Gospel: Luke 7:36-8:3
1st Reading: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
2nd Reading: Galatians 2:15-21
Sterling’s feet have been growing again. Last year we received hand-me-downs from several different people and I put the next size shoes in a box under his bed. They tell you not to put hand-me-down shoes on your kid—I guess it can mess up the shape of their feet or something. I think that’s just a ploy to get people to buy more shoes unnecessarily. They only wear them for a few months so it takes several kids to wear them out! So on Thursday we got out the new-to-us shoes and tried them on. I walked with Sterling around the house a few times to make sure they were a good fit and that he wouldn’t trip in them and off he went. He gets to spend the next few months walking in someone else’s shoes.
And that’s the theme of the readings for today. Of course, it isn’t about literal shoes. It is about seeing life through someone else’s eyes, experiencing what they experience, learning from another point of view, and having compassion on other people rather than judging them.
In the first reading, David covets Bathsheba, sends her man to the front lines where he is killed, and takes what he wants, Uriah’s wife. David wants something. He has the power to get it. He arranges events to get what he wants. He is trying to play God.
God is displeased. Yikes! It reminds me of the times my mom would say, “Wait ‘till your father gets home.” That was a terrible feeling. But God isn’t waiting to scold David or put him in the corner or ground him or even lecture him. God tells David a story. David, through the story, can see clearly what is going on. Before, he had been blinded by his greed, his privilege, his power. All he could see was what he didn’t have. The story is disarming. It stripped away all the things blinding David so he could put himself in the shoes of the poor man and see things through his eyes. David identifies with God’s anger and gives the rich man in the story the death penalty. He pronounces capital punishment on himself.
“Ah ha!” says Nathan, “It is you we’re really talking about! God is saying to you, look at all I’ve given you and still you don’t appreciate it. You still take what doesn’t belong to you and commit murder to get it.” What can David do, but agree? He did play God, by using power to make things happen. But only God can be God, because God is never motivated by selfishness and greed, but only by love for the good of everyone.
David admits his mistake. He puts himself in the poor man’s position in relation to God. He can see that he did something that separates him from God, that separates him from others. He did something that wasn’t loving. He sinned. He comes running back to God.
A lot of people wonder how someone as corrupt and awful and sinful as David, could have been God’s favorite. Yet, as much as David screws up, he keeps up his relationship with God. He doesn’t deny his mistakes. He tries to do better. He keeps working on it with God. It is like a good marriage. It doesn’t mean that two people don’t do things that are unloving and stupid and even make huge mistakes. The marriage works because they come to each other and admit it and work on it and try to do better.
David humbles himself. He may be the richest, most powerful man in the kingdom, but next to God, he’s the poor man. He’s the one with one lamb. He’s the one who is powerless. He is depending on God’s compassion and mercy and pity to restore the relationship and to continue his life.
We’ve had some really fun parallel stories between the Old Testament and the Gospel, lately. Last week it was the parallel healing stories with the sons being restored to their mothers. Remember, the Old Testament does have a lot to offer and it was the scripture that Jesus knew and was working from.
The Gospel is a very similar story. We’ve got a rich, powerful man, not unlike David. He’s a religious man. You’d think he’d be paying attention to God in his midst. He’s got Jesus at his dinner table, and he doesn’t even appreciate him.
Now the next part is a little bit different. He’s too busy judging the way another person shows her love and care to Jesus. He is scandalized by her behavior. She’s uncovered her hair. She’s sobbing uncontrollably. She’s getting her tears all over Jesus. She’s interrupting their very important dinner. She’s touching Jesus very intimately. Yuck! This is inappropriate behavior.
Jesus isn’t waiting to punish the rich man for being jealous or not welcoming him like this woman does. Like, the story of David, Jesus tells a story that disarms the man. It takes the focus off the Pharisee’s needs and prejudices and helps him see clearly the situation. The story helps the man stop judging and put himself in her shoes. It helps him look at all she’s been through. Then Jesus does read him the riot act to help him to see what is appropriate. Is the man’s distant, dignified behavior appropriate, seeing what all God’s done for him? Or is it more appropriate to be like the woman, seeking out Jesus, coming prepared with fancy oils, washing his feet, using her own hair to dry them, pouring out tears of thanks. The Pharisee becomes the poor one—poor in welcome and poor in thanks. The “sinner” becomes the one rich in thanks and praise and generosity.
Think of what Jesus did for us. God might have seemed so distant, up there somewhere handing down rules, punishing and judging. But God came as Jesus to walk in our shoes and to show that God really knows our struggles and joys and longings. We have God who walks in our shoes everyday in the poor and the grieving and the hungry. He didn’t abandon those shoes when the going got hard, but walked the extra mile, even giving his life on the cross for us.
Really we are people of privilege. We have been given so much, and live pretty comfortable lives. In the story we play the part of King David and of the Pharisee. Plenty of times we have looked at life in terms of what more we want and how we are going to get it. Sometimes we look at people who are more demonstrative with their emotions and say to ourselves that we’ve got it all together or at least we’ll keep up the appearance of having it all together. But Jesus is pulling the great reversal on us. He’s asking us to humble ourselves and really remember that we don’t create all our blessings—they are from God. Just because we have the power to acquire almost anything we want, doesn’t mean we should. Instead he reminds us that we, too, are sinners. Not to beat us over the head about it, but to help us to remember to live lives of gratitude and to put our hope in what really lasts and brings the world together and that is love.
On Father’s Day, it is good to reflect on the kind of Father God is. God is hands-on, walking with, teaching through stories, helping us reflect and see ourselves and each other more clearly, forgiving, and loving so that we would grow in grace and love and build up the family of God.
Paul says in the letter to the Galatians, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ in me.” Christ is walking in my shoes. It is my job to walk in other people’s shoes and learn compassion and pity and love and mercy.