Monday, October 10, 2011

Deep Worship from a Grace-filled Heart

"…When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned 
that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she bought 
an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him 
at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. 
Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them 
and poured perfume on them…"
Luke 7:36-50.

This is a beautiful account of a woman who came to understand the love of Christ. It is also a tells of her repentant heart that loved deeply because she had experienced the forgiveness of Jesus for the sinful life that she had lived. Christ had been invited into the home of a Pharisee named Simon, who had not treated Him like an honored guest was treated in that day. The customs of the time indicate he should have provided water and had his servants wash Christ's feet and anoint His head with oil because He was considered a prophet, but neither was done.
Christ was reclining at Simon’s table to eat when she entered the home and stood at His feet. She was known for her sin, most likely a prostitute. Her tears begin to fall on his feet and she took her hair, which would have been considered her glory at that time and wiped her tears from His feet. Not feeling worthy of anointing his head, she poured a bottle of perfume on His feet and wiped it off.
having seen the scene unfold in his home, Simon thought that if Christ were really a prophet, he would have known what kind of woman was anointing His feet. Christ confronted Simon’s thoughts as only God could. He pointed out she had done what Simon hadn’t and then used a parable to show because she was forgiven much, she was able to love much. She was so humbled by His grace she wept hard enough to anoint his feet with tears.
The self-righteous Simon didn't even see he needed grace that Jesus offered. As a result, He didn’t experience Jesus love and he failed to love both the Lord and the woman, both of whom were guests in His home. He resented her outpouring of worship. Ironically, the actions of each person involved revealed their true character. 
Notice that it is a young prostitute standing in the presence of a Holy God, weeping and worshiping unashamedly who in a bold action clothed with humility wiped His “dirty” feet with her hair, continuously kissing them and covering them with expensive perfume. It was bold, loving, and kind, the only kind act of worship she knew to do. 
I often struggle with how to face my sin and tend to “beat myself up” for it, but her acts show us how to let the light pierce through the darkness. His grace in a way hurt and humbled her as she responded with a bold love demonstrated through her act of worship. She showed her understanding of forgiveness through her open, shameless worship. When I struggle with sin I want to hide and then shut down emotions so I don't feel guilty and the shame that comes from hiding sin. If I am invited to pray with someone about it, I often remain in my chair worried about what others might think. She was different! She fully understood God’s grace and publicly accepted it. Even more importantly, He accepted her worship.
By contrast, we have the Pharisee, Simon, who was embarrassed that she had entered his home and talked to his guest. He chose to focus more on the cultural morals that said that it was not proper for teachers of the Scripture to talk to women publicly, especially those labeled by sin. In doing so he failed to recognize the redemptive work done in her heart by the God reclining at his table. Because of pride and self-righteousness, he didn’t experience Christ’s love being offered. He refused to look honestly into His own sinful, judgmental heart. He never grasped that God’s love wasn’t based on his own merit, but on the Lord’s character. Because Simon had not experienced Christ’s love, He could not love the woman as Christ did. She was guilty of very visible sins and her sin had had huge consequences on her life both relationally and socially. Simon was just as guilty, but His sins were invisible ones like pride and self-righteousness and a lack of love. His sins were just as deeply rooted in his heart as hers were her her heart. Both were equally guilty before a holy God. It’s amazing that both Simon and the nameless woman came face-to-face with Jesus, but sad that they responded so differently. In Christ’s presence, she understood who she was, but he continued to deny who he was. She publicly recognized Christ as Messiah, while he silently questioned Christ’s deity. She was humbled by His presence, while his prideful indignation grew. She repented, but he did not. Oh, they both worshiped Christ publicly—she through her anointing and him through his banquet. However, her worship flowed from a heart filled with love and grace, his from a heart full of pride and longing for recognition rather than the grace he needed.
How many people do we judge the same way as Simon did? Do we look them over as they come in our church doors and wonder what they are doing at our church? Do we realize Jesus came to set sinners free? Do we recognize a girl’s inappropriate dress may indicate her desperate need of love or do we roll our eyes as she walks in the door and gossip about her? Do we recognize a guy cussing at school needs Christ just as much as we who talk “churchese?” Do we boldly and yet humbly approach God with our sin? Do we believe His love will be big enough to see the broken heart beneath it? Can we worship as honestly and sincerely as she did in the face of criticism? Do we judge someone else’s tears as a sign of weakness or a lack of faith or do we realize the tears,too, are a part of worship?

Prayer: Father, what a beautiful picture of your mercy and grace. Help us come as boldly to you as she did. Help us to recognize our sinfulness so that we can love You as fully and openly as she did. Help us not be pharisaical in our actions and attitudes towards those who come to worship with us. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!