The lectionary readings in the Church of England and Roman Catholic church diverge this Sunday. The Missal gives us John 8.1-11
A preacher gave a sermon against gossip in his church one week. He preached exactly the same sermon the next week…
…and the next! This time, some of his congregation asked him why he was doing this. He said, ‘I’ll go on to the next sermon once you’ve taken this one to heart!’
Just like that preacher, today’s Gospel underlines the message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which many churches read last week. We are given the same message again and again, because we need to absorb it in our hearts as well as our heads.
As we were reminded two weeks ago (when we reflected on the Parable of the Fig Tree), there is a world of difference between the free grace offered in Jesus Christ and ‘cheap grace’, which allows us to continue complacently in our sin.
The point of guilt is to change our ways so we ‘go and sin no more’. We are reminded of this every time we look at the cross: God’s response in Christ to sin is not vengeance, but love. How many times do each of us need to hear that, before we take it to heart?
The Church of England reading for this Sunday is John 12.1-8. This speaks to us of one woman’s response once she had taken the message of the cross to heart – for she anoints him prophetically, for burial. This is how grace transforms us: we only come to such overwhelming generosity in our worship of God and our relationship with neighbour and stranger when we have begun to grasp his overwhelming generosity. “We love because he loved us first.”
Almighty God, as we stand at the foot of the cross of your Son, teach us to see and know his love for us, that in humility, love and joy we may place at his feet all that we have and all that we are, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.