#Gratitude is the Podcast for June 12, 2016. Thank God you cannot hear what is being said between my ears. The way I am, the way I don’t want you to know, could easily prevent God from loving me. What to do? What to do? Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Gratitude #Forgiveness #HolyCrossCollege #JobHunting #Employment #Pharisee #Luke
Gratitude: Luke 7:38-8:3
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/12/2016 The 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 7:36-8:3.
One day, a good man I love and respect, Robert Kloska, posted on his facebook page a reflection, which he does from time to time. In it, Bob opened up like I had never seen before. He talked about how he struggled to accept people and things. He talked about his struggle to be loving and kind. It was startling for this reason: I have never known Bob Kloska to show anything but the face of Christ, to every one.
It made me think about the stuff I knew about myself. It made me think of how hard it is for me to accept people with tattoos and piercings. It made me think of how unforgiving I can be and judgmental. I thought of the times when I didn’t stand up for what was right when I knew I should. It made me think of all the ways that I drive myself crazy with my personality. It also made me realize how in the era of social media, facebook in particular, it is really something to have someone come out and just admit that they are not perfect. It also, hit me in the face, that I have to put this face out there so that people can trust me to give them spiritual direction.
There are people who reach out to me to tell me how great I am, but I know the truth. I know my sins. If I were to, if any of us were to, stand and openly admit the things that go on between our ears and in our hearts, we would have no friends. That is, we would have no friends save one, Jesus Christ.
In the alternate first reading for this Sunday, taken from 2 Samuel, we have David being nailed to the wall by the prophet Nathan. It is one my most favorite scenes from the Bible. Here is David, he who has “a heart after God”, who wrote Psalms, who is admired as the Great King of Israel and Judah, standing before Nathan who tells him a story. In the story, Nathan tells David that a rich man came and stole the only lamb of a poor man so that he could serve the lamb to a guest. David was outraged at the story. He said that the rich man deserved death. Nathan knew that David had just had a poor man, Uriah, sent to the front lines of a war to die. Uriah, a poor man, was collateral damage in David’s attempt to cover up his adultery and impregnation of Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. In the height of David’s unwitting condemnation of himself Nathan says, “YOU are the man!”
There is no one we deceive more than ourselves.
I wondered in preparation for this message if the reason why the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house was because he was deceiving himself. It says in the same chapter as this story from the Gospel for today that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God.” So, if the Pharisees had no use for Jesus, then why would one of them invite Jesus to his home for dinner? If you notice, when Jesus confronts him with his hypocrisy, Jesus points out how the Pharisee hadn’t followed the customary greetings of welcoming a guest. The Pharisee provided no place for Jesus to wash his feet, a common accommodation for guests. The Pharisee had not anointed his face with oil, a common way of honoring guests and relieving the heat of being in Palestine. Why did this person who took on the title ‘Pharisee’ to indicate that he was holy, why did he have Jesus over to dinner if he was not going to extend to him common courtesy?
Additionally, in the midst of this gathering, when the sinful woman shows up to bathe Jesus’ feet in tears and anoint his feet with oil, in complete honor, the Pharisee reacts negatively. He questions in his heart whether Jesus is really a prophet, because a prophet would have rejected a sinful woman like this one. Yet, like the Truest Prophet, Jesus perceives the thoughts of the Pharisee, and like Nathan calling out the supposedly holy man David, Jesus calls out the Pharisee.
Jesus is saying in essence, “How is it, holy man, a prophet arrives in your home and you fail to treat him with honor when this sinful woman sees the prophet and gives him the greeting he would and should have gotten?” How is it, holy people, that we sit in judgment of others when our sin is so blatant? Is it our job to bring the world into line through judgment? If we think so, then we fail to see something important about the requirements to receive God’s love.
The requirements to receive God’s love, St. Paul points out in Romans 5, are these: we must first be weak and unable. Secondly, we must be ungodly. Thirdly, we must be sinners. The requirements to be loved by God AND HIS PEOPLE are that we be weak, ungodly, and sinners. That is a good thing because then I have a chance and so do you.
Where we go wrong is that we think that if we are just good enough, God will love us. Wrong. God loves us when we are not good enough. God loves us when we are judgmental, impatient, sinful, rude, arrogant, and just awful. He loves the King who is corrupt and the adulterer, like David. He loves the woman in prostitution. He loves the drug addict and the corporate CEO, equally as insecure and weak. His rain comes upon the righteous and the unrighteous. He loves us when we don’t deserve it.
The foundation of God’s relationship with humanity is love. He loves when we have no idea how to love. The only way that I am able to love sometimes, no matter how I feel, is to be like Bob Kloska, who says that his battle is between his ears. I would add that mine is in my heart, as well. Yet, in our baptisms, we put on Christ. To “remember our baptism” which may have happened when we were babies, long distantly removed from our memory, is to think of all the sins we commit; think of all the love that God pours out for us anyway and then turn in thanks to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Here is why Bob Kloska reminded me of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet this week. When I had just left the United Methodist pastorate, the sex abuse scandal had just broken out. I was looking for a job. More than once, in the middle of the interview, I was asked out of the side of the interviewer’s eye, so to speak, why I left the ministry. The implication was that I had something to hide when I didn’t. Eventually, things got so bad that I had to request from the United Methodist Bishop that he write a letter indicating that I had left voluntarily with no charges pending. I had spent months looking for a job. My wife had to return to work full time. I became a stay at home dad, which I really loved. I had no way to contribute to the financial support of my family or even fulfill my vocation in part. I had started to believe the lie of un-lovability that was screaming in my head.
In the midst of all this, Bob Kloska listened to my story and gave me a job at Holy Cross College. Bob loved me when I felt unlovable. To me, Bob was and is the face of Christ among us. When I went out to my car after he said he would hire me to a part time job, I sat there and cried tears of joy. I began to pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God. I cannot remember who sent me Bob’s way, but whoever they were, they were the Holy Spirit speaking to me. The joy I felt on that day, when I had been rejected by all the “good people”, all the “holy people”, all “the people”, the relief that I could get even a part time job brought joy.
Friend, faith and religion are not about getting it right all the time. Faith and religion are not about being perfect. Faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is about being loved and accepting that love with the proper response: gratitude. From that gratitude of being loved, we can then act out in our religion with sincerity, though we are insincere, and purity, even though we are impure.
I invite you to think of your life for a moment. I invite you to think of all the things you know about yourself, but would never admit. Then, I want you to think of this: even with what you know to be true, the Father in heaven is hopelessly devoted and in love with you. Now, what do you say and do in response to that? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian