Gospel text:  Luke 7:36 – 8:3  /  Message for Father’s Day at Resurrection Lutheran Church  /  June 16, 2013  /  Message given by Rev. Carol Haynes Kniseley  /  Title:  Dance with My Father

For different reasons, today is a day that weighs heavy on just about everyone’s heart.      On days that we turn our attention to a specific member of the family…and yes, today is Dad’s Day to shine…for many of us it is a day of mixed emotions.     Of course we love our Dads…grandfathers…uncles…brothers…all who have stepped in over the years and filled that God-appointed role of being our “fathers here on earth.”      

I am reminded that singer/songwriter, Luther Vandross wrote a song that when I first heard it…brought tears of joy to my heart.     Entitled ‘Dance with My Father’, the story is a true one…based on the songwriter’s memories of his Dad.     And how as a young child he would stand on top of his Father’s feet…and together…hand in hand…they would create their own unique form of dance.     

As is the case for many of us here today, Vandross’s father did not live to witness his child’s success as an adult musician.     And so the songwriter put into words his “HOPE”…of one day…renewing the dance he had begun as a child.     Only this time, with his Father in heaven.        If Jesus is who he says he is…and we believe that he is…then Luther Vandross won’t be the only one dancing with his earthly Dad.     I plan to be dancing with mine.    And if it means having to wait a few more years…well, I still have my own precious memories to draw from.

Today’s Gospel lesson is built on just one premise.     In fact it is one that I learned from my Father very early on in life.    In a nutshell:  .      Loved people…love people.    Sound simple enough?    Try putting it into practice…24/7…for the rest of your life.     According to Jesus, our Teacher, life truly begins…once we are transformed by the unconditional love of God.     And as the woman in today’s story discovered, with such all-encompassing love…undoubtedly comes forgiveness.      But let’s not get too far ahead of our story.

As often happens in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus found himself being invited to “another meal.”    Only this time, it is at the home of a Pharisee named Simon.      It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Jesus would accept such an offer…even if it appears to be coming from someone outside of Jesus’ circle of friends.     After all, this Jesus…has made a point of eating with all kinds of folks…including sinners!     Perhaps it is there, that folks are able to let their guard down (so to speak)…and “just be.”    And if that is the case, then we may yet see a side of Jesus that for many would send chills up and down our spines.  

Thanks to Luke’s careful attention to detail, we pick up with verse 39 where we read:  “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know…who is touching him…and what kind of woman she is---that she is a sinner.”      Notice that Jesus could not possibly have heard him speaking…because according to Luke, Simon had kept his thoughts to himself.   

It is not by coincidence that…in the very next verse (40), it becomes apparent that Jesus knew precisely what Simon was thinking.     After telling him a story about two men owing different amounts to a moneylender (such as a bank)…and then having the debts canceled free and clear…Jesus raises a rather pointed question.      Which of the two men…will love the moneylender (the bank)…more?

Simon, of all people, SHOULD get this one right.    WE…SHOULD   get this one right.     But according to Jesus, despite what “Simon says”….it’s his actions that have spoken louder.    From the viewpoint of Jesus the Teacher, it is Simon who needs to have his eyes examined.    Not the woman with tears streaking down her face and damp hair lying limp…and wreaking of sweet perfume.        And so, the exam begins.

According to Luke, Jesus “turns his undivided attention…toward the woman at his feet”…and speaking to Simon (as well as to each one of us) asks:     “Do…you…see…this…woman?”      In today’s language, perhaps it would come across as:   Do we “get”…what this woman is really all about?      Can we even begin to “see her” for who she is…and not for who we judge her to be?     Is it possible that none of us have taken the time to sit down WITH her…in HER home…and listened to HER story?      

In other words: are we truly capable…of “seeing” our sisters (and brothers for that matter) the way Jesus sees each one of us:  through the lens of love?       A love…not based upon any preconceived notions or conditions…but upon mercy that freely flows.   A love…that from day one of Creation, has been about the process of transforming a world of sinners…into a Kingdom (YES!) inhabited by saints!

It would appear that Simon…the Pharisee…never did quite “get” what the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet apparently “got” on that day.       If we perceive that the woman received words of forgiveness because of some good deed that she showered on Jesus…then we are the ones with faulty information.    The truth be told, Jesus’ words of forgiveness became the fertile ground…for the woman’s loving response.   As noted by Jesus himself, it was her faith in Him…that prompted her act of love.       

Remember:  Loved people…(do what?)..love people.    Just as:  Forgiven people…(do what?)…forgive people.   That’s what Jesus’ story to Simon was…and still is…all about.    

If we have been fortunate enough to have experienced a Father here on this earth…whose acts of love truly reflected the love of our heavenly Father, then by all means…we are the ones who have been blessed.     Blessed with a HOPE that springs eternal…and promises, that one day, we will be reunited with all the saints who have gone before.    

Perhaps Luther Vandross got it right after all.    To dance with my Father, whom I believe IS in Heaven, will certainly be worth the wait.     But to experience His love…right here and right now…well, that’s the icing on the cake.   

Thanks be to God…for the gift that keeps on giving…our loving Dads.