Posts Tagged ‘Do You See’

You Know What They Say About Assuming 6-12-16

This sermon, based on Luke 7:36-50, explores the dangers of letting our assumptions about individuals define them in our minds rather than seeing them as precious people.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

As I think back on elementary school, I have certain memories that stand out for each and every year…certain events or interactions that have seared themselves into my memory…but one year actually has 2 of these memories…3rd grade…the year I mistakenly called my nearly retirement aged teacher Grandma…and more importantly, the year when I got a strange notion to watch the clock on the wall for 15 minutes straight…right in the middle of whatever lesson was currently going on…I’m not making this up.

For whatever reason, I sat and stared at the clock, watching the second hand make lap after lap for 15 straight minutes…I was so impressed with my laser like focus, that I raised my hand, and interrupted the lesson to share with my teacher and the rest of my class that… “I just watched the clock for 15 straight minutes.” I assumed that my teacher would be impressed…but you know what they say about assuming…if you’re familiar with that old saying, I think its safe to say that I certainly fit the bill that day…and needless to say, I didn’t score any brownie points with my teacher.  (pause)
Now why do I bring this up today? Because the notion of assumptions is all over this gospel lesson…while Jesus reclines at dinner hosted by Simon the Pharisee, a sinful woman enters, approaches him, cries on his feet, wipes them with her hair, and then pours expensive perfume on them…this sparks off a great deal of controversy and conversation around the table…along with assumptions and judgements.  (pause)
Now the first assumption that happens belongs to the host…Simon the Pharisee. Just why he chose to invite Jesus to dinner is up in the air…perhaps he was curious…perhaps he hoped to learn more…or on the flip side perhaps he had already passed judgment on Jesus and he hoped to use this as a chance to discredit him…but either way, Simon holds an assumption…a preconceived notion about Jesus.

Then once the woman enters…Simon makes assumption number two…that Jesus must not be who he says he is…the rumors must not be true…because IF he were a PROPHET….he would know what type of woman this is that is touching him…that she is a sinner. (pause)

Now here’s the funny thing…because for many of us…perhaps even most of us that are familiar with this story…I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’ve made an assumption as well…Ask yourselves this question…what do we know about her? Think about it for a second. (pause) Now what did you come up with? I’m guessing that some of you have it in mind that this woman is a prostitute…and that her sinful reputation is physical in nature…am I right…at least with some of you?

If so, don’t feel bad…you aren’t the first one to come to this conclusion…but if you did, allow me correct you…no where in scripture are we given any evidence of who this woman is, or what she does…and more important what the nature of her sinful reputation entails…but if that’s the case then were does the assumption come from?

Perhaps from the somewhat scandalous nature of what she does…at least for that time. Keep in mind that it was socially unacceptable for a woman to approach a man in this way…it was also unheard of for a woman to touch a man who wasn’t her husband…and even the fact that she lets down her hair to wipe his feet is something that would not have been done…and so for those present in that day and age…this would be a little scandalous…and perhaps its in the scholarly knowledge of Jewish custom at that time that has given us the common assumption that she’s a prostitute…but in reality…the only thing that we know…is that she is sinful…but just like Simon the Pharisee, we have judged this book by its cover. (pause)

Honestly, isn’t that what’s going on here…as the event unfolds Simon thinks to himself that because Jesus allows himself to be touched…to be engaged by this sinful woman, then there is no way that he can be a prophet…in short…Simon’s passing judgment on both of them at the same time.

Now after some back and forth…Jesus asks a question…Do you see this woman? I thought a lot about that question…because at face value, it could be a simple question…Hey Simon, look at her…but it doesn’t seem to be…rather in this simple question, Jesus points out that Simon sees only the sin…only the reputation…only that which the rules dictate to be unacceptable…

But Jesus sees more…he sees the woman for who she is…as an individual…not as a list of prior infractions and mistakes…and then he goes one step farther, pointing out something that perhaps Simon had completely overlooked…that this SINFUL woman, has actually fulfilled the acceptable rules of hospitality that Simon overlooked.

I am your guest Simon, but you gave me no water to wash my feet. You gave me no kiss of greeting. You did not anoint my head with oil…all the things that the host is expected to do, Simon neglected…now perhaps he thinks that Jesus is a lowly guest who’s unworthy of these things…or maybe he’s just forgetful…we don’t know…but what Jesus points out is that the woman, in doing what Simon assumes to be scandalous, is actually fulfilling what was expected of Simon…funny, it seems that she’s bailing him out of his faux pau…this lowly sinner and this SUPPOSISED prophet, have put Simon in his place. (pause)

Now that’s all well and good…and it serves to support the notion that Jesus has come to usher in a great reversal…that God stands with the downtrodden…and that her sins while many, are forgiven because of the faith that she displays.

But what’s this got to do with real life? I went round and round with that over the course of this week…and honestly, I kept coming back to the assumptions about the woman…that Simon assumes to know her…and that we hold the misconception that she’s a prostitute…in short…that we all assume the worst and define her by it rather than seeing her as a person…as someone of worth.

And while I pondered on all this…the news this week has been slammed with story after story of a gifted college athlete receiving a slap on the wrist sentence after being convicted of 3 counts of sexual assault…I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the story…and you’ve perhaps clicked on the links to read the letter that his victim shared at his sentencing…and the public outcry over his lack of compassion…his lack of ownership over what he has done.

Now this is only one example…but it’s a story that I hear about far too often…when someone victimizes another person…and all too often…our assumptions end up placing blame on the victim…and instead of hearing words of comfort…we make statements and assumptions that she was asking for it…that she have known better.

And this is unacceptable…this is a failure on the part of our society…first off that we shift the blame away from the perpetrator onto the victim…and secondly that we have not done a better job of teaching our children how to love and honor and respect one another.

For how else could this have happened besides one individual failing to see another individual as a person of worth…but rather as an object to be used as they saw fit…isn’t that really what sexual assault is? And likewise, isn’t that what Simon did in the story…by failing to see the woman as a person, but rather as a listing of her past…and if that example isn’t fitting enough, lets slide back to our Old Testament reading…and the great king David…the epitome of a leader who follows after God…well he did the exact same thing with Bathsheba…treating her as an object for his desire…and when it backfired on him…he went on to treat her husband as less than human…having him killed. (pause)

Now as I share all of this today, I know that its harsh…and I realize that some of you might need to go home and have some uncomfortable conversations within your families…but this is reality…this is life…and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times, the Bible…Scripture, its honest about the fact that life…is….messy…and its messy because of sin.

And when we boil it all the way down, I think its safe to say that sin manifests itself in selfishness…in placing ourselves above others…either in how we view them, or how we judge them…or how we treat them…sin will place us on the pedestal every single time. (pause)
I wish that I could stand here and tell you what to do about it…but I can’t…I wish that I could tell you how to solve it, but I can’t…because we can’t solve it.

We can only look to the example of Christ, who reminds us to look and see the person…not the sin…to see the individual, not the assumptions that we make about them…and finally to look to Christ with humbleness, recognizing that we are sinful…that we are flawed…and that we need to be saved from it…and thanks be to God that Christ has already saved us from it…it is already done…and as he tells the woman, your faith has saved you, go in peace. (pause)
That’s good news for us to take with us as we go…but as we go we also need to be aware of what’s going on in the world today and hold ourselves and those around us as accountable for how we treat one another…Let us learn to ask the question in every encounter…Do you see this woman? Do you see this man? And in the meantime, let it be our prayer that we do not look to our assumptions…but that we see one another as God sees us…a person of worth…a person worth compassion and love and acceptance….and lets throw those assumptions out the window…because in the end, you know what they say about assuming…