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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Scandalous behavior

Raised by wolves ... that's how I characterize myself when my interpersonal behavior makes others (and me) uncomfortable, but sometimes a serious wearing of one's heart on one's sleeve is rewarded, or at least it's so for the woman in Luke 7:36–8:3 who crashes a dinner party to wash Jesus' feet with her tears.

I saw an interesting article on the subject in the latest issue of The Christian Century - Scandalous behavior by Michael Lindvall. Here's a little bit of the article below .....


Each of the four Gospels tells about the woman who anoints Jesus while he is at table, and in each Gospel someone sharply rebukes her for her action. But Luke is unique: unlike event as told the other three Gospels, the act of anointing as told in Luke does not portend Jesus' death. Instead, hospitality and table fellowship are the recurrent themes, and they are a clue to the meaning of this parable. The woman in Luke enacts radical (and offensive) hospitality even as she crashes the party. She incarnates an extravagantly gracious (and scandalous) welcome as she washes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, kisses them with her lips and finally anoints them with oil .....

There are three characters in the tale: Simon the Pharisee and host of the party, this unnamed woman who crashes Simon's pleasant soirée, and Jesus, the guest ...... Simon is the very caricature of respectable religiosity, a Pharisee who is doubtless good and honest, as well as curious and open-minded enough to invite Jesus to dinner. The woman is, well, a woman, and a "woman of the city" at that. She is "a sinner" in everybody's estimation, finally even that of Jesus. And she's forward, uninvited and outrageous, breaking all the rules about how women and men are to relate to each other in this time and place. Yet it is this woman, and not Simon the host, who offers Jesus the ironically appropriate hospitality .....

Simon didn't need Jesus as Messiah or Savior; he was just interested in what he'd say. Thus his hospitality, such as it is, is really all about Simon and Simon's spiritual interests. Our society, indeed our churches and our seminaries, are populated with more than a few Simons, interested and interesting spiritual dilettantes for whom Jesus is mostly, well, interesting.

The woman, in contrast, offers Jesus a hospitality that is all about Jesus. It is oriented toward him, not her. There is no theological dinner talk, only her act of utter, off-putting, self-yielding devotion. She needs Jesus not to round out her personal spirituality but so she can become whole, the human being she was created to be ......



Blogger Cura Animarum said...

A very succinct examination of the passage. That we need Jesus not to feel nice or to keep us engaged, but to feel human, whole for once and for all. I Love it.

9:45 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Cura - I like the wholeness thing too.

12:40 AM  

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