Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 4th Sunday after Pentecost, 12 June 2016
Proper 6 Year C RCL: 1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a; Psalm 5:1-8; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
What a special encounter we hear in our Gospel as the weeping woman's emotions overflow, as Jesus responds in love, comes to her defense & offers new perspective to his less than gracious host.
The woman ministers to Jesus, bathing his feet & anointing him. Jesus ministers to this aching child of God, assuring her all is well & she can go in peace.......I wonder if her actions inspire Jesus to wash the disciples' feet.......I wonder if this beautiful encounter comes into his mind at the last supper.
It's the kind of moment we might want to hold onto. Let’s stay in this life-giving moment. Look at the love she expresses.....OK that was lovely.
Now look at death-wielding, blood thirsty Jezebel!
What a contrast. What a mix of characters!
What a metaphor of life.
What a call to action.
God calls us to action. Jesus shows us: life is a mix & God entrusts you & me to do something positive about this mix.
God entrusts you & me to speak up & thwart the plans of the Jezebels & the ungracious hosts we encounter.
Our Collect today tells us: we are to proclaim God’s truth boldly AND minister God’s justice with compassion.
The Bible’s Greek word for compassion means more than feelings. It “means to let one’s innards embrace the feeling or situation of another.”1 Author Walter Brueggemann says:
“Jesus enters into (our) hurt and...(embodies) it.”2
We see in today’s Gospel Jesus ministers justice with compassion & proclaims truth boldly.
Bold isn’t necessarily loud.
We see in our scriptures what happens when people fail to speak up:
People are marginalized like the woman who anoints Jesus.
People die, like Naboth, who is not marginalized from society.
He is a leader & is seated at the head of the assembly to preside at3 this meeting Jezebel arranges. This is how his community addresses a serious problem.4
Naboth knows the law, which is why he refuses to sell his vineyard to King Ahab. The law says: “ancestral property must remain in the family....”5
Like Naboth, Jezebel knows the law & that it specifies 2 witnesses & death by stoning6 for the charge she creates for the 2 scoundrels to bring against Naboth at the community meeting.
No one else at this meeting speaks up.
Not one person asks one question that might prevent Naboth’s death.
Good people’s silence results in Naboth’s death & the deaths of his whole family, as we learn in 2nd Kings 9:26.7 This means there is no heir for his property. The king gets it. An innocent man dies so pouty old Ahab can get what he wants.
The silent people at this meeting are like silent people in our world.
Not challenging the sin of separation, not challenging those misusing power continues in many ways.
We see in scripture how Jesus challenges separation in his day. He meets with, speaks to, interacts with marginalized people. The woman who anoints him is one. She is like today’s marginalized people – the homeless, the transient, & other outcasts8.
Our Gospel’s last paragraph emphasizes Jesus’ bold actions as he crosses the cultural divide of his day when he interacts with this woman & other women who are not his kin. Proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom, he travels with the 12 disciples AND women...
Author & contemporary prophet Walter Brueggemann says in The Prophetic Imagination (& I paraphrase in parts):
“Jesus’ association in public with women who (are) not his kin (is) a scandalous breech of decorum & a challenge to the gender boundaries of the first century.”9
Brueggemann says, quoting Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza (& I paraphrase parts):
“Jesus’ proclamation of God’s reign & the attendant healing, eating, & community-building (is) not to be (a male-only) enterprise...”10
Healing, sharing meals, & community-building are work Jesus entrusts to us.
Separation of people is not new. Only people can remove our self-imposed barriers.
As we do this, we fulfill God’s will for us to proclaim God’s truth boldly & minister justice with compassion.
We must speak against divisions that maintain us-and-them categories among our brothers & sisters....brothers & sisters for whom Jesus dies on that cross.
Our words can tear down our self-imposed divisions in the human family.
We must do this for Jesus’ sake. How we do this is not always clear. Its results we trust to God.
Doing nothing is not an option for us Christians. Doing nothing is to live with fear.
Doing something is to live generously,11 like we see Jesus do,
like we see the woman do as she anoints Jesus.
Living generously, we embody the abundant life God promises.
Living generously, we can proclaim boldly & minister justice compassionately.
Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. New York: Grand Central Life & Style. Hatchette Book Group 2012.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd Ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
Chittister, Joan. The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life. www.bluebridgebooks.com: (United Tribes Media Inc.) BlueBridge. 2011.
De Waal, Esther. Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1989.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Minneapolis: A Seabury Book. Winston Press. 1985.
Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. Inc. 2001.
Moore, Thomas. Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1992.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners. York: Ampleforth Abbey Press. 1993.
Westerhoff, Caroline A. Make All Things New: Stories of Healing, Reconciliation, & Peace. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 2006.
Whitley, Katerina Katsarka. Seeing for Ourselves: Biblical Women Who Met Jesus. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 2001.
1 Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd Ed. P. 89.
3 New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. P. 449-450.
5 Ibid. P. 449.
6 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 321.
7 Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. P. 58.
8 Westerhoff, Caroline A. Make All Things New: Stories of Healing, Reconciliation, & Peace. Chapter 4. Pp. 31-40.
9 Brueggemann. Prophetic Imagination. P. 86.
10 Brueggemann. Prophetic Imagination. P. 86.
11 Note: My concept of generosity is influenced by Ed Bacon’s 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind.