The presence of God
Reading: Luke 7:36-50
People live in various culture.
Is it easy to understand and live in another culture?
Is it difficult to live with those who have different culture?
Missionaries are trying to learn other culture and try to communicate the gospel to people who think differently and live differently.
Because they love God, they try to cross cultural barriers in the name of Jesus so that they may communicate God’s love.
I think when they start to live in another culture, it can be fun.
When they just visit them for a short time, it can be fun.
But it may become awkward.
Because the costume is different.
The language is different.
It may become difficult.
Then they may found that there is unspoken culture:
Sometimes, people act in certain way, but they don’t know why.
Because they have been living like that for so long, they don't even know why they do what they do,
But sometimes, people may say that men’s culture is different from women’s culture and vice versa.
These differences are even greater.
Or we may say that everyone lives in their own culture.
So anyway we try to learn to live together.
We try to understand each other.
We are all like missionaries in a sense.
Anyway, in the days of Jesus, there was a culture.
Here is one example:
In the Middle Eastern culture, welcoming guests is very important.
As soon as they feel you are their guest, they treat you very differently.
They treat you as if you are under their protection.
Then they may try to provide everything that you need.
It is their culture.
In the days of Jesus, religious Jewish people had their own culture.
When they invited a guest to his home, they welcomed their guest like this:
He gave them a welcoming hug and a kiss.
He provided water to wash their feet.
He provided an sweet smelling oil for their head.
It was their culture.
But today we read when one Pharisee invited Jesus to his home, he didn't provide any of these.
When Jesus came to his house, he was guided straight to the table.
No hug, no kiss.
No water to wash his feet.
No sweet smelling oil for his head.
Now what was going on?
Why was there no customary welcoming?
The students of Jesus might have felt like this:
“What is this?
Why would he try to dishonor our teacher like this?”
Or other gentlemen might have thought:
“Look how this man show no respect to Jesus at his own house.”
What a shame!”
Jesus might have also thought:
“Though he is thankful for my ministry, he still worries about other pharisees who didn’t like me.
He knows that some pharisees try to find reasons to accuse me.
He may agree with me or respect me a little.
But he still wants to examine who I am.
He is not fully agree with me yet.”
But then there was a woman watching.
She saw how Jesus was treated.
Who is this lady?
She was known as a sinful woman.
Meaning, her village people didn’t respect her.
We don’t know what wrongs things she had done.
We don’t know about her sins.
But we sense that religious people didn’t like her, because she was a sinner.
They knew about her and looked down on her.
Who is she?
She might be someone whom Jesus healed before.
Jesus might have remembered this woman.
She might have tried to live a good life.
She might have tried to find another way to support her family.
But then one time, she might have felt:
“I think God could not forgive me.
Because even I could not forgive myself.”
Then she saw how this host didn't give Jesus a proper welcoming.
Then she might have thought:
"Jesus should not be treated like this.
I may be treated like that.
But not Jesus.
We should honor him for who he is.
Well, then I should give you a proper welcome.”
So she decided to use her bottle of very expensive perfume.
Then she came to kneel at the feet of Jesus.
But then she found herself start crying.
In the presence of Jesus, she felt God.
Then in the presence of God, somehow she realized God forgave her.
In the presence of Jesus, she knew that God forgave her and freed her from her past.
Her inner soul could feel that God loves her and forgives her.
Then she found herself pouring out her heart to Jesus.
In the presence of God, she was wetting Jesus’ feet with tears.
She understood who Jesus is.
Then she wiped them with her hair.
Then she kissed his feet.
She poured perfume on them.
She expressed her gratitude and love in the presence of God.
She experienced God’s forgiveness in the presence of God.
She honored Jesus in the presence of God.
She honored the person whom God loves so much.
We know she loved Jesus so much.
But at this moment, she was living in her own culture.
Her own people could not understand what she was doing here.
They wondered why she used her most expensive possession that she needed for her job like this.
Why did she pour out all to Jesus?
Well, she might have been thinking like this:
“I wanted to change my job and change my life.
I want to live for Jesus.
I want to become one of those ladies who follow Jesus and help him.
I want to offer my life to Jesus.”
In the presence of Jesus, she desired to live differently.
