Fifth Sunday of Lent

Text: Luke 7:36-50

Theme: “Love of Another Kind” (Part 3)

love

 

 

 

rob2“Love of another Kind” – that’s been the theme of our sermon series over these last 2 weeks, and today we’re going to complete this series.  In a nutshell, the purpose of the series has been to show us the kind of love that transforms lives and that transforms churches.  It’s the kind of love that Jesus showed, and it’s the kind of love that he asks us to show to each other.

 So far we’ve looked at different facets, different aspects of this love of Jesus.  We’ve seen that it is a love that has no limits, no filters and no conditions.  And we’ve seen that it is a love that doesn’t get fazed by interruptions.  Rather, it’s a love which is open to a change of plans, a love which seeks opportunities to serve in the midst of interruptions.

 And that brings us to the last facet of Jesus’ love that we’re going to be looking at in this series.  As we heard earlier in the passage from Luke 7, Jesus is invited to the home of a religious leader . .  but this leader doesn’t want to show kindness to Jesus.  He wants to get into an intellectual debate with him.  Why?  So that he might catch Jesus saying something inappropriate.  He’d then report this to the authorities so Jesus could be discredited.

 Now Jesus, he’s reaching out to anyone he can, so he says, “Yes, I’ll come to your home.”  So he goes to the house of the Pharisee.  A lot of people are waiting outside.  They want to watch, to listen in to see if Jesus puts his foot in his mouth.  Well Jesus, he goes inside, sits down, and just as dinner is about to begin, the neighbourhood hooker, the neighbourhood prostitute – everybody knows her, they know the street corner she hangs out on – she comes in, falls down at Jesus’ feet, and starts crying.  And she’s got some perfume, and she opens it up and starts pouring it onto Jesus feet.  And Jesus is stuck there.  And it’s awkward.  Really awkward.

 What do you do when you get stuck in one of those awkward situations, when you’re confronted by the undesirable or the disreputable?  It happened to me.  I remember the time when Beryl and I were on holidays in Fiji.  We had gone to the capital – Suva – and as we got off the bus – we were accosted by a whole group of young kids who were begging for money.  They were dressed in rags and they looked undernourished and they looked up at us with pleading eyes.  And it was awkward.

 And what about for you?  What do you do when needy people get in your way and you can’t disentangle yourself?  What do you do when there’s a moral foul-up?  What do you do when someone has abused grace, and they’ve fouled up – not once or twice or three times – but plenty, and you’re sick of it?  What do you do with Christians who say that they’re going to clean up their act and who don’t?  What do you do with fellow members who go around undermining your work for God?  What do you do when you’ve straightened out that kid or that person for the 5th time, and they foul up again?  Does your grace have a limit?  Do you say – “That’s enough!  I’m outa here!”

 Well, it’s interesting in this situation here in our text.  Here’s the neighbourhood hooker.  And we note that Jesus doesn’t pry her away.  He doesn’t shove her to the side.  He doesn’t moralize.  He doesn’t give her a sermon.  The Bible says in Luke 7 that he discerns that her tears of repentance are genuine.  And you know what he says?  “You’re forgiven. It’s over.  It’s done.”

 Folks, that’s love of another kind.  That’s a 70 times 7 love.  That’s the love of someone who truly understands grace.  And yet . . . and yet how often don’t people, don’t Christians take that grace in vain.  How often don’t they respond to God’s amazing grace to them with a condemning attitude towards others.  Remember that classic parable in Matthew 18 where this bloke owes his master a fortune, and one day the master comes and says, “Pay all of it!”  And the bloke says, “I can’t.”  So the master says, “Fine.  You and your family are going to gaol for good.”  And as he’s being led out, he gets this little wry grin on his face and he says, “You wouldn’t be in the mood for being merciful, would you?  I know it’s a long shot, but you wouldn’t feel like being merciful, would you?”  And the master says, “OK.  I’ll cancel the whole thing.  I’ll absorb the entire debt.  Paid in full.  You’re free to go.  Go, tell the wife and kids.  Have a celebration.”

 You know what he does?  He goes home, tells the wife and kids.  And then his neighbour goes by who owes him $5.   And he says, “Hey you!  Come here!  Pay me what you owe me!”  The neighbour says, “Well I don’t have it on me right now.  I could probably go across the street and raise the cash.”  “No, no”, the bloke says, “You’re going to gaol!”  And he throws him in the slammer.

 And then the master finds out about it.  Not good.  NOT GOOD!  You can read about it in Matthew 18.  The master hauls him back, and he says, “Excuse me. . .  excuse me, can I ask you a question?  Weren’t you the fella who owed me a fortune?  Weren’t you the fella who was going to be thrown into the slammer – with your family – forever?  You didn’t have a ghost’s chance to repay me.  And I cancelled the whole debt and set you free!  I took the burden off your shoulders.  And you go out and you throw a bloke in the slammer for $5!!!?  Something didn’t register in your heart the way it should have.  Had it registered properly, you would have gone back and forgiven any debt anyone owed you.  And there’d be a pattern of forgiveness and grace for the rest of your life.”

 Folks, human love  . . love of a human kind  operates like that.  It keeps saying, “You’d better not foul up.  Better do it right.  Better not let me down.  Better not hurt me.  You’d better impress me with your goodness, ‘cause if I catch you slipping up  . .  I’m going to slam you!”

 That’s love of a human kind.  And here’s Jesus  . .  and he looks at this lady who’s slipped up big-time – this neighbourhood hooker – and he discerns that her tears of repentance are real, so he says, “It’s over.  Grace for you.  What I’ll do on the cross will be applied to your life.  And you are free.  You’ve never been so free.  Free from the sins of your past.  Free to start anew.  Free to enjoy this life.  Free to enjoy eternity.”

 You know how you can tell when love of another kind is present, operating in a church?  It’s when each person walks around overwhelmed by the nature of grace  . . just overwhelmed by it.  Where grace just doesn’t get old.  Where we say to each other, “Do you know what I’ve been forgiven from?  Do you have any idea of what I’ve been released from?  Do you have any idea of the mountain of debt that has been erased in my life through the cross?”   And where we freely share that love and grace with the undesirables, with the disreputables who come our way  . . .  because we know that – in God’s eyes – we are just as undesirable, just as disreputable as they are . . .  and that they need God’s grace just as much as we do.

 And that brings us to the end of this sermon and of the sermon series.  What a Saviour we have  . .  a Saviour who loves us with love of another kind.  And if that love is operating in the hearts and lives of each one of us, this community will be awesome.  It will have that feel of the love of Christ about it.  It will have grace at the core.  It’ll be that kind of community that breathes life into people.  That kind of community that looks for the hand of God in upsets, in interruptions.  That kind of community that doesn’t have limits or filters to put people through.  That kind of community that is always looking for new ways, more ways to show love to others.

 May you, may we be known as people, as a community that radiates love of another kind.  Amen.

Pastor Rob Paech.

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