“Go In Peace”
I will turn 57 on October 5th (…if you are looking for gift suggestions, I need socks and underwear.) The median age in many churches today is well beyond 57 so I suppose that at least some of you are thinking that I am just a “young whippersnapper.” But I can remember being 7 years of age and thinking that my Grandparents (who were my age now) were ancient. I had little doubt that if I searched through their closet’s I might find their civil war uniforms.
And then I was 17 years old… I don’t remember much about 17 except Diane. She still fills most of my thoughts 40 years later.
Ah, but 27 was fantastic; because I knew EVERYTHING at 27! I could speak for hours on subjects I had absolutely no experience with at 27. What a wonderful time in my life… even if not for those around me.
Between 37 and 47 I probably peaked and began the slow downhill decent into not being absolutely certain about almost everything. But as an adult I have come to expect a certain amount of acknowledgement of the station I have obtained in life. That’s one of the few privileges of growing older. We get to portray an image that is much more solid and secure than we really feel inside.
This last week saw the passing of an icon of my childhood, Muhammad Ali. Having grown up watching his comeback fights and accompanying bravado I was deeply moved to hear Billy Crystal’s eulogy at his funeral. I have posted a copy of it on the church’s Facebook page. In his message he shares deeply personal stories revealing the non-public Ali. The person behind the great man was another great man.
In our passage, Simon the Pharisee is playing a similar role. He is no doubt a great man in his community. As such, he gives a show of piety by inviting the “Rabbi” Jesus into his home. The narrative reveals that he did not hold Jesus in high esteem. He neglected acts of graciousness that one would show a superior who was visiting their house. Maybe he was attempting to validate his lack of hospitality when he silently judged him as lacking in discernment as Jesus allowed a sinful woman to attend to him. But this is where the story takes a turn…
Jesus clearly sees Simon’s judgment of both the woman and himself. In spite of the breach of social proprieties Jesus responds to the emotional needs of the penitent woman and he identifies the lack of compassion in the Pharisee. The final act in our passage is the gift of forgiveness and peace; not to the deeply religious host but to the repentant and humble sinner.
Muhammad Ali’s true greatness was the man he was outside the ring; a man who was humbled by physical frailty but still gracious. He called a small Jewish comedian at the beginning of his career his, “Little Brother.” And he honored him with true friendship to the end of his life. “Go in peace…”