In this post, I'll lift up some points from the commentary on Luke, and try to focus the direction of my sermon so I can start writing. Stay tuned for a sermon draft by the end of the weekend.
The commentary I have on Luke is Joseph Fitzmyer's commentary in the Anchor Bible series. He makes quite a few technical notes about the form and origin of the passage (Luke 7:36-8:3). He argues that this story is probably a conflation of originally separate narratives, brought together in the L source and then used by Luke. The form critical analysis shows that this passage includes both a pronouncement and a parable, which would support a composite origin. Fitzmyer also points out the parallels in Mark and John, although those narratives are significantly different than the narrative in Luke (for example, the Simon in the other versions is a leper, not a Pharisee; and the anointing functions as preparation for burial).
This technical work is certainly important, but it doesn't really help me draw out a focus for my preaching. However, Fitzmyer has some great things to say about the overall thrust of the passage. He writes, "Repentance, forgiveness of sins, and salvation have come to one of the despised persons of Israel; she has shown this by an act of kindness manifesting a more basic love and faith, love shown to Jesus and faith in God." As I noticed in my last post, there is some ambiguity about which comes first — the forgiveness or the acts of love. Following the parable and Jesus' interpretation of the events, Fitzmyer concludes that the woman's loving behavior is a response to the forgiveness she has received, not a prerequisite of that forgiveness. In conclusion, Fitzmyer writes, "The love that the woman manifested to Jesus through the tears, kisses, and perfume revaled her more basic orientation to God himself [apologies for the masculine pronoun], i.e. her faith, which brings her salvation. For this reason, Jesus tells her to 'go in peace.' Thus the episode ends with allusions to two of the basic ways in which Luke views the effects of the Christ-event, salvation, peace."
I really like how Fitzmyer describes the woman's "basic orientation to God" as it is manifested in her care for Jesus. I'm wondering how I can use that for my sermon. Our faith is manifested in our actions. Jesus' identity is manifested in his action. It makes a nice parallel.
This text is also rich in economic implications — I've been thinking about how well we understand debt today. Maybe that's too much to draw in for the short sermon my supply preaching site is expecting.
I'm going to try to spin these ideas out into a draft sermon. Check back to see how it's going!