From my contrite heart, with tears

March 13, 2013 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lenten midweek 2013 - Beneath the Cross of Jesus

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 7:36–7:50

Midweek Lenten Worship
March 13, 2013
Luke 7:36-50

“From My Contrite Heart, with Tears”

So I had the minivan in to be serviced on Monday afternoon, and was in the waiting area killing time. Of course, I brought some work with me, but the TV was on in the waiting area. It’s kind of hard to focus on things when the TV’s on (unless you’re a kid in school doing your homework). Anyway, one of those afternoon TV shows came on that told the story of a man from the Bronx who was reunited with his sisters after being apart for thirty-five years. There were four children in the family – a boy and three girls – all of whom were in foster care. Eventually the younger two girls were adopted, while the boy and the oldest girl were sent to live in orphanages, and that’s where their lives separated for the next thirty-five years. The kids grew up, and decades later the man was able to find his two younger sisters, but the oldest sister was still an unsolved mystery – until she was brought on stage on this TV show to meet her three siblings for the first time since they were children. As you might imagine, it was an amazing, emotional and tear-filled reunion – tears of joy. For our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, there were tears of joy and thanksgiving today at the election of a new pope: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the first pontiff from the Americas and the first non-European pope in 1300 years. He will be known as Francis I.

Tears figure into the theme for this evening’s message. That Lenten hymn, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” contains this line: “From my contrite heart, with tears…” Maybe you’ve experienced similar tears of joy in being reunited with family members like those people on the TV show. But how about tears that flow from a contrite heart – a heart that is filled with repentant sorrow and grief over sin, sin that separates us not only from one another but from God? Probably for most of us such tears have been few and far between, but Scripture is replete with passages that speak to this godly grief and tears that leads to repentance.

As we stand beneath the cross of Jesus during this Lenten season, we ponder the awful reality and the crushing enormity of our sin against God and one another. And in that pondering over the evil we have done and the good we have failed to do, this pondering may lead to us to tears. We hear of tears in the Gospel lesson for this evening (Luke 7:36-50), which tells the story of a “woman of the city,” that is, a prostitute, who crashes this lovely dinner party where Jesus is present. “How did she get in?” we may ask ourselves, but there she is in the midst of all these fine folks. She proceeds to weep over Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with ointment. Jesus does not stop her from what might be viewed as a very emotional - even embarrassing – act of devotion. This becomes a teachable moment for Simon, the Pharisee who hosted the dinner in his home, and for everyone else.

That teachable moment is summarized when Jesus says, “… her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). For people who don’t think they have much sin – if any – that needs to be forgiven, their response will be to love very little. And if there’s not much love there, there probably won’t be any tears, either. Is that how it is with us? Are we more like Simon at the dinner party who really didn’t believe he needed forgiveness? Or are we more like the woman of the city who knew full well the awful reality of her sin, and that’s why she broke the conventional rules of polite society in order to get close to Jesus, weeping and kissing his feet? The truth is that we have all been forgiven much, not little, just as the first Scripture lesson for night said: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10). We’re all in need of what Jesus alone can give us: cleansing and forgiveness. Apart from Jesus, we can shed rivers of tears but there is no forgiveness, no mercy, no hope. That is a terrible way to live, and a terrible way to die. My friends, this is the word of life and salvation that God brings to us and calls us to bring to the world: “… the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin… If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7b, 9). This is the good news that is the heart and soul of our Christian faith as we stand beneath the cross of Jesus.

The message of this Lenten season points us to the cross of Christ, and all that Christ Jesus did for us there – his suffering and death to take our sins away. May this blessed truth stir up in us tears of repentance and joy, so that we whoare loved so much may love much in return. Amen.

More in Lenten midweek 2013 - Beneath the Cross of Jesus

March 20, 2013

I take, O cross, your shadow for my abiding place

February 27, 2013

The Shadow of a Mighty Rock within a Weary Land

February 20, 2013

Beneath the cross of Jesus I long to take my stand