Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Shrove Tuesday

Prayer:  We come before You this day,  Almighty God, with our knees bowed to Your glory.  Forgive us of all our sins.   Forgive us of our stubbornness.  Forgive us of our contrary hearts.   In You we know that all is forgiven.  Thank You!   Amen.

Read St. Luke  7:  36  - 50

Welcome to the beginning of Lent.   Lent is a time of spiritual retreat for the whole Church.  Lent is a time to look inwardly at ourselves and our Church.   Lent is a time for  a spiritual housecleaning all the inward (and outward) stuff that keeps us from loving God.  We  “spiritually houseclean” ourselves and our Church through prayer,  meditation, and reading the Bible.  We spend Forty Days with God asking God to create in us clean hearts.
Shrove Tuesday.   Why is it called Shrove Tuesday?  The word shrove is an old English word meaning to shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance. In other words,  looking inward at our selves... our actions... our words and asking God for  forgiveness.    During the Middle Ages,  this would be the day when  Christians were expected to go to confession in preparation for the penetance season of turning to God.     But something else happens on Shrove Tuesday.    Pancakes galore.   Why pancakes?    This takes us back to the people leaving Egypt.   God tells Moses that the people must use up all rising agents (yeast, baking soda,  baking powder).   All rising agents must be used up before the Exodus.  This became known as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.  Read Exodus 12

As we enter into the Season of Lent,  we read in St Luke the wonderful story of Jesus and the Disciples invited to the home of a Pharisee and a woman scorned.   

First we screech to a stop.  A PHARISEE has invited Jesus to his home?   The Pharisees who were usually upset at Jesus’ teachings and extremely hostile to Jesus?  Yup,  a Pharisee—who’s name was Simon.  Right away this is interesting.  Simon is a Greek name and all Pharisee’s  were devote Jews.    So how did a devote Jew – a Pharisee – receive a Greek name?    Pharisees focused their whole lives on living the Law.  Pharisees and Jesus usually locked horns as Jesus was trying to teach them that believing in God is more important than keeping the laws perfectly.

St. Luke tells us that Jesus was reclining at the dinner table of Simon when a woman suddenly enters the room.  Simon knows this woman and knows that she is a woman “who had lived a sinful life in that town”  (St Luke 7: 37).   

Middle Eastern custom was to lie on the floor and eat off of short legged tables.  (Aha,  so you are now wondering about Davinci’s  Last Supper aren’t you.   Yup,  he placed Jesus and the Disciples sitting at a table as Western folk would eat…..  Obviously he should have gone back to read his Sunday School papers…. But I digress….)      So here is Jesus and the Disciples and Simon and other males in his family all reclining at the dinner table --  head near the table and feet sticking away from the table.   The  woman comes and begins to weep and then wipes Jesus’ feet with her tears.  She then pours expensive perfume over his feet.

More custom….  part of entering a house was being provided the opportunity to wash one’s feet and to greet each male guest with a kiss.   Simon the Pharisee should have had his servants wash Jesus and the Disciple’s feet… but he did not.   This from a man who was so concerned by the law.  Did he forget?   Nope,  leaving out the opportunity of washing one’s feet was a snub from Simon.  Did Simon give Jesus a kiss of hospitality and greeting?  Nope.  Double snub.

The woman had brought an alabaster jar of perfume.  St Luke does not say what kind of perfume the woman brought with her but if it was in an alabaster jar,  you know it wasn’t cheap perfume.  It was the best the woman could afford.  

So while Simon has double snubbed Jesus and the Disciples,  here is the woman washing Jesus’ feet.  Simon knows who she is and is not impressed that she is in his house AND in the area where the males are eating!
“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.”

Instead of Jesus saying, “Oh Simon,  I know who this woman is.”  Jesus tells Simon a parable.    At the end of the parable,  Simon must have had his eyes open to Jesus.    

Jesus says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven”.   Only God can forgive sins,  yet here is Jesus forgiving the woman’s  sins.  The guests are horrified and ask, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  

Then Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you;  go in peace.”    Wow.   How do you think the woman felt?  This same woman who had been scorned by the town by living a sinful life.    This same woman who had heard about this Jesus and risked her very life in order to see Jesus and to wipe his feet with her tears and perfume.    Wow.  

Throughout the day today,  meditate upon Jesus’ words,  “Your faith has saved you;  go in peace.”
Prayer:   Great God,  may we too remember the Words of Jesus:  your faith has saved you;  go in peace.    Thank You God that our faith has saved us and we go throughout our day living in Your peace.  Amen.

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