Monday, June 14, 2010

A model sermon

Anglicans (and, of course, other Christians) preaching through the lectionary face good challenges: saying something fresh about the gospel reading which was the same three years ago; connecting gospel and other reading(s). Here is an excerpt from a good sermon on yesterday's readings:

"What makes us so afraid of the other? There’s something in our ancient genetic memory that ratchets up our state of arousal when we meet a stranger – it’s a survival mechanism that has kept our species alive for millennia by being wary about strangers. But there’s also a piece of our makeup that we talk about in more theological terms – the part that leaps to judgment about that person’s sins. It’s connected to knowing our own sinfulness, and our tendency toward competition – well, she must be a worse sinner than I am – thank God!

That woman who wanders into Simon’s house comes with her hair uncovered – “oh, scandal! She’s clearly a woman of the street!” And she starts to act in profoundly embarrassing ways, crying all over Jesus’ feet and cleaning up the tears with her hair. And, “oh Lord, now she’s covering him with perfume! We can’t have this in a proper house – what will people think? And I guess now we know just what sort of person this fellow is!”

The scorn that some are willing to heap on others because we think they’ve loved excessively or inappropriately is still pretty well known. Yet it is this woman’s loving response to Jesus that brings her pardon, and Jesus’ celebration of her right relationship with God. She doesn’t even have to ask. Jesus seems to say that evidence of her pardon has already been given – full measure, pressed down, and overflowing – just like her tears and hair and cask of nard.

It’s the same message Jesus offers over and over: “perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn 4:18). It’s actually our fear of the wretchedness within our own souls that pushes us away from our sisters and brothers. Fear is the only thing that keeps us from knowing God’s love – and we most often discover it in the people around us. Jesus wasn’t afraid to eat with sinners, either Simon or the other dinner guests, and he wasn’t afraid of what the woman of the city was going to do to his reputation."

You can read the whole sermon here.

It was preached by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori at Southwark Cathedral. (H/T Thinking Anglicans).


Howard Pilgrim said...

A great link, Peter! You have previously published some disparaging remarks about the lack of theological depth displayed by this preacher, so your praise of her on this occasion goes some way to redress the balance.
For myself, I will trust this sort of spiritual insight in a bishop much more than any ability to display verbal footnotes and other scholarly pretensions. Speaking as one scholar to another, of course!

Nice new blog template, by the way!

Peter Carrell said...

I try to be fair to one and all!