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Move >> Love!

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June 16-17, 2007                                                                  Luke 7:36—8:3

Move >> Love!                                                      

I.     On September 29, 2000, heartbreak and disaster struck the Sydney Women's 4x100 meter relay team, not to mention the entire country of Australia.

A.   Twelve seconds into the race that would eventually determine an Olympic team, the second runner, Lauren Hewitt, took off from her mark and ran away from the baton-holding first runner, Elly Hutton. 

1.    It was immediately obvious that Hewitt was too far ahead.

2.    Hutton waved the baton and called out,

a.     but by the time Hewitt got the message to slow down it was too late.

3.    The baton did not reach her until she had passed through the permissible zone,

a.     and then it was dropped anyway. 

4.    Later, Elly Hutton conceded,

a.     “She was just too fast for me to catch her.  I called out to her to slow down.  I tried to get to her but it was too late. We ran over the line.” 

5.    Hewitt’s version was similar:

a.     “I don’t actually know how it happened.  I took off, and all I heard her saying was ‘Slow down, I’m not going to catch you’.” 

6.    Hewitt said she was “bitterly disappointed.

a.     We all wanted to go out there and make the final. 

b.    We’ve kept saying, anything can happen in relays.

c.     People drop batons.  

d.    Only this time it happened to us.”

II.     It happens all the time:

A.   The baton must be handed off carefully or the race is lost.

1.    At the 1936 Olympics, when the German women's relay team lost because the baton was dropped.

a.     The British press said, “They muffed the baton.” 

B.   The French news media referred to the baton as “les temois,”—or “the witness.” 

1.    To drop the baton is to drop the witness. 

2.    Care must be taken in the passing of the baton.

3.    The baton is the “witness,” and must not be dropped.  

C.   As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to take the baton of love from Christ and pass that baton of love to others. 

1.    And that’s what’s going on in the Gospel—in Luke 7 and 8 today.

D.   There are four characters in today's story, and each of the characters is in a race where a baton is passed to someone else. 

1.    Jesus is in a race that leads ultimately to the cross which in the end becomes the ultimate prize—but more on that later. 

a.     His is the baton of love and he is passing it to those who would come after him and follow him. 

2.    Simon is in a race as well and it’s the race to be noticed, included and accepted. 

3.    The woman in the story is in a race to be known, loved, treasured, and respected. 

4.    In both of those cases, all kinds of things are dropped,

a.     not the least of which is the baton that Jesus passes to them. 

5.    It’s interesting how we tend to drop batons.

III.     I want to start with Simon. 

A.   Another name for the race that Simon is running is the race for “reputation.” 

1.    And he’s running it pretty hard. 

IV.     The scene is the courtyard of Simon’s house.  

A.   The houses of well-to-do people were built round an open courtyard in the form of a hollow square.

1.    Often in the courtyard there would be a garden and a fountain;

a.     And when the weather was favorable, meals would be eaten there as well.

B.   It was the custom that when a Rabbi was at a meal in such a house, all kinds of people came in—they were quite free to do so—to listen to what he had to say and teach.

C.   When a guest entered such a house three things were always done.

1.    First, the host placed his hand on the guest’s shoulder and gave him the kiss of peace. 

a.     That was a mark of respect which was never omitted in the case of a distinguished Rabbi.  

2.    Secondly, because the roads were only dusty trails, and shoes were merely soles held in place by straps across the foot;

a.     cool water was always poured over the guest’s feet to cleanse and comfort them.  

3.    And thirdly, either a pinch of sweet-smelling incense was burned or a drop of extract of roses was placed on the guest’s head.

4.    These were the things which good manners demanded, but in this case not one of them was done.

D.   So Simon drops the baton of love, and Jesus calls him out on it. 

1.    But the reason that Simon drops the baton with Jesus was that he isn’t paying attention to anyone other than himself. 

2.    The technical term for this is “Simon-centric.” 

a.     Poor Simon is basically unconscious of any need to greet Jesus and therefore is unable to experience love.

3.    And as a consequence, receives no forgiveness.  

4.    Simon’s impression of himself is that he is a good man in the sight of people and of God. 

5.    He has no concept of his need for forgiveness and therefore, doesn’t receive any.

V.     And then, there was “The woman.” 

A.   She is racing toward real love, healing and recovery—healing of her inner person and recovery of her pride, her identity, her respect. 

