Monday, February 17, 2014

Sermon: Luke 7: 36-50 Simon, the Sinful Woman and the Saviour

I wonder does anyone recognise the TV theme tune? [Play the 'Come Dine With Me' theme tune]

On Come Dine With Me, contestants take it in turns to host a dinner party for some strangers. They are then scored in secret, with the highest score at the end of the week winning £1000. The scores are for their food, entertainment, hosting skills, and general feeling of how the evening went.

Today in our Bible reading, Jesus is at a dinner party. He's been invited to go to someone's house for a meal. So we need a host: Simon. Simon is a Pharisee. He's really religious, he wants to make sure that he keeps all the Old Testament law; he's sure that he's better than everyone else, because no one else is so observant as he is. He thinks he is good. In fact, he thinks he is perfect. [Give a halo and an angel costume - my surplice].

So Simon is hosting his dinner party. Jesus is at the table. When suddenly someone comes into the house. An unexpected, uninvited guest. Someone who doesn't belong. Someone Simon knows well, because she is described as 'a woman who had lived a sinful life.' She is the opposite of Simon. She's well known as a sinner, and Simon doesn't like her.

Now as if that wasn't bad enough that she comes into his house, what she does next is even worse. She gets down at Jesus' feet, she starts crying, and wetting his feet with her tears. She dries his feet with her hair. She gets a bottle of perfume and pours it on his feet. She kisses his feet. What a scene! And all this is going on in the Pharisee's house. The respectable, good, upstanding Pharisee's house.

Imagine you were Simon. How would you feel? Would you be cross? We don't have to imagine what he's thinking as Luke tells us. He says to himself that if Jesus was really a prophet he would know who she was and what type of woman she is: a sinner.

Simon looks at the woman and declares that she is a sinner. He's obviously thinking that he himself is not a sinner. Just this really bad woman - she is the sinner.

Just with that, Jesus tells him a story. It's about two people who owe debts. Have you ever seen or used an 'IOU' note? It's where you borrow money and leave a little note saying I Owe You. Well, these two people in Jesus' story have IOUs. The first owes 50 denarii [a big IOU 50d written on an A4 bit of card, held up]. That's a lot. The second owes even more - 500 denarii [an even bigger IOU 500d written on an A3 piece of card]. Now what are these denarii? When I pull out the money in my pocket, what are these? Pence. So how much are we talking? A denarius was the amount of money a labourer earned for a day's wage. So in today's money, the first owes £2500 and the second owes £25000 [with matching IOUs in pound sterling].

Now, can you afford to pay back your little debt? Or your big debt? Neither of you can pay. You'll end up in prison or in slavery. That doesn't sound good. But what about if your debts were cancelled? [Rip up the pieces of card] What would you think of that? You'd be happy, glad, rejoicing. Now which of them would be the happiest? The one who owed the more. They would be the happiest, and would love the most. The debt cancelled brings love.

Imagine that you're having someone come for dinner. What might you do to welcome them? You might shake their hand or give them a hug. You might take their coat and hang it up. You might show them to the bathroom to refresh themselves.

In Simon's Come Dine With Me, let's see how he scores: In Jesus' day there were no boots or shoes, just sandals on dusty roads. Your feet got all dirty. Simon doesn't give Jesus any water to wash his feet. How does he score? [The children and some of the adults got score cards with either 0 or 10]. He gets a zero. But what about the woman? She uses her tears to wash his feet. She scores a 10. What about the greeting when entering the house? In those days it was usual to kiss your guest on the cheek, but Simon didn't bother. How would we score? 0. What about the woman? She kissed Jesus' feet, and scores a 10. You would normally have oil to refresh you guest, give them a face wash, but again, Simon didn't bother. He gets 0. The woman? She poured her perfume on Jesus' feet. Another 10.

Simon is a really bad host. He doesn't show any care or love for Jesus. If it was CDWM he would get 0. But the woman, this really bad woman, she scores a perfect 10. Jesus commends her. She is showing love because she has been forgiven her huge debt. She knew she was a sinner, but she has also experienced God's forgiveness, and so pours out her love in response and gratitude.

Simon, he doesn't think he owes anything. He doesn't realise that he too is a sinner. He thinks his debt isn't as big or as bad as the woman's. You see, we can often compare ourselves to other people and think that we're not too bad after all. We're not as bad as him or her. But compared to Jesus, the perfect man, we fall far short.

We each owe a debt to God, a debt we cannot pay. All of us are sinners. We might think we're good, but we're not. We need to come to Jesus, and find that he has paid our debt. He has cancelled our debt by dying to save us from our sins. We can find in Jesus the relief of debts cleared and sins forgiven.

The woman knew that forgiveness and shows her love for Jesus. Her costly devotion to him, bowing at his feet.

It was Valentine's Day on Friday, but how do we show our love for Jesus? It begins by hearing those words: 'Your sins are forgiven.' When our debt is cleared, we are free to love and serve and follow Jesus. Let's pray that each of us will know the love of God in Jesus for us, and respond in love for him.

This sermon was preached at the Church Family Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 16th February 2014.

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