I love Saturday at the Public Square Farmer’s Market. (Maybe you do too) For me, it’s a spiritual experience. It really is. I feel a special connection with the diverse people who congregate there each week. It’s my worship, and a stark contrast to many of the other things I do. As I stroll around talking to vendors, exchanging greetings with shoppers, sipping my coffee and, of course, eating a chocolate chip scone (mostly-healthy), I can’t believe it was just Friday when I was so stressed out from the blessed copy machine and the sacred computer defying all commands to work together; a cloud of cuss words coming from my mouth and settling above the church office like pesticides on a farm field. I was an unredeemable wreck. I hated myself.
It’s a life of contrasts; at our best and at our worst, all of it part of who we are. Can we accept it; forgive ourselves for the worst of our attitudes and actions, while equally owning our best? That question was everywhere as I considered this Psalm and the Gospel for today.
“Lucky you,” Eugene Peterson translates Psalm 32 for us. “Lucky you – you get a fresh start, your slate wiped clean.” Ah, but what happens before? “…when I kept things inside, my bones turned to powder, my words only groans. The pressure constant; all my life shriveled up.”
You know, when the pressures on, and the deadlines are crowding in, and I feel responsible to get the work done, I hate it. What’s worse, I hate losing control in front of others; worse still forgiving myself afterwards. I work with awesome volunteers, and they thoroughly support me when I’m at the end of my administrative rope. But, forgiveness is a far tougher job because I have an even harsher critic to appease – me.
The woman in the Gospel’s a revelation for anyone who feels like I do and finds the more uncontrollable aspects of human emotions tough to accept. Although the story doesn’t say what terrible thing she’s done to ostracize her from polite Jewish society, we can give it a pretty good guess. The Pharisee in whose home Jesus is reclining definitely looks down on her and wonders why Jesus allows her in his presence, let alone to touch him. She has defied all social barriers to even be seen there.
But she’s found her answer; the way to forgive herself and be an acceptable person again. “Lucky her – she’s found the Holy One – she gets a fresh start. Her slate’s wiped clean.” In contrast, this Jewish religious leader isn’t willing to examine his own shortcomings; even after Jesus points out a few of them. While the woman, a social outcast, sees the God-presence right in front of her and comes clean in a wonderfully public and self-forgiving way. And Jesus acknowledges what she has shown, “She loves with such a great selfless love. Her great sin is forgiven.” So Jesus wipes her slate clean. She can go in peace and start again.
Now, I’ll admit right here what more than a few writers point out, afterwards this woman’s life’s no better in real terms than it was before. She still returns to the street. She’s still on the outs with Jewish society. She’s got nowhere to call home. And having denounced her previous lifestyle, she’s even poorer. Does she stay alive? Will others take her in and offer her a home and a family who’ll love and accept her?
This story doesn’t say. The story does tell us she’s sent on her way with a clean conscience in the sight of God. And to her that’s everything. She’s given, and she accepts true “peace.” Whatever happens to her next doesn’t seem to be important, at least not to her. What could we do if we too sued for and received a similar blessing in the sight of each other and the God we claim to love?
Lucky me; I can cuss a blue streak. When technology decides to fail me on a Friday afternoon, I can act like a petulant child. I can also be accepted by others who support and care for me. And I can go to the farmer’s market and let the people of God offer me peace.
Lucky me; and Lucky you when you allow yourselves to experience the same.