June 23, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows..” (Psalms 23.5)
In yesterday’s reflection on “sitting at table with my enemies to come face to face with the mercy of God and be at peace,” I mentioned the story of Jesus at table with Simon the Pharisee. He was also known as Simon the Leper. What a story that must have been. There is little wonder why a local prostitute, who must have had a healing experience at the word of Jesus, made an appearance at the banquet, too. To her, it was an opportunity to do what Simon had done when he had his healing experience. Reflect back on the healing of the Ten Lepers story found in Luke 17. I believe it exists in an entire unit of reconciliation teachings beginning in Luke 15 with the “lost” parables. Remember the responses of the shepherd, woman and father when what was lost had been found? They called their friends together and celebrated before God. There was a sense of wholeness restored and gladness invoked. And the same is true then of Simon the Leper. The difference is that the lost one who had been found was Simon himself. He had fallen before the feet of Jesus upon his recognition of his healing. He not only recognized the physical transformation but the social transformation as well. He was restored to return home and regain the life which the disease had taken from him. Imagine the joy of he must have experienced knowing he was going to be Simon the Pharisee again. He actually never stopped being a pharisee, if you think about it. He just couldn’t be with other pharisees, Saduccees, teachers of the Law and the Prophets or any of the ruler Temple leaders was the problem. Unless, of course, they were lepers and outcasts, too. And even among outcasts like tax collectors who lost their jobs or prostitutes who had their jobs, lepers were kept at a distance. Their position may have been one of “lower than low.”
But, by the grace and mercy of Jesus of Nazareth, sworn enemy of the Pharisees, Simon had been healed and restored. He immediately thanked Jesus and worshipped at His feet…on the road. Now, he was displaying his return to prominence, power and position with a banquet to which Jesus was conveniently invited. Except it wasn’t convenient at all, at least not for Simon the Pharisee formerly the leper. While Simon was a gracious host and believed enough to trust Jesus with healing, his attitude hadn’t changed much toward others. It would seem that such a “saving grace which brought healing” would bring a personal and cultural, if not even a spiritual, transformation. But, there it was in front of God and everyone- he was Simon the Pharisee. To the outsider hearing this story, there must have been a great sadness. Enter the prostitute. By all appearances she was known as a prostitute. Don’t think it was all about the clothes she wore (or didn’t wear), the jewelry and make-up that accessorized, the coif of her hair that gave her the appearance. It wouldn’t have mattered to those with a pharisaical attitude. She was known as a prostitute. In fact, she is so known, she doesn’t have a name. She is a prostitute to all but Jesus. In the presence of enemies, she was one but no longer. She may have seen Simon’s banquet as the opportunity to worship at Jesus’ feet and give thanks for the restoration she had experienced by His word of healing forgiveness. She had put her old life away and put on the new life. It wasn’t about externals, it was about internals. What now was in her heart was spilling out from her lips. She anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and kissed them. She bathed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The outpouring of gratitude was unmistakable except to Simon the Pharisee.
“How soon we forget!” Knock, knock. Who’s there? Me! Me who? How soon we can forget who we are with the desire to embrace who we were. I hear it often with the desire since COVID-19 began with a cry to “return to normal.” Who we were created who we are now. If we do not like who we are now then why would we want to go back to who we were that was responsible for who we are? And you will dare say “that wasn’t me” or “that wasn’t my fault.” And I would beg the question “Really?” What were you doing then to make sure that what is happening now wouldn’t? Can you chart a path or a course of thinking and behavior to this or that decision or non-decision (which is actually making a decision) and wonder “if I had only….”? None of us are without fault. All of us are with opportunity. Simon seemingly had forgotten “save by the grace of God,” I would still be eating pigs’ food, a lost lamb hunted by ravenous wolves or bears or lions or a lost coin of great worth rendered worthless because it was not collected or put to use. Simon had become the infamous character of the Prodigal Son’s oldest brother: haughty, unforgiving, blaming, seeking reparation, demanding justice and ultimately abandoning all he had been to be…angry, bitter, distant, arrogant, rude, aloof, militant, violent, murderous, slandering, maligning and so on and so forth?
Have we forgotten, mighty ones of God in Jesus’ name, who we are? Saved by grace and purchased with a price we could not pay by the One who paid it all. What kind of life response do we live today? Momentary thanksgiving and praise and continuing “life as normal”? Feigning faith and fomenting faithlessness or worse “Luke”warm faith? How has the Word of God “begged the question” of us today? Let’s say, for example, in the area of gun control, racism, partisanship, politics, hunger, abortion, education, poverty, health care. Just because our eyes may be closed, looking in another direction or blindly seeing doesn’t mean we are not standing face to face with the One who knows us because He is the One who died for us and calls us to live again with Him forever in spirit and in truth. So much to feast on…in the presence of our enemies within and without.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, how we need to be at peace with ourselves and opt to follow the Way, the Truth and the Life with tranformed lives. How dare we respond as if we are still the broken world when You have made us a new creature and a new creation! We must not forget ourselves: who we were and now who we are. The past is put away and the new has come. We give thanks to You in Jesus’ name for all that You have done and desire now for us to do by faith and not by sight. AMEN.