She wanted to be a student of Jesus.
She wanted to follow Jesus.
She dreamed about sharing God’s love that Jesus taught.
I am sure Jesus understood what she was trying to do.
But the Pharisee who invited Jesus to his house thought something like this:
“Look at this!
Jesus is not a holy prophet!
He allowed this sinner to touch his holy feet because he does not know what kind of sinner she is.”
But thank God that our holy Jesus is famous for keeping a wrong company!
He loves those who have a bad reputation, because he could help them.
He becomes their friend one by one.
Then his friends becomes like him.
For example, we remember the tax collector Matthew was like that.
Matthew also had a bad reputation.
But he became one of the 12 apostles of Jesus.
Zacchaeus was like that.
He was a tax collector of tax collectors.
Jesus came to his house.
And he became a new person in Jesus.
So, we may wonder how Jesus changes people like that.
How could Jesus make sinners into saints?
How could Jesus make people holy?
How could Jesus do that?
How could Jesus make the lost found in God and live a new life?
How do Jesus make them live differently?
One of the reasons can be that Jesus sees differently.
We may not see it.
But Jesus sees and expects them to live a good and holy life.
Then he stands up for them.
Then because of the faith of Jesus, they live differently.
They become like Jesus.
Anyway, Jesus spoke to the host like this:
“Simon, I have something to tell you:
Two men were in debt to a banker.
One owed $5,000, the other $50,000.
Neither of them could pay up.
So the banker canceled both debts.
Which one would be more grateful?”
Simon the host replied:
“I guess the one who was forgiven more.”
Jesus said something like this:
“That is right.
I came into your house.
You provided no water for my feet.
You did not give me a hug or a kiss.
You provided no oil for my head.
Because you're not very grateful for me.
“But do you see this woman?
She wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
She was kissing my feet.
She provided oil for my feet.
Because she feels that she is forgiven much.
So she loves much.”
Jesus recognized her faith and her love.
Then Jesus said something like to this woman:
“Your sins are forgiven.
You are forgiven.
You are free from your past.
Your faith has saved you.
Go in peace.”
She didn’t even need to offer a sacrifice for her sin to be forgiven at the temple.
Instead, Jesus recognized her forgiveness before everyone.
Jesus recognized her before her own community.
Jesus celebrated that she is God’s daughter.
Jesus accepted her as God’s beautiful and remarkable child.
Today God was in front of her and forgave her.
God’s forgiveness came to her and freed her in the presence of Jesus.
So she was ready to start all over again.
She was ready to live a new life.
In the presence of God, she has faith and sees new possibility.
Then she changed.
When she come closer to Jesus today and honor Jesus and stand up for Jesus, this is what she hear:
“Your sins are forgiven.”
When we confess our sin, this is what we hear.
When we are in the presence of Jesus, this is what we hear.
Jesus has power to forgive her and forgive us.
Then Jesus stands up for us.
So we can start all over again.
Jesus can guide us to live a new life.
In order to continue this journey, when we confess our sin, God says:
“You are forgiven.
I forgive you and accept you.”
In the presence of God, people need to feel it.
As people feel this, they could live a new life and live a new life.
As they understand this truth, they embrace their new chance in life and serve the living God.
As they understand the mind of God, they change.
Jesus can forgive sins.
Then Jesus gives this power to his students to forgive sins.
So in the presence of God, God’s people say to each other:
“You are forgiven.
Give glory to God.
God has forgiven you.
God is patient with you.
God doesn’t refuse you.
We celebrate that you are forgiven.”
So we do not judge each other or condemn each other.
Even when other people sin and come over and over and say “I am sorry. Forgive me,” we forgive them and pray for them so that they may enter into the presence of God.
Then we may say to each other:
“Your sins are forgiven.
May God help me to forgive you.”
In this way, we may also stay in the presence of God.
We pray that the presence of God is with us always.
When the presence of God is here, we may also experience the power of God here.
May we stay in the presence of God forever.
Jesus, thank you for working in our life.
Thank you for your forgiveness.
May we live according to your will as your children.
Help us to enter into your presence.
Help us to understand your culture.
Help us to enter into your presence.
Help us to understand your presence so that we may stay in your presence always.
We pray this in your name.