I'll never forget yesterday. It's the first time I've ever left the platform after preaching with a half-smoked pack of Marlboro's and a cigarette lighter.
Yesterday morning, we spent time in Luke 7.36-50 and the powerful story of the time Jesus accepted a dinner invitation at Simon's house. Table fellowship is critical to the entirety of Dr. Luke's story of Jesus. Behind the text often lie very elaborate cultural conventions and expectations for the host, to the guests, even the seating arrangement at the table.
As host, Simon fails miserably. The conventions expected of the host/insider were either lost on Simon or beneath his preconceived stature and dignity. A "sinful woman," however, an outsider who didn't know any better (or did she?), broke through convention and performed admirably the hospitable tasks of compassion and grace expected of Simon.
Simon is disgusted. "If this man were a prophet," he thought to himself, he'd surely scold this sinful woman. For Simon, Jesus' reputation as a prophet hangs in the balance. So what does Jesus do? He proves himself a prophet, not by discerning the morality of the woman but by disclosing the mind of Simon.
To help the seal the deal, Jesus tells a story in Luke 7.41-42 pregnant with meaning for our times. It's about a banker who "bails out" two men unable to repay their debt. The banker's generous bailout becomes the stimulus for the appreciation of the two men.
As Jesus admonishes Simon, it is clear his oversight toward Jesus is not as devastating as his judgment of the woman. The woman, recognizing her need to be bailed out of her sin, responded with great appreciation and love for the Savior. The woman is aware; Simon is simply counting the amount.
And that's where Allen comes in. The call at the close of the sermon yesterday was one that honored spontaneous response of appreciation and gratitude for the Savior who bailed us all out. We closed by talking very specifically about how the divine bailout at Calvary becomes our divine stimulus to respond to Jesus with love, grace and compassion.
And Allen did.
He came to the front, not just to fill out a Response Card, but to literally lay down his burden in front of the whole assembly. Allen was baptized into Jesus on November 10, 2008 and since that time he's grown in his faith. But Allen's had a barrier -- an addiction to nicotine -- that has inhibited his full devotion to Jesus.
Yesterday, in an act of rare courage, Allen made himself accountable to the entire assembly as he begged for prayer to overcome addiction. For those of us lifers in the church, Allen's act defied convention. But that's exactly the response Jesus honors! Allen's uncoventional act of devotion and dedication was in no small part stimulated by his appreciation for God's divine bailout.
I fully expect we'll hear more and more about "financial bailouts" and " economic stimulus" in the weeks and months ahead. But I hope, when we do, we think not of our financial status but our spiritual status. Thanks to the incredible bailout offered by God's grace, we are stimulated to join His Kingdom cause in this world, to lay aside our burdens, and to love others without a judgmental spirit.