|The Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2014||Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A||January 5, 2014||Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A||Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve||December 24, 2013||Christmas Eve, 2013||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 15, 2013||Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
|Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 17, 2013||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10|
|Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 10, 2013||Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38|
|Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 20, 2013||Proper 24C||Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8|
|Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 13, 2013||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 6, 2013||Proper 22, Year C||Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10|
|Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 29, 2013||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
|Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 22, 2013||Proper 20, Year C||Luke 16:1-13|
|Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 15, 2013||Proper 19, Year C||Exodus 32:7-14, Luke 15: 1-10|
|Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 8, 2013||Proper 18, Year C||Luke 14:25-33|
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:June 16, 2013
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15; Psalm 32, Galatians 2:15-21, Luke 7:36-8:3
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 6, Year C
Many years into our marriage, Ben and I were having one of those conversations that married people sometimes have. I don’t remember what the issue was, but I was letting him know about something that he had done that had upset me. And when he replied, I just kept right on going.
And then he said something that really stung and completely silenced me.
Ben Hicks said these words to me. “You really know how to dish it out, but you don’t know how to take criticism.”
And he was right. And his words gave me the desire to correct this fault of mine.
Ben was speaking to me with candor.
I love this word, “candor.” It comes from the Latin noun “candidus” which means shining white, and the Latin verb is “candere” which means to be radiant, or shining white.
Candor is a word that we rarely hear in our society, because our society is not one that places a high value on sincerity, openness and impartial honesty.
The lectionary readings today remind us that God speaks to us directly and with candor in various ways, sometimes through other people, and sometimes directly as we pray.
Take David, for instance. David, chosen by God, king over all Israel, lusted over another man’s wife, committed adultery with her, got her pregnant and had her husband killed so that he could have Bathsheba to himself.
And the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
And so the Lord speaks candidly to David through the prophet Nathan.
Now Nathan doesn’t come storming in and shouting that David has sinned and is doomed.
Instead, Nathan has a talk with David and tells him a story. I can imagine this—David, completely taken in by this story and infuriated by the injustice of the rich man, indignantly shouts that the man deserves to die for what he has done, but at the very least, he should have to provide restitution to the poor man.
And then Nathan sternly points at David and says, courageously and with honesty, “YOU are the man, David! Thus says the Lord—look at all the ways I have blessed you, and you have despised the word of the Lord to do what is evil in the Lord’s sight!” And Nathan tells David that the consequences of this action are dire—David’s family will never know peace again.
And then Nathan and David sit in silence as this candid message from God sinks in.
With his head in his hands, David says in a low and sorrowful voice, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Then there’s the psalmist. We don’t know exactly what the psalmist has done, but he’s been less than candid and honest with God and now God is speaking to him through his prayers.
In my last year of seminary, God was very candid with me in prayer and I became painfully aware of the fact that I was displeasing God greatly by having distain for someone and holding onto a grudge against that person, and even taking pleasure in my dislike for this person.
And I became very aware that I certainly could not expect to enter into the priesthood with this sin tucked away in my heart.
This psalm really resonated with me when I read it, because during that time in my life I could literally feel God’s hand grasping the back of my neck none too gently, and finally, I confessed this sin and asked for God’s forgiveness.
And yes, God forgave me. And even though several years have passed, I still rejoice to have been freed from this distain I felt for a fellow human being, and I’ve found such joy in this freedom that even when I’m tempted to distain someone, I just set aside that temptation—I don’t want to haul that burden around with me ever again! As the psalmist shouts, “Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!”
Which brings us to the gospel lesson for today. Over and over in the scripture, we see and hear Jesus speaking candidly with people he meets.
This particular story is especially valuable because we get to see two different reactions to the candid message regarding sin and forgiveness that Jesus has for two people who have sinned—Simon the Pharisee and the woman who is actually identified as a sinner.
Some of the action has taken place off stage in this story. Although scripture doesn’t say, Jesus has clearly met this woman before now, and I’m sure that he must have spoken candidly with her about her life and her need for forgiveness. She’s heard his message and has taken it into her heart.
She has come uninvited, but prepared for this banquet where she knows she’ll find Jesus—she’s brought her alabaster jar of ointment. I’m sure this woman created quite a stir when she came into the room, cried so hard that her tears wet the feet of Jesus. And then, imagine the audacity—she let down her hair and dried his feet before she anointed him with the spicy smelling ointment from the jar.
Simon, the Pharisee is even more shocked by the behavior of Jesus than he is by the woman’s audacious behavior. Simon thinks to himself that a prophet would have known that this woman is a sinner and why would he let her touch him?
But Jesus knows those sins we have tucked away so deeply in our hearts that we don’t even know that they are there—and he sees into Simon’s heart.
Like the prophet Nathan in the Old Testament, Jesus simply tells a story.
He tells Simon about a man who has people who owe him, one more than another. And Simon reluctantly admits that the one who owes the man the most is the most thankful to have the debt forgiven.
And then Jesus candidly, sincerely and with impartial honesty spells out for Simon his lack of hospitality for Jesus his guest. “Simeon, you gave me no water for my feet, you gave me no kiss, you did not anoint my head with oil”—all of the things that a thoughtful host does for a guest who has been invited to dinner.
And if there’s one sin that God really frowns on, it’s our lack of hospitality and generosity toward one another.
The thing I love about this candor on the part of Jesus is that he gives Simon a chance to realize that with his lack of hospitality he has sinned against a fellow human being and God. Simon now has the option of asking for forgiveness and amending his ways.
We’ll never know the end of Simon’s story. Did he take this candor of Jesus to heart? Seek Jesus out later? Change his ways and become the most hospitable man in town? I hope so.
Every Sunday, we start our celebration of the Eucharist with the Collect for Purity (page 355)—we are all collected together in this prayer to remind ourselves that God knows everything that we have tucked away in our hearts, both good and bad. We have no secrets before God. And it takes God’s candor, working through the Holy Spirit, to help us cleanse our thoughts, and to be honest with ourselves—so that we can be honest with God and with others—and be free to perfectly love God and to praise God with the same extravagant praise that the woman lavished on Jesus at Simon’s banquet so long ago.
And in case we miss that first opportunity for God’s candor to wash over us at the beginning of the service, we also have the confession of sin completing the prayers of the people, in which we all admit together that we have sinned against God in thought, word and deed.
All week long, sometimes on purpose, and sometimes inadvertently, I cage myself in with the various sins I commit against God and my neighbor—the things I’ve done and left undone that hold me captive.
But when I repent and ask for forgiveness, it’s as if God opens a gate in those walls, and I’m free to step through this gate of forgiveness into freedom.
Outside those walls the light is radiant and the air is fresh and clean –a sunny morning after a long rain. I breathe deeply, filling my lungs with the pure freshness of God’s love, and I see everything around me in a new light. And I can hear God’s voice, full of candor, whispering my name. And because I just left behind all that sin, I step more lightly because I have nothing but love to carry now, and that love isn’t heavy—it’s God’s merciful love for me to proclaim and to share boldly and with candor.