A Big Enough Gospel
Rev. Donnell T. Wyche — January 31, 2021
Big Enough Gospel – Radical Inclusion
We have discussed that the Gospel is about more than just our sins because the Gospel is about the whole person, that the Gospel is about our restoration as image-bearers, that we are being invited by Jesus to join God as co-regents empowered by the Holy Spirit that will compel us to act. We are invited to announce the good news of the God’s liberation, God’s restorative justice, and God’s radical inclusion.
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. (Luke 7:36-38)
Meals during this time were private, political, and cultural mixed with music, poetry, and a lot of drinking. These meals were also the place where the moral teaching of the day would introduced, discuss, and debated. Women were not part of these meals – if a woman secured an invitation, they had their own space, often with children, servants, and slaves.
The food at these meals was the social substance, and it served as currency. As a host, what one is able (and chooses) to serve expresses one’s own position and helps define one’s relationship to others. What you, the guest, are offered is a measure of your standing in the eyes of society and your host.
So when a woman, who wasn’t invited, pushes her way in to get to Jesus, she shreds the social-political construct of the Symposium in her desire to get to Jesus.
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.” (Luke 7:39)
Jesus doesn’t act the way he “should.” He doesn’t say anything or stop the woman from touching him. They are also ruining the meal, the prestige, and the honor. Jesus does notice that Simon the pharisee is getting angry, so Jesus responds to him with a story.
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. (Luke 7:40-43)
As Jesus invites Simon into the story, he reveals to Simon that he too owes money, just like this unnamed woman, who pushed her way into the meal. The tables are flipped, and Simon now has a decision to make.
Jesus doesn’t challenge Simon’s belief that the unnamed woman is a sinner, he just challenges Simon’s belief that he is not. Jesus welcomes them both to the table. Jesus will demonstrate this fully on the cross. Jesus does not provide God with the capacity to forgive; Jesus reveals God as forgiving love.
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.”
The woman was “deeply dismayed at the insult to Jesus by his host.” This act of humiliation was something she was familiar with. It’s tied up in this act of dehumanizing. And it broke something in her, if the host won’t see his humanity, she would, because she’s heard that he will see hers.
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 7:44-50)
Developing our Humanity Again at the Table
We try to enact welcome through our communion meal. We come to this table, not because we must but because we may, not because we are strong, but because we are weak. We come to the table, not because of any goodness of our own gives you a right to come, because we love the Lord a little and would like to love him more. Jesus opens wide the invitation and meets us at the table.
Maybe this is why Paul has a warning for us that we don’t recreate the dividing walls of hostility that Jesus dismantles and therefore, “eat and drink judgement on ourselves.” This is a reminder from Paul that we are to make sure that the sacred meal is fully inclusive to the family of God, not about whether or not you’ve confessed all your sins before you take your tiny plastic shot of grape juice.