Words and Mistakes

I made a mistake. I did. I admit it.

I read somewhere that it was Simon that asked the question "Do you see this woman?" And as Bible focused as I tend to be, I didn't return to the text. I took this as gospel and hinged my sermon around it. It was only this morning when I read the gospel lesson that I heard my error. Oh well. It still preached. It would have been a very different sermon if I had listened to Jesus. But, things would always be different if we were really listen to the big JC, right?

Of course, no one said anything about my error. They probably didn't notice. And yet, my struggle is to reclaim the text with progressive Protestants. We tend to shirk it. Or read it as we want (which I wasn't trying to do, I promise). So, I feel a little bad.

I heard my error while I lead the morning chapel service. This service has traditionally been a conversational sermon where the leader coaxes the congregation to explore what is happening. Usually, it is more sermon-like with little moments of reflection. But, today, I decided we would really explore this text in Luke. As God's still speaking people, we would voice our own understanding. I wanted to turn the whole sinner woman thing upside down. I wanted it to be clear that it was not Mary Magdalene. In fact, we know very little about this woman.

That's when another woman -- a member of the congregation who is quite proper and introduced herself as a snowbird -- articulated it rather matter of factly: well, she's a slut. I laughed aloud when this very proper looking woman in her 70s announced that this sinner woman is a slut. I'm not editing the word choice here. Because you can't make that up. Sometimes, I think, we need to use words that don't usually appear in church. Oh, but don't you worry. We wrestled with that for a while to figure out if we really know she was. I love these moments where we finally get to make these stories our own.


J. Shorb said...

That's a great story at the the end. The woman calling her a slut. I always think about boundary crossing in this case. The woman crossed the proscribed social lines. And the woman in your congregation might have crossed a line for some (perhaps even for herself). But it pushes me -- us maybe -- to think harder.

I've been thinking more about a health perspective on this passage, and I think that boundary crossing is it. There are people we still label as "sinners" for their behavior (which can be tied into a disease or ailment). Poverty often brings illness. Alienation often brings illness, too.

Thanks for the story.

We Do It Too said...

you made a mistake? no.

if it makes you feel any better, i once preached a sermon based on the woman breaking an alabaster jar of ointment over jesus' head. i swear i read that somewhere...i swear.

Songbird said...

Well, she broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head...so, close.

Love the way this broke open in the discussion.