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June 12th: "A New Vision In Christ!"

Text: 1 Kings 21:1-21a; Psalm 5:1-8;                  4th Sunday after Pentecost                 Sandy Nuernberg

Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7: 36-8:3                        11th Sunday in Ordinary Time           Pastor

Title: “A New Vision in Christ!”                             Disability Inclusion Sunday

First Presbyterian Church                                      Sunday, June 12th, 2016                     Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, Lord, in our celebrating Pentecost you have given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift of seeing things anew. Open our eyes to new visions and to be blown away into you, O Christ, and towards others. It’s about you, O Lord, not us! Help us to focus not on ourselves so much as those around us whom you love and have been drawn to, and for whom your Son was placed on the Cross. AMEN.

 

            (SingJ)‘Do you see what I see?’ Wasn’t this a Christmas song sung by Bing Crosby long ago? Wowee, I guess that dates me!!  I like another moldy-oldy that’s appropriate for this time of year, (Sing) ‘I see trees of green, red roses too; I see them bloom, for me and for you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.’ Don’t we all have a vision of what’s in our minds, what we see, think, and feel? I know sometimes I even talk to myself concerning what ‘I think’ a certain situation might be:

 

(Sing): ‘I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,

the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.

and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

 

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,

are also on the faces, of people going by;

I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying, “I love you.”

 

            Encountering the Gospel of Luke, as we are in Year C in ordinary (green) time, can sometimes take us to places where we never dreamed we’d find ourselves; with visions far different than we ever imagined about ourselves and others. Like today in the courtyard of one sinner, Simon the Pharisee, a visitor and guest from the city, Jesus, and a sinner and unnamed woman. (There’s that number three again!! …completeness) Yes, it is a dinner where Jesus was invited as a guest in Simon’s own house to eat with strangers. It would be appropriate also, that passers-by would come to listen for bits and pieces of wisdom from Jesus. Simon sees just what kind of woman she is, too. This entire text is full of inclusiveness, tolerance of others. This entire text is full of inclusiveness, tolerance, hospitality of others! (A lesson from Jesus).

 

            What’s unique about this gathering is our focus not so much on the two sinners, but our attention upon Jesus, and how Jesus brings about a new vision for Simon, for us, when we least expect it. After all, our story here follows as Jesus has spent two or three hours healing; the blind now see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf now hear, and the dead are raised (Luke 7:20-35). Now as Simon’s guest; Jesus sees these people he is eating with in a whole different light than how Simon the Pharisee, or the harlot woman see each other.

 

            In fact, though we don’t even know why Jesus was invited, we can be a bit suspicious of what’s happening; religious Pharisees as lay persons are portrayed in the gospels often and quite distinctly. We remember that they were thought of as elitists, ‘separatists’ who loved the laws of Judaism pertaining to purity, circumcision, tithing, and judgment. We see and hear that doubt about Jesus in the words of Simon, “…he said to himself, ‘If this man (Jesus) was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him (The Message, p. 1420).’” Truly, Simon was making personal judgments, but Jesus counters with asking Simon a pointed question after telling him a story of indebtedness; really, a story about forgiveness.

 

            Actually, Jesus asks Simon two questions; the second one is the best, because it asks Simon to see this sinner of a woman through Jesus’ own eyes. ‘Put yourself in my shoes,’ Jesus is saying. She has wept, bathed Jesus’ feet, pulled her hair apart, kissed his feet and anointed them, all in extravagance towards Jesus, who has forgiven her of her sinfulness. Jesus is taking care of the judgment! Simon has perhaps not ever known so deep a sinfulness and faith as this woman, and so there can be no outpouring of love from him in his hospitality towards Jesus-his guest.

 

            Her love at Jesus’ feet was in return for Jesus’ love for her.; Simon and the Pharisees are so wrapped up in their own minds, so cut off and isolated and alone, judging what others are doing wrong, they can not grasp such excessive love in response to receiving Jesus’ hospitality and forgiveness.

 

            Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest because of all the trees. Our story is about two different mind-sets, two different attitudes; one (Simon) who loved himself, felt self-sufficient unto himself with no needs, and no love apparent. The other ( the woman) with intense love for Jesus who could render that love, and who was receptive to forgiveness.

Jesus saw women like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Suzanna, all who were cured from illnesses and evil spirits.

 

            Sometimes it’s hard to understand the stories of Jesus because in their depth and discernment we know God is creating a new vision in Christ for a newer world around us. Think of it, John Calvin thought that scripture was a kind of ‘lens,’ a way to focus bringing things together of what happens in the whole world; in essence the big picture!.

 

            As Christians we want to notice things, be hopeful with a new vision of what can be. One gift which we constantly receive from God is that of sight; seeing things in a new perspective. This next week our church’s General Assembly will be meeting in Portland, Oregon for the 222nd biennial convention (June 18-25; 171 PC(USA) Presbyteries). Thousands of Presbyterians will meet for celebrations, deliberations, and inspirations in support of our denomination. The theme is “The Hope in Our Calling” (Ephesians 1:18) and will include worship together, discussions by committee, and a plethora of amendments to consider. This year almost everything is live-streamed for current progress in many areas of the church and its function, operations, and new perspectives.

 

            What do I see, you might ask? I see that we as a church are on the verge of some meaningful ways in which God is leading us together. In our actions, in our words, we have exemplified how many talents, time, and energy we have collectively, all in love of God and neighbor that can provide for our desires and God’s desires for us. Yes, your Session will be focusing on a vision for our church, a view of our dreams and goals in the months to come. You can be included by talking to any Session member about your desires.

           

            Paul tells the churches (Galatia and others) that there is not anything any church in unity needs more than to be able to collectively use all of the gifts, attitudes, personalities, talents and dispositions of members towards God’s will and wonders for us. He reminds us that in Christ we are justified in our faith, in the work(s) of the Holy Spirit together, not only in the works of ‘the Judean law;’ what we plan can be done, and if not, we can only realize the consequences.

 

            Jesus placed the woman of sin in the viewer’s place of Simon the Pharisee, as he needed a new vision. Jesus places us as sinners in the eyes of each other; we are a church of sinners, not a cathedral of saints! In our weeping, bathing, drying, and anointing each other’s feet, like the unnamed woman, our faith saves us. With a new vision in Christ, we are loved, we acknowledge and forgive each other publicly of our sinfulness, and through Christ we are forgiven indeed. We are free to be God’s people in thinking, learning, and learning more, much more of God’s world, ‘what a wonderful world!’

 

           

                                                                        Thanks be to God.                         AMEN.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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