A Laity Reflection by PUMC Lay Leader Larry Newton*

formal place settingI cringed when I heard Pastor Chris talking about formal table settings and proper protocol. When my mother would set out her fine china for a holiday meal, I used to complain to her about the wasted effort to set the flatware and silverware at the table just so we could eat a meal. Why was this day any different from another when we used “normal” place settings. I didn’t appreciate the occasion, that having guests called for different protocol. Was it about showing off to them? No, having family or guests at our house to share a meal was a chance to celebrate fellowship. As an immature kid I didn’t understand the gravity of the occasion. I needed my mother to set me right.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Luke 7:39

I see my reaction mirrored in this Gospel passage as well. The Pharisee was blinded to the occasion. He didn’t appreciate who his dinner guest was and why “the woman” reacted to Jesus the way he did. The Pharisee even looked down upon her calling her a “sinner.” It took Jesus to set the Pharisee right. Jesus pointed out the host’s lack of proper protocol towards his guests.

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.”

Luke 7:44-46

How easy it is for all of us to look down on “sinners,” when in fact we are all sinners. The “good china” should come out whenever we have house guests. We don’t wash the feet of those who visit us anymore, but we should always show appropriate hospitality. I no longer think its good protocol to serve wine to a guest out of a plastic cup, but I have a long way to go to mirror the action of the woman in this story.

*Each week of our Lenten sermon series, one Lay person will share a reflection on the topic of the week.

Protocol for the Modern Diplomat referred to in the message.

[At the very end of the message my tongue / brain got twisted: “What tables are you NOT at that you WANT to be at” instead of “What tables are you at that you are not at.” Sigh.]

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