As a society, we spend a lot of time focused on the “in-crowd”, particularly who is IN that “in crowd” and who is OUT. The term “in-crowd” might be a little hard to define, and the qualifications to be named part of the “in-crowd” seem to change with regularity. Here’s a good definition I found on a contemporary English website: “a small group of people in any organization who are fashionable, popular or powerful, but who do not let many other people join them.”
In today’s Gospel story, Jesus is being hosted at a banquet given in the home of Simon, the Pharisee. Simon was part of the “in-crowd”, a member of the powerful religious elite who claimed that living righteously was what gave you an IN with God. Simon invited Jesus IN to his home, perhaps as an offer to join the “in-crowd”, and ever-so-curious about the young prophet and the stories he’d heard about miracles being performed all over the countryside. Jesus had gotten Simon’s attention, and for a moment was one of the “in-crowd”.
In the story an incredibly brave woman broke the boundary of the “in-crowd” and suddenly entered the house of this powerful Pharisee, and ran to the feet of Simon’s honored houseguest. The woman is clearly someone who is an OUT-sider. We’re told she was a sinful woman, without specificity, but Luke makes things very clear that she is someone who doesn’t belong to the “in-crowd”, at least as defined by those in power for the moment. She doesn’t live a righteous life, and therefore could not be part of the “in-crowd.”
One of the striking themes throughout Luke’s gospel is Jesus’ consistent welcoming IN of those whom society considers OUT. Jesus heals a Roman Centurion’s servant, and does the same to the son of a widow, welcomes a thief into the Kingdom of God, and forgives those who put him to death. Everything Jesus does in Luke’s gospel draws the focus of those who are IN, to those who are OUT, those who God loves every bit as much.
Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus IN, and is given a picture of what invitation really means. The unnamed woman, anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil, then wipes them with her hair and her tears, in a splendid display of love, devotion and gratitude for Jesus’ and his ministry of forgiveness. Jesus does not consider her an OUTsider and Simon is shown that he should not either.
One we invite Jesus into our home, we are no longer the host.
Perhaps you are feeling more like an OUTsider than someone from the “IN-crowd” these days. Please know that Jesus doesn’t play by the same rules that define the INS and the OUTS of the world. You are definitely part of Jesus’ heavenly “IN-crowd” and are called like this strong, brave, though unnamed woman, to give your love extravagantly in thanksgiving for God’s extravagant grace.
Devotions for Week of June 12, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.