Here’s my contribution to an advent reader put out by the New Leaf Network. This version contains my original ending.
What God Looks Like
The pinnacle of God’s announcement to the world is Jesus and during Advent, we immerse into a rhythm of Gospel re-discovery. Jesus intercedes into the history of humanity as Messiah acting out God’s hope for creation. This revelation rewrites all we could, and would, ever want to know about God’s character. What God looks like, acts and thinks like, his temperament and personality, we find in Jesus.
This reading is based on Luke 7:31 till end.
In this particular scene, we start with some familiar themes. Jesus is going deeper, dining with a group of people. It seems most of his ministry was spent like this—around a table. This evening was like many others for Jesus, a chance to connect, to teach, and to demonstrate a new way of being. He is about to take the cue from a woman who upsets the dynamics of the room by shifting cultural norms and power. All seems in order until she makes a scene….
I love the gospel accounts, and like so many stories about Jesus, I have more questions than answers. How did this woman get into the home of the Pharisee? Did she barge her way in? Did she hide in the shadows till she saw Jesus? Did Jesus place himself in her vicinity on purpose? Was she a regular at this household? Was she known amongst the guests? Someone obviously knew something since the story insists on labelling her, “bad in character.”
One thing seems certain, this was an embarrassing encounter for all but two: Jesus and the woman. Household protocols broken, and as I imagine, guests were either indignant or clucking at the unfolding scene. Didn’t Jesus know where she was from, what she had been doing, where she had been? What a waste of fragrance, surely it could’ve been sold for money to feed the poor She was touching him. She was cleaning Christ’s feet with her hair, with her tears, anointing his body with fragrance.
The disciples saw only waste, the host only dwindling reputation, the woman saw….
What the woman saw wasn’t the what but the who. Her act of faith granted her a peace that she clung and cherished as she left. From the pit of her being she replied to the source of salvation. She could not only sense the Messiah but was deeply compelled to act on her senses as well.
She, of everyone that night, saw through the veil and into the eyes of the Prince of Peace. Which is why she, unlike all others, is celebrated.
Lately, I’ve been wondering how many Christians know about this Jesus. The ones who sit in the pew along with you…. Those who truly know about this Jesus enough to embody his character day-by-day?
It’s not necessary to point out the frequency Jesus tore into the religious community. Those who know the rules and the actions, yet whose piety ironically inoculates from seeing Christ and his new way of being.
Today, who would qualify as the religious elite? The least likely to understanding who the Messiah is? People who look good on the outside, but when it comes to the deep mess of life, would mock the woman who bent to wash Christ’s feet with her tears?
“Stop gathering around the name of Jesus while ignoring the ways of Jesus.
Remember the poor.
Visit the prisoner.
Feed the hungry.
Clothe the naked.
Welcome the stranger.
Deliver the oppressed.
Serve the least.
And rise for the marginalized.
He waits for us there.”