Luke tells one of my favorite stories. It’s about woman he identifies as a sinner (some believe her to be a prostitute). She courageously crashes a religious leader’s dinner party to see Jesus. When she does she falls to his feet weeping. In an act of customary hospitality reserved for a house slave she washes his feet, except with her tears. She dries his feet, except her hair. She kisses his feet and anoints them with her expensive perfume. Luke closes the story this way:
Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:49-50)
Jesus says to her, “Go in peace.”
But where is she to go?
The price of her coming to Jesus is that she can no longer go back to the way of life that sustains her. The one place she is welcomed, among people like her, is no longer a wise place for her to go.
Where is she to go? And what will she need if she is to get there?
I’m not sure where, but I have an idea of what she will need if she’s to find it.
She will need to be loved by a beloved community. She will need a forgiving community of forgiven sinners. She will need a place of belonging where she can reorient herself toward a life-giving story. She will need a community that refuses to ignore her struggle and is willing to tell the truth in the faces of injustice that glaringly stare her down. She will need a community that will weep when she weeps and rejoices when rejoices. She will need her burdens shared, some help with rent, and a few bags of groceries.
She will need more than good music and messages once a week. She will need more than spiritual pep-rallies. She will need more than programs that fulfill her needs through transactional engagement strategies and volunteerism. She will need more than thoughts and prayers.
What she needs is a community awakened to God’s hospitality that welcomes her as they have been welcomed by Christ. She needs a community of royal priests and hospitable homemakers who have made their home with the God who reigns in Christ.
We need that, too.
We need what she needs.
She is us.