon’s house. She was impulsive and decided that she had to see Jesus right away to “thank him” for what he had previously done for her. She like Grandma didn’t tend to do things though the way that ordinary people do things. She wasn’t going to wait for the next day. She wasn’t going not to make a dramatic scene. She was going to break into Simon’s house uninvited. She was going to fall at Jesus’ feet. She was going to pour ointment upon these feet, and she was going to dry these feet with her hair. Simon would watch this whole scene in shock.
Simon would never dare to have a woman like Sarah from Sychar in his house. Simon was embarrassed in front of his friends. Simon looked at this woman and saw a mess. Her wardrobe was showing off in Simon’s mind too much skin. Simon looked at this woman’s behavior and deemed her to be nothing but a “sinner” with criminal tendencies.
Jesus had to say something now to Simon. Was Simon wrong in his assessment of the woman like Sarah from Sychar? No, but there was more to this story then Simon was considering.
Jesus started talking about money. Jesus talked about money quite a bit because he knew people like successful Simon would understand it.
A certain creditor had two debtors, one owed five hundred days wages, and the other fifty days wages. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now, which of them will love him more?”
The whole scene in our story from earlier begins to make sense finally with Simon being so cold to Jesus and the woman like Sarah from Sychar being so warm. Simon understood the meaning of Jesus’ words regarding the depths of forgiveness.
Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he, who is forgiven little, loves little.
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
You see forgiveness is not conditional; forgiveness is final. We can’t grasp the unconditional because everything else in the world is seemingly conditional. The same terms for Simon and Sarah from Sychar, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Frank Lloyd Wright is considered to be the greatest American architect ever. What you might not know about Wright is his career contains more twists and turns than you could imagine for someone of his status. From the years of 1924-1933, Wright’s career fell apart. Wright was unemployed after having been at the top of his profession. The only person that would hire him was his cousin. Wright was struggling to buy groceries. What happened was Wright took advantage of everyone he came across, because he believed that he was so talented that he could. In the year 1932, Wright decided to undertake a complete change in philosophy as Wright took in more apprentices to assist him. After Wright had come to terms with his weakness, his career began to turn as he begins to work with others in designing the Fallingwater house which is considered the greatest triumph in American Architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was in many ways like Simon. Lloyd Wright couldn’t shake from his head that he was better than those around him by his accomplishments. The biggest problem with Lloyd Wright’s thinking though is pride ultimately does cometh before the fall. Falls are inevitable. What forgiveness says to us though is there can be a way forward.
When Thomas Edison was working on the light bulb, there is a story that you might not know. The light bulb in its initials stages was such a complex project that it took a team of men twenty-four hours to put it together. When the first working version got completed, Edison handed it to a young boy helper to take it up the stairs. The helper had spent hours watching the team work together and feared to let Edison down. As the helper walks up the steps, his worst possible scenario becomes reality. He dropped the light bulb, and it broke upon the floor. Edison’s team has to start the process over again for another twenty-four hours. What’s interesting though about the story is not that the light bulb broke, it’s rather “Who do you suppose Edison had carry the bulb up the steps next time?” Who was more grateful either the one who owed five hundred days wages or the one who owed fifty days wages? Who was more grateful Sarah from Sychar or Simon?
You see forgiveness truly does have the power to change the world. In 2012, Chandler Gerber was driving down a remote Indiana Highway on the way to work. Gerber figured that he was safe to text his wife. Gerber didn’t see the Amish buggy on the road ahead of him causing a crash at 60 mph. The scene was bad: the crash destroys the buggy, the horse was injured, and a three-year-old and a five-year-old child were dead. Weeks after the accident Gerber received a letter from the deceased children’s parents which I read this morning:
Trusting in God's ways, how does this find you? Hope all in good health and in good cheer. Around here we're all on the go and trying to make the best we can. I always wonder if we take enough time with our children. Wishing you the best with your little one and the unknown future. I think of you often. Keep looking up. God is always there.
Martin and Mary Swartz.
For many people such a response is unfathomable. Who did Chandler Gerber think that he was? How ignorant are Martin and Mary Swartz? The thing though is we often get forgiveness wrong. We too often believe forgiveness as being a form of weakness. If Simon compared himself to Sarah from Sychar, then he has to admit that he’s just as messed up as she is. Forgiveness though is not about weakness; forgiveness is rather about hope and promise. Forgiveness is about extending a claim that the past does not have absolute power over your life. Once Sarah from Sychar encounters Jesus, her life was never going to be the same again because Jesus sought to take away the past’s power. Forgiveness says the world will not remain full of poison and despair forever. Forgiveness ultimately points us towards the cross. Forgiveness gives life to the dead. A woman at the well in Sychar was spiritually dead; Jesus gave unto her living water. Simon couldn’t make sense of this until Jesus offered him that same water too. Amen
 Church Tradition has never identified the identity of the “sinful woman” from Luke 7. Common tradition has identified her with Mary Magdalene. Less common tradition associates this woman with the woman taken in adultery from John 8. My version of the story is more creative tying this woman in with the Sychar woman.
 Text study courtesy of Markquart, Ed. “Anointing of Jesus’ Feet with Oil: Gospel Analysis.” Sermons from Seattle. Pentecost 3C. Web. June.7.2016.
 Markquart, Ed. “Anointing of Jesus’ Feet with Oil: Gospel Analysis.”
 Luke 7:41-42
 Luke 7:48
 Luke 7:50
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. Penguin Books. New York. 2013. Print. P.67-72.
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take.
 Zingale, Tim. “are forgiven”. Sermon Central. 11. June.2007. Web. June. 7.2016.
 Zingale, Tim. “are forgiven”.
 Pomeroy, Ross. “The Power of Forgiveness.” Real Clear Science:The Newton Blog. 27. Aug.2013. Web. June.7.2016.
 This letter was read in the You Tube video entitled “From One Second to the Next” by Werner Herzog placed online on Aug.7.2013.
 Pomeroy, Ross. “The Power of Forgiveness.”
 Pomeroy, Ross. “The Power of Forgiveness.”