If you ever get a chance to experience Up Town Church I highly recommend you do. We are a motley crew from a whole variety of backgrounds and stories but we have a few things in common. We are all broken people who are discovering new levels of wholeness through our relationship with Jesus and our relationships with one another.
We have really been enjoying our Sunday Night Journeys with Luke series. Luke as the only gentile writer of scripture comes at the gospel story from an unique perspective. He includes many stories of Jesus’ encounters with the marginalized. He illustrates the esteemed position the poor and disadvantaged have in the Kingdom of God. In Luke we are discovering that Jesus came for people just like us!
This weeks we were to look at Luke 7:36 -50, the story of Jesus dinner at Simon the Pharisee’s home and his encounter with a woman who is called ‘a harlot’ in Eugene Petersen’s the Message. I was all set to talk about this woman and her life style and her repentance and Jesus’ love and forgiveness when in walked a friend I had not seen in several months. I knew that S. was in a battle with an addiction to crystal meth and crack cocaine. This addiction had led her to survive in the same way as the woman in our story.
I gulped and thought to myself “This is awkward!” but then asked God to reveal his compassion through me as I shared this story. This was her first time at Up Town. I had got to know her through Community Chaplaincy. I did not know why she had chosen to come for the first time when a prostitute was a key figure in our study but I chose to believe that it was no coincidence.
The scene of Jesus and this woman is at once beautiful and messy to the point of grossness. Simon had neglected his hosting duties either by forgetfulness or as a snub. He had not seen that his guest’s feet were washed. Those feet would likely have been dusty at best and dung coated at worst (not a pretty thought). Her tears flowing from a repentant heart create almost an idyllic image in our minds but copious tears are most often accompanied by commensurate amounts of snot! All this dripping on the Messiah’s filthy feet. Embarrassed she cleans up the mess with her hair!
She is a spectacle! And she makes Jesus one as well! Simon alone in the picture retains his dignity but at what cost. In her brokenness and mess she finds forgiveness and the love which has eluded her most of her life. Jesus finds a follower and receives gratefully her messy worship. Simon at the end is forgiven little and loves little. He occupies the judge’s seat reserved for Christ alone.
The one who was on the outside is firmly established as inside the ambit of Jesus’ love and the one who considered himself on the inside excludes himself.
As awkward as it was, I felt God at work in our midst. The message of forgiveness and acceptance and belonging was being heard. At the end of our time I always ask the same question “Does this make sense to you all?” I let my gaze rest on S. as I asked this I could see her nod.
We had a bit of a chat afterward but I don’t know all that was going on in her mind and heart. This I do know, God has his reasons and He is at work in our lives. I look forward to where this journey leads next.