"God Forgives. Faith Accepts."
Second Sunday after Pentecost
St. Luke 7:36-8:3
June 17, 2007
IN NOMINE JESU
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Gal. 1:3-5).
"Beloved in the Lord, let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father, imploring Him in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness." We are gathered here this morning and have done this. We confessed our sins to the almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer. We heard that the almighty God, our heavenly Father, has for His Son's sake forgiven us all our sins. This Gospel reality has been declared to us in our hearing. This was the new reality for the sinful woman, for the Lord declared to her that her sins were forgiven. The Lord looked into her heart and saw that she was a sinner. Her contrition was great; she was in deep sorrow over her sins. Her sorrow was so great that she fell at Jesus' feet and wept. Her tears were so great that she washed His feet with them. It takes a lot of tears to wash a pair of feet; so it bears noting that she was in very deep sorrow over her sins.
Why would she wash her Lord's feet? Foot-washing was a common practice in Jesus' day because people walked from one place to another, even at distances comparable to that between Cambria and Wheatfield. They wore sandals, and they kicked up dirt with each step. So, even if they were technically clean, their feet were still dirty. When they came to a house, the host (or his servant, if he could afford one) would remove the visitor's sandals, take a large jar of water from near the door, and wash the feet of the visitor. So this sinful woman, in grateful service to her Lord, did what the hosting Pharisee did not do: she washed the Lord's feet. The Lord said to Simon the Pharisee, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head" (7:44). There are major contrasts between the sinful woman and the Pharisee. She knew she was in the presence of the Holy One of God. The Pharisee, like most of the rest of the Pharisees, rejected Jesus as the long-promised Messiah and the Son of God. The woman loved the Lord much. The Pharisee had no regard for Him; he even refused to give Jesus water to wash His feet. The woman knew she was a sinner. The Pharisee…knew she was a sinner, too. The woman received the Lord's forgiveness. The Pharisee refused it because he thought he was holy and clean already and did not want the "forgiveness" given by a blasphemer.
The Lord said to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven," and again, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (7:48b, 50b). She heard the Lord's forgiveness. Her sins were taken away. The Pharisee's sins, however, remained. He refused to repent; therefore he was not forgiven. And so it is with all who refuse to repent of their sins, for they have rejected the gifts God gives in His Word and Sacraments. We reject God's gifts when we withhold our confession of sins from God. When we do not confess our sins, we are not, and cannot be, forgiven. King David had two sins he did not want to confess. He sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba. Instead of confessing his sin, he sought to cover it up by committing murder by having his pregnant lover's husband killed in battle. David's sins remained unconfessed until God's prophet Nathan said to the king, "You are the man!" (2 Sam. 12:7a). The Law always accuses. The Law says to us, "You are the man!" "You are the woman!" "You are the sinner!" Any time we hear the Law of God, the Holy Spirit is convicting us of our sin. These are words we do not like to hear, bitter pills for us to swallow. But the point of the Law is to point out our sins so that we would be brought to contrition, to sorrow over our sins, even to the point of being in tears, as the woman in our text was. This contrition is to lead us to repentance, confessing our sins and asking for God's help to keep us from committing these sins again.
But if we do not confess our sins, we deprive ourselves of God's forgiveness. If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). We live outside of God's grace. Living outside God's grace is living in a state of unbelief, of condemnation, and this faces us when we withhold our sins from God. God will not forgive us as long as we do not repent.
This is why our Lord continues to call us to repentance. He continues to accuse us with His Law so that we would indeed confess our sins and receive the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins. This is what God wants to do for us. He wants to forgive us because He loves us. Our heavenly Father forgives us much because He loves us much, so much that He sent His only-begotten Son to win your forgiveness by dying on the cross in your place. Whether your debt of sins is small or large (and all of our debts are large), Jesus Christ paid the price with His very life, the price we cannot pay. Yes, Jesus Christ died on the cross and paid the price of sin for you. The passion our Lord has for us, His people, is great, as is His compassion.
In our Old Testament reading, Uriah unknowingly was killed to cover up David's sin. However, our Lord willingly was crucified, dead, and buried to be the Atonement Cover for our sins. He has covered our sins with the blood He shed. This is the literal meaning of the Kyrie: "Lord, have mercy upon us." This comes from the Greek Kyrie eleison, which literally means, "Lord, be an Atonement Cover for us!" Our Lord offers forgiveness to all people, but faith alone receives the gifts He gives in His Means of Grace. Today we are the blessed recipients of God's gifts as He comes to us through Word and Sacrament, giving us the body and blood of the Lord, that blood which our Lord shed on the cross to be our Atonement Cover. Faith grabs hold of the forgiveness, life, and salvation our Lord offers and makes these gifts our own. Faith, worked in us by the Holy Spirit, moves us to confess our sins and eagerly and gladly receives our Lord's forgiveness. As Jesus said to the sinful woman, He says to us today, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (7:50b). The peace He bids us is His peace, the peace which surpasses all understanding. And in this peace which the world cannot give is the assurance, the promise, that our heavenly Father freely forgives all who come to Him in repentance and faith, for Jesus' sake. "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
"The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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