Date: July 24, 2022
Scripture Lesson: Luke 10:38-42
Sermon: At Jesus’ Feet
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
To start our sermon time together this morning, I I would like your help. I would like you to take a few moments to write down some of your favorite stories associated with Jesus. Some of your favorite teachings of Jesus. Maybe it’s something from the Beatitudes. Or a parable. Or a story of healing. Or the Easter story. So, take a moment to think about something from the life and teachings of Jesus that is important to you. And I’d like you to write that down.
Hand out pens and pads. . . .
Hilton plays “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”
Last week we talked about the story of Mary and Martha, but there is more that we are going to reflect on today. In this story we are told that Mary was seated at the feet of Jesus. We know she was there as a disciple, a student, to learn, to hear his teachings. Men seated at the feet of a rabbi was the classic modality for teaching in that time.
So, as we think about the legacy of Jesus, let’s think about who would be seated at his feet. In the classic religious scenario of the time, those at the feet of a rabbi would be men, who were ritually clean, in good standing, current on their prayers and tithes.
But as we read the New Testament, and particularly the gospels, we see a different picture of who may have been seated at the feet of Jesus; who was interested in learning from him. It was a far wider group. More diverse. Including women. Like Mary. Like the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil. Or the woman caught in adultery. And there were probably people seated at Jesus’ feet wanting to learn from him who were not upstanding Jews. Like the Roman centurion who came to Jesus begging him to heal his servant. Or some Samaritans who were foreigners and enemies. Maybe the grateful leper was seated at Jesus’ feet. Or the man born blind. Or the Gerasene demoniac who was possessed and living among the graves until Jesus cast out the evil spirits within him. Maybe Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, was seated at the feet of Jesus. Maybe there were children. Maybe Lazarus who had been covered with sores and was homeless and hungry sat at Jesus’ feet. Maybe the woman with 7 demons was seated at the feet of Jesus. And the woman with the flow of blood. Maybe the poor widow who put two coins in the Temple coffers. Maybe she was sitting at Jesus’ feet; eager to listen and learn.
So, as we think about listening at the feet of Jesus we are seeing a much more diverse group than just the respectable men of the day.
And there is a teaching in that. You see, everyone is welcome at the feet of Jesus. He turns no one away. When we think of Jesus teaching today, do we see him in a big, fancy, arched stone church with a gorgeous organ and a marble pulpit? Or in a white steepled building with wooden pews? Do we see good, respectable, well dressed, well spoken people coming to hear Jesus? I hope they are coming to hear Jesus, but I think there would be a much more diverse crowd at the feet of Jesus. Do we see homeless people? People who don’t speak English? Jesus didn’t speak English. People with holes in their clothes? People of varying shades and hues? Do we see people of varying identities? And more than that, people of many differing kinds of backgrounds and experiences? Tech execs and gas station clerks? PhD’s and people who mow lawns? People who are rich, rich, rich, rich, and people who are struggling to get by? I’ll never forget that moment in the presidential debates between Bill Clinton and George Bush, Sr. when they were asked about the prices of a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. Clinton answered as if he had been in the grocery story the day before. Bush, not so much. But both of them, and those like them, are welcome at the feet of Jesus.
To people who have been downgraded, excluded, and sidelined, Jesus says, there is room at my feet. For you. Your place is waiting. I have a word for you.
To people who have been failed by the education system, who feel ill-equipped and inadequate to deal with life around them, Jesus has a place at his feet. And he has something to say, and it can be understood. It is meant for for them.
To people who have been failed by the economic system, and abused by the economic system, to people who have been taken advantage of to make others rich, and who can’t make ends meet, or scrape by. To people who are used up and throw aside, overlooked, and ill-treated because they cannot stay on top of their basic needs and that of their families. Society says, you are a failure. You just don’t work hard enough. You are lazy. You lack motivation. Jesus has a place at his feet. And a word of liberation and comfort and worth.
To people who feel abandoned by the health care system and by society. Deemed not competent to make their own health care decisions. Not able to pay for needed care or medication. Not given access to the full range of medical resources available including needed mental health services. Cast out. Ignored. Jesus has room at his feet. And a word of healing and hope.
To people who haven’t bathed because they don’t have access to a safe place to live and care for themselves. Dirty. Smelly, even. Jesus has a place at his feet.
To children who are hungry, who don’t have a safe place to live. Who are discounted and devalued and bullied in school. Jesus has a place at his feet.
To people who have been swallowed up by capitalism and taken the Koolaid about getting rich and being happy, to those who have been seduced by power and money, Jesus says come sit with me. I have a word of hope and joy for you.
And then there is the diversity of our activities and behaviors and politics. All welcome at Jesus’ feet. When you think about this, it is really extraordinary. When do all of these kinds of people come together? Maybe, just maybe at a ball game. Though the tickets can be costly. Or at the 4th of July fireworks. They’re free. But there is no interaction. No relationship building in those spectator settings. But at the feet of Jesus, everyone is welcome. And everyone comes. And they get to know each other. WE are welcome and we form relationships with people we would never have encountered otherwise.
There is something else about the people who are welcomed at the feet of Jesus in the gospels. Lots of them are, well, sketchy. Like thieves. Unscrupulous cheaters. People who have done bad things. Maybe drug dealers. Embezzlers. People who have been involved in abusive financial dealings. But there they are, at the feet of Jesus, because Jesus welcomes them, too. Not only whoever you are, but whatever you have done. There’s a place for everyone. And not only is there a place, but there is a teaching, a story, a message, to help all of us come back, be restored, have hope again.
