Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Luke 7:36-50

36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner.” 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44Then 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 bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
“Be Kind” signs have popped up all over my town. People hang them from their doors and mailboxes. There’s one at my children’s elementary school. I’ve seen them hanging from signposts and in store fronts. I admit that my initial thought about these signs was not kind. My first thought was, “who was unkind?” This thought was immediately followed by “what does that even mean?” 

Obviously, I know what it means to generally be kind, but I wondered if it is the same as being “nice.” Then I tried to think of a number of hypothetical daily life situations where I could be kind. Is “kindness” paying for someone’s drive-thru order? Taking a stray cart to the cart return? Wearing a mask? What “counts?”

The Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner was not just a poor host who did not anticipate the needs of his guest, but he was also quite rude, perhaps even unkind. Jesus calls him to task for this, not because he was inhospitable or rude, but because the Pharisee’s desire to protect his own vulnerability has prevented him from receiving the grace that is forgiveness.

You have probably known people like the Pharisee - people who are quick to point out the flaws of someone else, but not so receptive to constructive criticism themselves. In fact, I’m sure all of us can think of a moment when we have felt that way. If you really explore those moments it is likely that the vulnerability seen in someone else causes an instant defensive reaction, likely because we intimately know that same kind of vulnerability ourselves.

The impulse to defend our vulnerability protects us from the judgment of others, but it also buries shame and guilt deep inside of us and closes off the possibility of experiencing the deep peace of God’s grace. We turn down forgiveness in favor of the armor.

It is hard to hear Jesus rebuke the Pharisee, which can seem unkind. But there is an invitation in Jesus’s clipped words. Forgiveness is offered to the Pharisee. The Pharisee’s unkindness is countered with an abundance of grace. The same is offered to each of us.
God of second chances, thank you for taking a chance on us. Pry open our hearts to the outpouring of your grace. Let the deep peace of forgiveness rain on our arid souls. Amen.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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