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.”
A fine-tuned machine.
That’s how I want my car to work so I take good care of it. I’ve taken my sweet sweet prius in for her scheduled service. We are up to our 15,000 miles, check all sorts of things, including replacing if need be my car’s oil and air filters. If only the same could be done with people.
Now if you don’t know what a filter is. Let me give you an example of what it does. So, we hold most of our Village committee and team meetings across the street at Trinity. This past week, I got there early for a meeting, and I secured that big table booth that is kind of in the corner by the front door. I often arrive early so that meet and talk with, connect with the servers and maybe get some work done. I also like to be there to greet our members when they arrive. So on Thursday, I’m sitting at our table, with my computer open, jotting down thoughts for this sermon and I hear someone come in. I look up and not recognizing the couple, I say, “you are not my people.” I do not say this in my head; I do not even just whisper it under my breath. I declare it out loud, for if not the whole bar to hear, at least anyone within 10 or 15 feet.
My filter was not working well. What I said wasn’t bad; it wasn’t evil. It just didn’t need to be said. Although you’ll never see one in anatomy, our filter just like in a car or a coffee pot, regulates what goes in and out.
Sometimes, I wish my filter would have been working like the Pharisee’s in our story for today. After inviting Jesus to dinner, presumably having a good conversation (you know when you get past talking about the weather and sports). They are there reclining, and then that woman comes in. The pharisee definitely did not invite her, but somehow she get’s in. She doesn’t cower in the corner, she doesn’t wait until they are done talking. She barges in interrupts and disrupts their conversation with her oils and her tears, and her hands.
Well this pharisee, while he may be wondering how this woman got in, his filter is working over-time. I don’t know if he personally knows her. I don’t know if he is stereotyping her. Whatever, his filter is telling him that she is a sinner, that she is unworthy and unwelcome. And, if this is obvious to the pharisee, why isn’t it obvious to Jesus, a supposed prophet, a holy man? How come Jesus doesn’t recognize her? 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.” How come Jesus is letting her touch him? The Pharisee’s filter doesn’t let this thought, doesn’t let these words escape. None of this is spoken outside his own head—out loud.
Again, that’s the job of a filter—to regulate what gets through, what gets out.
According to the Pharisee, Jesus, obviously there is something wrong with his filter. Not only does he allow the woman to get close, close enough to touch, close enough for her tears wet his skin. This woman is emotional; she is a wracked with sorrow, with pain, and despair that’s how we usually describe her. But tears do not just fall when we are sad. She could be so thankful, so happy, so moved by the opportunity to see, to be near. Her joy, her relief that Jesus is there for her. That could be the source of this outpouring of oil and tears. Nevertheless, all the pharisee sees is that she is a mess.
So Jesus also addresses Simon the pharisee.
You know, if all we wanted was smooth superficiality, if all we wanted to do was get along, Jesus could have just agreed to disagree with the pharisee, kept silent, and kept the peace.
But as I said earlier, there is something off with Jesus’ filter. So Jesus speaks up. Now he doesn’t begin berating the pharisee. No, Jesus uses another method. He uses an example, a story about two people in debt. One has been pretty good and she owes only a little bit, the other that one is in over her head. But both debts are forgiven. Who is going to be the most relieved, joyful? Of course Simon admitted that it would be the one who owed a lot. Jesus could have left it right there. “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.
Well, I guess we know that Jesus’ filter is not about being polite or making friends.
Jesus points out that the pharisee’s filter is self-righteousness—what matters to the pharisee is whatever confirms his judgement of the way the world works and whatever makes him look good.
And again, that’s not how Jesus’ filter works. Do I have to spell it out for us? Jesus’ filter is love. Jesus let’s love flow freely. Nothing is going to get in the way of his, of God’s love—not appearances, conveniences, not even elections.
So, what do we call what we are doing right now? Worship. Service. Umm. Church, people of God, this is our time to check ourselves, to see what we’ve been letting through and letting out. Whether we just need to fine tune or a major overhaul, this is our time, our service time to replace fear, self-righteousness, self-consciousness, hate and hurt with joy and love like the woman at Jesus’ feet. Wherever you’ve been, it doesn’t matter where life has taken you, no matter how many miles you have on you, this is our service time. Let us be filled so much with God’s love that it flows freely, let our filter be love. Amen.