In today’s world, who we are just dogs us. If you have a police record, God help you. Because it will come up again and again and again, even when it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. You just can’t get out from under it, thanks to the ubiquitous computer and the ever present spirit of vengeance.
Apply for a job. There is that dreaded section about a felony. Or any other legal altercations. No matter how long ago or what the circumstance.
Got into trouble somehow, made a bad decision, got into a harmful relationship, blew it at a job, it all stays with us thanks to social media and the internet.
To all of us dogged by the past, Jesus says sit at my feet. You are worthy of my teaching. I have a word for you. About a different kind of life.
Heather Cook was a suffragan bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. She was the first woman elected a bishop in that diocese. In 2014, she was involved in a traffic fatality in Baltimore. In addition to vehicular manslaughter, she was charged with drunk driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of a crime. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heather_Cook.]
The person killed, Thomas Palermo, was a beloved husband and father of a 6 year-old daughter, Sadie, and a 4-year-old son, Sam. He was an avid cyclist and bike builder. He had many loyal friends and colleagues. He was a software engineer for Johns Hopkins. He was a kind, gentle soul and a good listener. [Obituary of Thomas Palermo, https://www.baltimoresun.com/obituaries/bs-md-ob-thomas-palermo-20141230-story.html.%5D
And he was killed by an Episcopal bishop driving drunk. Cook was convicted and spent 4 years in prison and 5 years under supervised parole and probation.
Can we imagine that Heather Cook, the ex-bishop, has a place at the feet of Jesus? One entrusted with spreading the gospel who instead spread grief and pain? After such a betrayal, does she still have a place at the feet of Jesus? Can we see that Thomas Palermo’s beloved family and friends also are sitting at the feet of Jesus?
So, when we think about this image of sitting at Jesus’ feet, first we want to see that no one is turned away. Jesus sees the sacred, the Divine Image in everyone. Jesus has deep and abiding love for every single soul. No matter who you are. No matter what you have been put through. No matter what has been done to you. No matter what you have done. Or haven’t done. There is lots of room at Jesus’ feet and Jesus has a message of love and hope for everyone.
Can you see all those people? That gathering? Can you find a place to sit down Do you notice those seated near you? Well, maybe 6 feet apart. And wearing a mask. Can we imagine that?
And what do we hear at Jesus feet? What is he teaching? He is giving each of us what we need. Forgiveness. Hope. Encouragement. A dream. Comfort. Love. Truth. Whatever it is that we need, Jesus offers it. And we are here because we have heard that good news. We have heard what we need from Jesus.
This is where you have helped with this sermon. You have contributed the stories and teachings that you have heard and that have stayed with you and shaped you and given you hope. The teachings that have informed your reality and taught you about the nature of universal love.
This is what we have heard at Jesus’ feet. These are the teachings that we need:
Early in the morning on the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene
went to the tomb –
Then not finding Jesus’ body. She was crying in the garden –
Jesus calls her by name “Mary”
She recognizes him – Jesus is alive
Love is stronger than death!
The Sermon on the Mount is my favorite because it lays out the ethical framework for living which emulates the commandments to love God and others.
So if I don’t know any teachings, just that he is a forgiving person that always did the right thing to and for his fellow person.
Mary and Martha! Since covid this story of balance and priority has helped me use my time in more loving, thoughtful ways.
Psalm 121 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.
I learned this at 13 years old from my mother as she was dying.
Jesus and the Woman at the Well-
-He engaged her
-He accepted her as she was
-He challenged her
-He sent her to go and live her life –
This story helps me in my situation – whatever or wherever I am on the road of life.
When Jesus came down from the mountain and found his disciples asleep.
Healing the woman with the flow of blood – Moving beyond the expectations of his time and place. She reached out. With just a touch of his garment, he knew! Courage! Desperation!
Last supper. My body, my blood for you. Teaching??
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.
Parable of the lost sheep
-Every single person is valuable in God’s eyes.
-God will never stop pursuing us until we are back in restored
relationship with God.
Always interested in children. Come unto me – teaching them at his feet.
Feed followers with fish and bread (loaves)
Jesus gives me
quiet and peace
and a friend when
The Loaves and the Fishes made an impression when I was a lad. Preaching in the temple as a youth. (That’s in there, right? Or am I mistaken?)
At the tomb – Easter morning. Mary asks the gardener Where have you
taken my master? And Jesus says her name “Mary”
And she recognizes him and says Master – Rabbi
On the cross — Jesus says Forgive them for they know not what they do.
Jesus says he has not come to refute ‘the law’ but to fulfill it —
Love God with all you heart and soul
Love all others as I have loved you.
These are the teachings that we have heard at the feet of Jesus. These are the stories we have needed.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus, our teacher, listening to him, we are given life. In Psalm 1, we are told of a tree beside the water nourished by the stream and how we are like the tree nourished by the love of God. Jesus is messaging to us a word that is life giving like the mycelium messaging under the soil to the roots of the trees to keep the trees alive, healthy, and safe. Like the oxygen emitted by plants and trees that keeps us alive, those who sit at Jesus’ feet are given life, sustained, brought back from despair, and kept alive. We are welcomed into the reality of God. At Jesus’ feet, we are nourished with life giving love. Not condemnation. Or retribution. Or threat. Or intimidation. Or judgment. No. At Jesus’ feet, we are given the word of life that sustains all of us and that does not judge or berate. No matter who we are. Or what we have done. Jesus has a life line for us. We just need to listen and let him save us. Amen.
A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