I break or ruin a lot of things. It’s not necessarily that I want to break or ruin them, it’s just that I tend to push things to their breaking point. I will twist something just a little too much. Or bend something a little too far. And before I know it, its broken. Drives my wife crazy. It often happens with things that don't belong to me. So then the question becomes, “Is it bad enough that they won’t notice?” Or, “Can I make it seem like wasn’t really my fault?” If I just pretend like it’s not broken, then maybe I can get by without having to own up to it.
When I was in middle school my youth pastor Shawn and I were headed to go play basketball at the local gym that he belonged to in his classic Dodge Caravan, but before we went there we had to swing by his apartment to grab his shoes. So we pulled up right in front of the pathway leading to his apartment, he putt the van in park, and ran in to grab his shoes and left me in the van which was still running. So as he is walking to his door, I get the idea in my head, that I am going to turn his van around for him because I know that he is going to have to do so when he came back. I simply wanted to surprise him by doing something nice. How often what starts like good intentions, end in disaster. So I hop in the driver’s side, put the car in drive and pull forward to where I had always seen him turn the car around before. I then put the car in reverse to back into the parking space that will then allow me to go back down to pick Shawn up. A simple three point turn. Well point number two of the turn did not go according to plan. As I was backing up I failed to ever look over my left shoulder or check the left mirror. Something they teach you in Driver’s Ed I guess. My reversing was abruptly stopped by a loud crunching noise to my left. I look out the window, and all I could see was a giant wooden post. I had managed to wrap the door around the post. Well I knew this wasn't good. I immediately completed my three point turn and pulled the car back down to where Shawn would be returning any second. I hopped back in the passenger seat, bucked my seat belt, and waited. Shawn walks out second later, sees the car has been turned around, smiles, I smile back, and pretend like everything is just fine. As he rounds the front of his van to the driver’s side, his mouth drops open. I look up at him with my hands in the air and say, “What?”
I delusionally pretended like everything was fine, when clearly everything was not fine. I was ashamed at what I had done. I didn't want to hurt my ego (not knowing how to drive), pride. And so I tried to hang on to the myth that everything was just fine, even if it was for a mere 10 seconds.
I don’t know about you, but I am a broken mess of a person, and for too long I have tried to hang on to the myth that everything in my life is just fine. I get so good at pretending and fooling all those around me that I have it all together. Am I really fooling anyone though? Often times in Christian culture I think we gather together with other people who are really good at pretending as well. It becomes one big delusional mess of people who are never really themselves with other people, but always presenting to be a version of themselves they think is more attractive to other people.
This isn’t living. Its pretending. Jesus tells us that he came so that we might live, and live abundantly, and tonight I want to suggest that part of that process is to live out of a place of brokenness.
Scripture: Luke 7:36-47
So a religious leader, one who was probably not entirely opposed to Jesus, named Simon, invites Jesus over to his house for a meal. Once they come inside they all take their places around the table. It would have been a table that was very low to the ground and the guests would have been laying down on their sides with their heads near the table and their feet away from it.
Meanwhile, as they are gathered around the table, Luke tells us that a woman who was from the city, a sinner, finds out that Jesus is at this house and enters it. The use of these words creates an idiom that would be something similar to “a well know sinner” or “public sinner.” We aren’t sure exactly what she was well known for, but we can be fairly certain that the surrounding community looked down upon her as a scandalous disgrace of a human being. She was broken. And people didn't want anything to do with her.
So the woman enters Simon’s home. She was not an invited guest. But homes in Jesus’ day were not as private as they are today. Doors would remain open allowing family, friends, beggars, even the casual passers-by, to wander in. Can you imagine if this was the case today? Living where Kristi and I do, with all the people who pass by our door every day, I could not imagine leaving our door open.
We are told she had brought with her an alabaster vase or a flask of perfumed oil. It would appear that this woman already knew something of Jesus, and that he/and or his teachings, had already had a profound impact on her life, because she was coming to anoint Jesus with oil. This would have been a symbol of gratitude. Perhaps she has already heard Jesus’ message of forgiveness through John the Baptist.
Here is a woman who was no stranger to being the object of ridicule within her city, standing in the home of those who so freely ridiculed her, because she has heard of this Jesus and his message of grace and forgiveness. She had heard that he is the kind of person who hangs out with people like her. She knows she is broken, but she believes that there is a God who has come to meet her in the midst of her brokenness and begin a process of restoration. She doesn't want to interrupt the meal, but as she is standing at the feet of Jesus she becomes overcome with emotion and begins to weep. Before she can even get the vase of oil open, Jesus’ feet are wet with tears. What a mess. This is probably not how she envisioned this whole scenario unfolding, but she can’t contain her emotion. Her thought is to now wipe off Jesus’ feet. But remember this is not her home, and she has nothing to wipe them with. And so she tries to make things better, but in the eyes of those looking on, she made the situation a whole lot worse. She lets down her hair to use as a cloth. In that culture, no decent, respectable woman would do such a thing in public. But she continues because she cant help but show her love to Jesus. She wipes his feet with her hair and begins kissing them, eventually pouring oil over them. What an absolute mess.
