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This week's sermons:

               Luke 7:36--8:3  -  Shaping People's Lives Through Forgiveness
                                  
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At the University of Notre Dame in 1981 a rather prophetic lecture was given that predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union. The lecturer called Communism “a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written." A year later the same speaker told the British House of Commons that the march of freedom and democracy "will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history." Years later, in 1988, students at Moscow University sat and listened as this same speaker told them how the microchip would lead the way in expanding human freedom. Indeed, even that prediction is coming true. The Internet may be playing a critical role in dismantling china’s communism. Remember now that this 1988, long before the advent of the Internet.

 

Who was this Speaker? This lecturer who looked into the future and was able to rightly discern where history was taking us? It was Ronald Reagan. Putting political preferences aside for just a moment I think all of us would have to agree that on at least a few crucial issues Reagan got it right. He looked into the future and steered us correctly. What is it that gives some people the ability to look at a situation and rightly sized it up? It seems to be a kind of gift doesn’t it?

 

This is one of the qualities that separate the great men from the ordinary. In our story this morning (in Luke 7) certain insights are being expressed. A gathering of men at a diner party has just witnessed a woman, who they all know to be a woman of ill repute, walk into the room with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. She walks up behind Jesus and kneels. She is crying. As she weeps her tears fall onto his feet. She uses her hair as a towel to dry his feet and then she pours the expensive perfume on his feet. This is the scene and it is a sudden departure from the evening’s festivities. But it now becomes the focal point of Jesus’ teachings.

 

Now, listen to how the Pharisee sizes up the situation. He has two insights. On the first he is correct and on the second he is incorrect. Here they are: First he is correct about the lady. She was known in the community as a sinner. Her sin is not revealed to us but most of us could come pretty close in guessing it. What ever it was the Pharisee rightly judged the woman’s character. But here is where he failed. His insights and perceptions about Jesus were wrong. He said that if Jesus were a prophet he would know that this woman was a sinner and he would not let her touch him.

 

The Pharisee was wrong because the character of this woman was not lost on Jesus. And here is the beautiful part of the passage. Jesus knew who she was but he had moved beyond that to forgive the woman her sins. Jesus sizes up the situation and recognizes that grace is needed in this woman’s life.

 

Now let’s ask ourselves this question. Whether we are looking at an incredibly destructive institution like communism or the loathsome practice of prostitution, whatever sin we find in the world are we able to l0ok beyond the facts, size up the situation, see down the road and know what kind of grace is needed? We can do this if we can:

 

1. Be honest and call sin sin.

2. Use these moments to teach others.

3. Remember that redemption always wins in the end.

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....

 

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sermons.com presents Leonard Sweet