Okay, everyone, here is my rough draft. The site where I'll be preaching is actually a campground. It seems they like to have a short Sunday worship service (service of the Word; no communion), and seminarians often take on this task. As a result, the service and sermon are both short. I'm also assuming that the level of biblical literacy may be pretty varied across the small gathering, so I don't want to leave anyone behind by being too technical.
My only concern is the way I end the sermon with a question. Perhaps it's too abrupt. I'm not sure.
Let me know what you think. Any and all suggestions are appreciated!
These days, I think we all know about debt. We might have credit card debt, mortgage debt, debt from other loans. Our government is in debt! It seems that, wherever we turn, we can't escape these debts. With the economic crisis we've faced for the past few years, more and more people have been overwhelmed by debts they can't repay.
We know something about debt. So we're actually in a good position to understand the parable Jesus tells in the reading we just heard. Jesus tells a story about two people who were in debt — one owed 50 denarii, a silver coin, and the other owed ten times as much. Although one owed far more than the other, neither of them were able to pay off their debts. You see, in Jesus' time, many people lived just at the subsistence level. They only earned enough to get them from day to day; there was no way to earn any extra money to pay back a debt. The only option for these people was to sell themselves into servitude, to try to work off the money they owed.
Although we live two thousand years later, we can understand the situation of these debtors. You might be facing debts yourself — or maybe you know a friend or a family member who is. I have friends who are finishing school with a huge student loans. As much as they want to, they simply aren't making enough money to pay those loans back. It seems like a hopeless situation.
Let's look again at Jesus' parable. We have these two debtors with no hope of repaying their debts. It seems like there is no possible solution to this situation. Then something remarkable happens: the money lender, the one to whom these debtors owe their money, cancels their debts! To have those debts canceled is a miracle, a new lease on life for the debtors. Can you imagine? Imagine if Bank of America called you up and said, "That mortgage of yours? Don't worry about it. The house is yours." Or if they called up my friends with the student loans and said, "We'll just call it even." It would be a life-changing moment.
Jesus tells this story of the creditor who forgives debts, and then he asks a question. "Which of them will love him more?" In our reading, the Pharisee concludes that the one who was forgiven more, will love more. But whether the debtors owed 50 coins or 500, both of them were freed from a debt they could never repay on their own. I would say, both of those debtors loved that moneylender.
Jesus then turns to the elephant in the room — or rather, the woman who's been washing his feet with her tears the entire time he's been telling this parable. What would cause her, an outcast and a sinner, to venture into this fancy dinner party and show such care for Jesus? Why would she wash and dry Jesus' feet, anoint them with expensive ointment? Jesus tells us the answer to these questions: the woman loves because she has been forgiven. Just like the debtors love the creditor who cancels their debts, this woman loves God who forgives her sins.
Love is not something that can stay quiet, locked up privately in our hearts. Love bursts free, reaching outward in action. That's what the woman demonstrates: love is more than just a feeling. Love is action. Her sins have been forgiven — and what does she do? She doesn't sit at home with a warm, fuzzy feeling. She seeks out Jesus and demonstrates her love in the only way she can, by cleaning and anointing his feet.
I think you all already know the twist ending to this story. But I'll tell it to you anyway: YOU are the debtors. YOU are the woman. Your sins and mine have been forgiven by our just and loving God, the same God who came to Earth as Jesus Christ. We have been forgiven!
Now... how will we demonstrate our love in action? How will we respond to this gift of forgiveness? I invite you to reflect on this question in the week ahead. How will you show your love?