Damaged Goods

Third Sunday after Pentecost 13 June 2010

(2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15   Psalm 32   Galatians 2:15-21   Luke 7:36-8:3)

“Damaged Goods”

The tag line for the ELCA is:  “God’s Work, Our Hands.” The way I interpret that tag line begins by noticing how God is working in the world, in our lives, and then it is up to us to use our hands to make God’s work happen.

We’re just coming off of two days of our Synod Assembly, so that tag line is on my mind.  Throughout the Assembly we were reminded more than once that whenever we are interpreting a scripture text, it is important to do it the same way:   begin with God’s work before moving to what our hands can do.[1]

So, that’s what I want to do here this morning with this Gospel text.

Let’s begin by looking at what is happening.

A church supper is happening at the house of one of the church leaders, named Simon.  Kind of like a cottage meeting with a meal.  So lots of church people are there (Pharisees), and they invite Jesus, so Jesus is there, also.  Then, this woman slips in.  She’s not a church member.  She’s a visitor.  Somehow she gets past the Evangelism Committee, so she doesn’t have a name tag, but everyone knows she is the town sinner.  And she goes over and stands behind Jesus, and begins to cry.

Her tears are so many that they fall on the feet of Jesus and she then lets down her hair and uses it to dry his feet.

Well, that gets the church people pretty stirred up, because they know she is a sinner, and Jesus ought to know better.  And he ought to shame her.  And he ought to get away from her.  And he ought to get rid of her.

But Jesus doesn’t do any of that!

Instead, Jesus challenges the church people, tells them a story that convicts them of their own lack of hospitality, and then forgives the sins of the woman, which only gets the church people more stirred up!

So that’s what God is doing in the story!  That’s God’s work! (Getting people stirred up!)

Reminds me of an image I heard this past Wednesday in our Stephen Ministry supervision group! 1

You know, in most stores these days there is usually one of those tables, it’s usually back in some corner, and on the table you can find all kinds of merchandise at greatly reduced prices.  Sometimes it may simply say “bargain table;” other times there may be a big sign with the word “reduced.”  Regardless, the real tip-off is a particular tag you will most often see on all items which will simply says, “as is.”

This is a euphemistic way of saying, “These are damaged goods.”  Sometimes they are called slightly irregular.  This is the table of “Something’s-Gone-Wrong,” reminding us that we’re going to find a flaw here:  a stain that won’t come out; a zipper that won’t zip; a button broken or lost.”  The point being, there is a problem.  These items are not normal.  They are not perfect.

There’s a fundamental rule when dealing with merchandise on this table in this corner of the store called the “bargain” table.  The rule is: No refunds; no returns; no exchanges.  You received fair warning.  If you want this item, there is only one way to obtain it.  You must take it as is.

When it comes to human beings, we all have a place on that table overflowing with flawed merchandise.  There is not a person here today that is not slightly irregular in some way!

We all come with a little tag that says “damaged item”—there’s a flaw here:  a streak of deception; a cruel tongue; an out-of-control temper; a careless attitude.

If you were looking for perfection in a human being, you came to the wrong table, the wrong aisle, the wrong corner.  When we enter into relationship we come, “as is.”  We’ve celebrated a Baptism here this morning.  God welcomes every newly-baptized “as is!”

The woman in today’s Gospel reading is “damaged goods.” Everybody knows it—everyone from Simon to the Pharisees to Jesus to the woman herself.  And we know what Jesus does:  He welcomes her, he accepts her, he forgives her.  That’s God’s Work!

Our Work, our Hands is to follow the example of Jesus.

So what do we do with damaged goods in our lives?

You see, we are all damaged goods; we are all sinners.

We all have our addictions…if it is not alcohol or drugs, it is food or the many conveniences that control our lives.   You name them!  We all have our failures and our shortcomings.  We all have our apathies, our short-cuts, our indifferences.

We are all, every one of us, the sinful woman in need of forgiveness.  We are the Pharisees, too often critical of a family member, a church member, a fellow worker, the person we don’t like and even a person we don’t know.

But we are also Jesus, and it is our hands becoming God’s hands to do the work of Jesus.


[1] Taken from, If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get out of  the Boat.  John Ortberg. 2001. P.216ff.

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