The Miracle of Love 
Sunday, June 17, 2007, 10:09 AM - Sermon
1 Kings 17:8-24; Luke 7:11-17
What's your Credit Score? Do you know? It is important when you buy a house, a car, or even a phone now. A credit score is a number that condenses all of your credit history—your timely bill payment, the number of credit cards you have, how long you have had them and how much debt they can carry, loans you have, your repayment pattern, into one number. It is so sensitive to credit activity that even asking what the credit score is affects the credit score. Folks considering lending you money, or financing your home can decide whether you are worthy of getting that house or loan.

But wait, there's more! You can rent a higher credit score. Yes, there are companies that match credit needing people with people who have credit to spare. The company pays folks with good credit for the right to put the names of people with poor credit on credit cards belong to people with stellar credit histories. No extra cards are issued, the renters of credit cannot make any charges on the accounts, but the credit score computer notices that suddenly they have one, two or three credit cards with excellent payment history and their score goes up! They have borrowed the credit another person deserves. All legally.

The church has had this scheme for hundreds of years. Called indulgences it was the idea that the saints of the church had more than enough good works or merit to get into heaven. (To buy some real estate in the planned and pearly gated community known as Heaven.) So the left over merit would go into the treasury of merit, which the church then rented out to folks who want to make sure their departed loved ones had enough credit to get a lot in heaven. The church told folks that while the people were waiting to get in heaven, they were in purgatory, a kind of waiting room for heaven, a kind of temporary hell. (So the next time you are in a waiting room—think hmm…this is a little like hell.) Just like the credit renting companies of this era, the church charged for this transfer of credit. They even had the world's first advertising jingle: “When the coin in the plate rings, the soul from purgatory springs!” Catchy. The selling indulgences business got so bad, that it was one of the main reasons Martin Luther called for reform in the church. In the resulting reformation, indulgences got thrown out.

Now, I think indulgences were a bad practice. The rejection of the idea of charging for spiritual services of the church is one of the reasons I decline to accept honorariums for funerals and weddings. Yet, you know, I think we lost something between indulgences to get out of purgatory and here. Purgatory at least recognized that the vast majority of people are somewhere between totally evil and totally good. It offered something between sinister sinners and spotless saints. Look at our gospel today. The Pharisee and the Prostitute should be examples of saint and sinner, good and bad…yet Jesus saw more to the story. He pointed out the loving service of the sinner and the lack of the same in the saint. Jesus knew that we are all mixed up with good and bad in each of us.

What do we do with people who are good and bad? I think we too often divide them up to Saints and Sinners. The Good and the Bad. Then when one of the good falls short, we are crushed, for now we have to assign them to the bad. We don't allow folks to be a mix. Throw them into jail! Mandatory sentences! Love America or leave it! Support the troops or help the terrorists! True Americans or Illegal Immigrants.

The Pharisee, the good person in this story, was wrong about Jesus. He did know who the person touching him was. A forgiven sinner, like everyone else. A mixture of good and bad like all the rest of us. Jesus, instead of condemning her or just sending her away, forgives her.

Why forgive sinners? Why give them any credit at all? Shouldn't we all have our own credit score with God, based on our own actions? Shouldn't sinners be punished and corrected? Well, that is possible, and the Bible tells us that the government is supposed to keep order and if they don't, revenge is mine says the Lord, not ours.

Our job could be not to punish sinners play God in the literal sense by deciding who is destined to be homeless in hell and who has closed on some heavenly property; but to increase love in our lives and the world. Jesus points out that the one who is forgiven much, loves much…the one who is forgiven little loves little.

What to have more love in your life? Try having more forgiveness in your life. You can forgive your sister for her treatment of you, or your children for forgetting you. Jesus promises the more you forgive, the more love there will be. How about your own relationship with God? Wish you were more spiritual, that God was more involved in your life? How about forgiving God for the disappointment and pain in your life? You don't have to understand the motivation of others to forgive, you don't have to approve of the act to forgive, you don't have to deny the hurt to forgive. But to increase love in your life, you have to forgive.

The miracle of love is that it increases the more it is given away. The more we give in loving forgiveness, the more we have in our life. Instead of checking credit scores of others, or seeking to borrow good credit from others, forgive the debt and watch the miracle of love happen in your life. Amen.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities.

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