1.    She is searching for someone who will love her for who she is; who she might become—and not for what she does.  

2.    What the text doesn’t tell us out rightly but implies all over the place is that she is a prostitute. 

3.    She is well-known in a notorious kind of way.  

4.    No doubt she had heard Jesus speak from the edge of the crowd. 

5.    There was something in his message—his non-judgmental care and extravagant love and grace that drew her in close to him.

B.   Luke is nothing short of artistic in this passage as he goes all out with the details of her encounter with Jesus. 

1.    Around her neck she wore, like all Jewish women, a little vial of concentrated perfume; they were called alabasters; and they were very costly.

2.    She wished to pour it on his feet, for it was all she had to offer.

3.    But as she saw him the tears came and fell upon his feet.

4.    For a Jewish woman to appear with hair unbound was an act of the gravest immodesty.

5.    On her wedding day a girl bound up her hair and never would she appear with it unbound again.

6.    The fact that this woman loosened her long hair in public showed how she had forgotten everyone except Jesus. 

7.    Somewhere in her life-story, she had dropped the baton and was desperately trying to pick it up again.

VI.     But all of this gets a bit confusing.  Simon and the woman are a study in contrasts.

A.   It is easy to see Simon unfavorably, yet his reaction to this woman and her actions really isn’t out of line. 

1.    In fact the way he responds is both reasonable and religiously and culturally appropriate.

2.    Not only that, but Simon is everything we might expect that God wants us to be: hospitable, a student of God’s word and pretty conscientious about issues of morality.

3.    Indeed, Jesus suggests that there was little in this Simon’s life which needed divine forgiveness.

B.   The woman, on the other hand, who is cast in a favorable light in this account, is clearly not viewed in such a light by her peers.

1.    She is a woman, a fact which culturally limits appropriate behavior, a limitation she does not observe;

a.     she is a "sinner," a veiled reference to sexual immorality;

b.    she is a disruptive, uninvited party-crasher.

2.    Her brazen and emotional behavior is off-putting to those who had gathered for dinner.

VII.     So what’s going on here? 

A.   Let’s go back to Jesus. 

1.    Once again, Jesus, turning everything upside down, calls us to look not only at this story but what it means for our lives from a different perspective.

2.    Jesus is calling people to handle the baton of love—not judgment. 

3.    He’s passing that baton to us—the church and asking us to think differently.

B.   Most of the time we rank sins to how bad they we think they are. 

1.    We do that very well. 

2.    We might say that lying is bad. 

3.    And then we might say that stealing is really awful. 

4.    And then we might way that murder is really, really terrible. 

5.    I want to suggest today that from God’s perspective, it all looks the same. 

6.    Sin is sin. 

7.    A broken relationship is a broken relationship no matter how it gets broken. 

8.    The baton that Jesus is asking us to pass on is the baton of love.

VIII.     I began by saying that there are four characters in the story from Luke. 

A.   Along with Jesus, the woman and Simon, you and I together are the fourth character. 

1.    And we’re in a race toward the cross with Jesus.

2.    On the way to the cross, this is how or conversation goes: 

a.     “But wait, what about the way she carries on?”

b.    Jesus says, “I’ll take care of that, you just show love!” 

c.     “But hold on, I mean, he really hurt me!” 

d.    Jesus says, “I’ll take care of that, you just show love.” 

e.     “But wait!” we protest!  “That’s not fair, he…she…they…” 

f.      Jesus reminds us that for every finger we point at another person, we have three fingers pointing back.  “I’ll take care of that.” 

g.    Jesus says, “You just pick up the baton of love and pass it on to the next person.”

B.   The message of the cross is that we’re called to show love. 

1.    Just show love. 

2.    That’s the baton that Christ calls us to grasp from him and pass on to others around us. 

3.    As soon as we begin to protest with just the smallest of calls of ‘unfair’, Jesus points to the cross and says, “I’ll take care of that. 

4.    In fact I’m going to nail all of your unfairness to that cross and let it hang there and die.” 

5.    What returns will be the grace that would make it possible for Jesus to be welcomed by Peter, the woman to be welcomed by Jesus, and all of us to be welcomed by one another. 

6.    That would be love. 

7.    Pass that on!

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