Well Simon sees all this happening and he can’t believe his eyes, let alone that this is happening in his home. What this woman was doing was wrong on so many accounts. This woman commits multiple social and cultural slip ups, but Jesus seems more concerned with the social slip up of the religious leader.
Jesus senses that Simon is irritated with what is happening in his home and so Jesus addresses it. He begins by telling a parable about a lender who has two people who owe him money; one a huge debt, and the other a much smaller debt. Both are forgiven their debts. Jesus then asks Simon who he thought would love the lender more. Simon answers, “I suppose the one with the largest debt cancelled.” He is essentially asking Simon, “Do you see how this woman’s behavior displays the love of someone who has been forgiven? Who has been met in their brokenness?
Jesus continues his conversation by drawing comparisons between the woman and Simon. Telling Simon how this woman, who was truly broken, was the one who had actually been a host to him, loving in a profound way out of her place of brokenness. Notice how it wasn't the religious leader who displayed great love, but an uninvited guest, playing the part of a humble host, full of gratitude. What is so interesting about this story we are exploring today is how similar the church has been to this religious leader in this story. He didn’t show great love, but was more known for being judgmental, hypocritical, and everything he was against. A few years ago a poll was done on a national level about the perception of Christians among non-Christians. Can you guess the trop three things that came up when they were asked what they thought of Christians? Anti-gay, judgmental, and hypocritical. What did Jesus say his followers would be known for? Love.
He then ends his conversation with Simon in verse 47. He tells Simon that because this woman understands her place of brokenness, and her need for restoration, she was able to love in such a way where the status quo and social convention were ignored. She understands, accepts, embraces her place of brokenness because she believes there is a God who meets her right where she is, who has already forgiven her, and begun the process of putting her back together.
I believe that Simon and this woman were both broken individuals, but it was only one of them who was able to love greatly in this moment; the one who who didn’t pretend like she wasn't broken, but owned up to, and chose to live out of it.
What About Us?
What are we doing here? Why are we gathered together this evening?
You know why I think we are here? We are broken people longing for something. We are longing for healing. We are longing to be heard. To be ourselves. To shed the masks that we so often have to put on. To be understood. Longing to be connected. Longing for something real in a world so jam packed with the artificial. Longing for people to sit with us in the midst of our mess. Longing for excitement in the midst of a life that feels like a mundane routine.
We long for life. But we think we can get it on our own.
If we just change this or that. If we can fix this about ourselves or someone else. If we can just meet the right person. If we can just do a better job at a particular task. If we can just overcome that addiction. If we just start being more spiritual; praying more, reading the Bible more, doing more charitable acts. If we just find the right church, and maybe this new one will do it for me. If we can make people think we have it all together.
Do you see the illusion that we get tricked into thinking? That we have the power within us to experience a better, more fuller life. It’s called pride. We pretend like we know all the right answers and have our life in order because we are afraid of what people will think if they really knew what was going on in our life. If they knew about our messed up family life, about our broken marriages, our addictions, our failures as friends, as spouses, as parents, our insecurities…The reality is, we are shattered mess of broken glass that we are desperately trying to hold together so we will appear whole. It doesn't work. It is a waste of time. We buy into the myth of pride, that we aren’t broken, and what it really does is break relationships with the people closest to us, our families, the community, and world around us. It causes us to be people that actually love those around us less, because we are so concerned with maintaining a certain persona. Simon had forgotten to be the host. This is what Jesus was trying to point out to Simon. Was Simon any less broken than this woman? No, he simply had learned to live life in such a way where he covered it up.
I grew up in a house that always looked like a magazine. For my mom, everything had to look perfect and be in the right spot. Meanwhile one of her sons was dying from cancer, eventually would die, and she has struggled with depression ever since. I learned from my mom that even though everything might be broken in our life, we at least appear to have it all together. This message was then reinforced by the religious cultures that I have been around for most of my life. This is why it was so powerful for me to hear my mom praise my wife last week for her hospitality. My wife is a very hospitable person, but the image of hospitality that I have always had looked more like my mom’s: perfection. With tear filled eyes she told Kristi, “You have taught me so much about what it truly means to be a host, to let people in and see you and your family as you truly are. It’s real. I have realized that I have just been putting on a show. Thank you.”
The woman in this story was broken. But she didn't hide her place of brokenness, she embraced it and chose to live out of it. She experienced forgiveness and grace in her life, which then caused her to go and show great love in such a way that ignored the social and cultural norms and broke the status quo. Out of her brokenness she became the loving host.
This is our desire for this community. That this would be a group of people who stops pretending that we have it all together, but admits our brokenness, because we believe in a God who meets us in the midst of it and has already forgiven us and started the process of making us a whole.
We aren’t scared of brokenness. Of mess. And we wont pretend like it doesn't exists. We want to be people who are out in this world loving the people that no one else will love with a great love that ignores what is culturally or socially acceptable, but we know that we can’t fully do that until we first admit our own brokenness and get out of the way of what God wants to do in and through us.