Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why Have You Come?

Today’s reading from the Coptic Lectionary (Luke 7:36-50), reminds me of a question our Lord once asked Judas: “Friend, why have you come?” For each of us in the Church, this remains a relevant and potent question: Why have I come?

Today’s reading sheds some light. Looking at the passage, we find three groups:

The Pharisee’s Guests
Many of the people, no doubt, were there to see a sight. We know from the rest of the gospels that very often people gathered, not to be blessed by Christ, but because of miracles and signs and bread. They came of curiosity, to gather information, to see a spectacle, and/or for a source of gossip. The eternal and living God was there, perfect in His power and in His love. He was there to heal, but they had come for these ulterior reasons.

How about us? Why do we come to church? Do we come to look at who is there, to gossip? Maybe it is not something so sinister. Out of habit? A place to bring our kids, a social place, for networking, to see our friends? Do we come to be holy? (Be sure, that we can actually come to church and end up less holy). Or, do we come to meet God, to meet Christ, for this Person to heal us, change us, for Him to set our hearts on fire?

Questions we each need to regularly ask ourselves.

The Pharisee
This man was so proud of himself and of the honored guest he had in his home, that he forgot to honor the guest Himself.

We too like to associate with good and powerful people, sometimes not so we can take blessing, wisdom, strength and holiness, but so we can feel proud of who we know.

We want to feel important and so we associate with important, good, and holy people. But the right goal is to become better ourselves, to be like those people. People like to say they are Christian, not just an Egyptian, but Christian Egyptian, which is fine. But at some point, it becomes an identity, like something we put on the census. Where should my focus be? That I identify myself socially as a Christian, or that I have a living relationship with Christ Himself?

The Woman
This is the one who no one expects to be the hero in a story. No one in a religious community would look at her as the highest person. No one looks at her and says, "This is the holiest person."

Believe me, there are saints among us to whom we would not give the time of day.

There are saints who are lacking friendship and love. And their starvation for friendship and love is a blessing to them. They are fasting from love and respect. God is looking at us, withholding our love and respect, and I am sure it saddens His heart

Our Lord told a parable which has a special meaning in our modern economic climate. It was like explaining that one person owed a Wall Street banker $5,000,000 and the other $50. When the banker forgave them both, who loved him more?

Here’s the thing: when we believe we have been forgiven a lot, we love a lot. The issue is not how much we’re actually forgiven (We’ve all been forgiven infinitely). It’s how much we understand we’re forgiven.

There are people who believe God has forgiven them very little: “Hey, I’m an ok guy,” they may think, “No, I’m not perfect, but I’m a decent person, committed sins like anyone else and I’m grateful enough for God’s forgiveness.”

But this woman, like the real saints, was overwhelmed by God’s love and forgiveness. She got carried away. She was "over-doing it."

The Lord said “I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

According to Lev Gillet, the Greek leaves open two interpretations: Because you were forgiven much, you loved much, and because you loved much, you were forgiven much.

The question for us is, are we overwhelmed with God’s love? If not, what’s happened to us? Do we love much, so that we draw God’s great love? If we don’t want God’s love, he will not shove it on us. Violence against our free will is alien to his nature.

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