Year C - Pentecost+4 or Community Practice+4
June 12, 2016
One of the organizations I participate in is Love Prevails, which has as its intention to disclose(t), divest, disrupt The United Methodist Church with the purpose of removing its sinful language (“homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”) from the Book of Discipline.
In this 3-D behavior, Love Prevails is seen as sinful by this institution for it raises uncomfortable question through dis-orderly action. Who gets to label whom or what as sinful is a part of an on-going dispute that is generally won by an institution, only to have it repent of misrepresenting sin a century or more later.
To put any emphasis on the woman in the story as a sinner is to side with the institution. To use it in worship or a sermon fails to communicate the energy of the story. All too many will buy the hearing of “sinner” as her descriptor as a fact. Just because Jesus has the word “sinner” also put in his mouth is not warrant to continue the falsehood. Note simply in Chapter 8 that women were always a part of Jesus band and so had no trouble learning where Jesus was. The storyteller could have cast this quite differently as a planned disruptive event intended to divest the institution from its forgiveness monopoly by disclosing an open availability of community life together (where forgiveness, like mercy, must always be presumed).
Try substituting different ways of describing the woman: “audacious”, “purple-wearing”, “in cahoots with Jesus”, “purposefully disruptive”, “wise one”, “saint”, etc. See what this does to Jesus’ response if he doesn’t buy into the institutional sin language. Might we hear him first say, “Thank you” or “Well done” or “Fear not” or simply “Live in peace” without tacking faith on as faith was also lacking as a category in the story from Nain last week?
If you need justification for any alternative reading, return to the verse just before this pericope, 7:35, “Wisdom is available in all her children/friends”. We are now dealing with a wise woman.