You saw “What Defines You” on Monday and are probably wondering why you’re getting another blog notice this week. Today is a special day.
Today is Ash Wednesday.
How appropriate that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, because both holi-days amplify love. Valentine’s Day celebrates love between people, and Ash Wednesday celebrates God’s love for us.
We’ve memorized that God loves us, yada, yada, yada, but our hearts forget the meaning of the words. Small, then growing lapses happen between those deeper conversations with him. We do most of the talking and less listening, or less believing what we hear, or both.
Beating ourselves up will not rekindle our love for God, but owning our failures is the first step to “getting” the significance of his astonishing love for us.
In Luke 7, Simon, a religious church goer, watches a prostitute caress Jesus’ feet with perfume, her tears, and her hair. Simon secretly reasons that Jesus couldn’t be a prophet, because he obviously isn’t savvy enough to know that the woman with her hands all over his feet is one of those kind of women.
Jesus is aware of Simon’s thoughts. He tells his host a parable of two people who owed money to a banker. One owed 50 coins and the other owed 500. The banker tore up the loans, forgiving both debts. Jesus asked his critic which of the debtors would love the banker more. Simon correctly answered that it was the one with the bigger debt cancelled.
Here is Jesus’ reply.
Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?
I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.
You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)
Did you catch that Jesus turned to the woman as he spoke? He extended love and forgiveness in his gaze, the same love that had liberated her and enveloped her in adoration.
Jesus did not look down at Simon. Jesus didn’t shake his finger at Simon, but asked if he saw the woman. That question was loaded with, “Did he see her as a human with worth?
Did he see her love in sincere action, love given because of the love she had received?”
Jesus goal was not to shame Simon for his failure to treat his guest graciously, but he unequivocally pointed out that Simon was sinful and as much in need for forgiveness as the prostitute.
The first and ongoing job of Lent is to show us, our sins. How we hate that word, yet until we are able to admit them and see the injurious ripples they inflict, we cannot grasp the depth of Jesus’ love for us. Just as Jesus referred to the woman’s actions to help Simon recognize his need, our Lord can use our intention as an object lesson to reveal to us our need and recipients of his fathomless love.
The degree to which we recognize our faults and the corresponding love covering the them, the more we love in return.
Jesus doesn’t want our grim shame in response to rebuke. He wants our love in response to his love.
I’d like to link arms with you during Lent. If you are doing A Bible Study for Your Easter Journey (or not) and want to converse about the lessons, please use the comment box, and we can hike together.I will include some recordings of entries from the devotional, Running to the Empty Tomb as a little bonus.