A Reading from the First Book of Kings (21:1-21a)
Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.” Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, “I will not give you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat. His wife Jezebel came to him and said, “Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?” He said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it’; but he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” His wife Jezebel said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him to death.” The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; I will bring disaster on you.”
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; *
consider my meditation.
2 Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God, *
for I make my prayer to you.
3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; *
early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.
4 For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, *
and evil cannot dwell with you.
5 Braggarts cannot stand in your sight; *
you hate all those who work wickedness.
6 You destroy those who speak lies; *
the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O Lord, you abhor.
7 But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy
I will go into your house; *
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness,
because of those who lie in wait for me; *
make your way straight before me.
A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians (2:15-21)
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (7:36-8:3)
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu is quoted as saying that “They who know enough is enough will always have enough.” Even after 2500 years, that sage observation still has a lot to teach us.
Both in respect to material possessions and even in what we think of as spiritual issues, we find it hard to be satisfied with what we have: to accept the fact that we have enough and to be grateful. Today’s three readings provide us with examples of some who have come to accept that they have enough and of some who have refused to do so.
In our first reading, we once again encounter Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab was king of Israel. He seemed to have complete control of the nation. He had a palace in the capital city of Samaria. But apparently that was not enough for him. He had at least one other, secondary palace, located in Jezreel. But even that was not enough. In today’s story, we hear that he now wanted the property that was adjacent to his secondary palace, the property that was the ancestral heritage of a man named Naboth. When Naboth refused on principled grounds to sell it to him, Ahab lay down on his bed and pouted. His infamous Queen, Jezebel, took matters into her own hands. True to the way that she consistently acted, she committed bribery, perjury and murder to get what she wanted. No matter how much they had, they were never satisfied. They always wanted more. And that attitude and approach ended up destroying them.
Our second reading contrasts St. Paul with his opponents in Galatia. Here, the matter at hand, the refusal to accept that “enough is enough,” had to do, not with material possessions, but with God’s gift of new life. Paul was preaching the good news that, in Jesus, God free gift of the fullness of life was given to all people. His opponents were not willing simply to accept that free gift as it was given. Instead, they insisted that it had to belong only to them and to those like them who obeyed the Jewish ritual laws, and not to those “other people” – even though those “other people” comprised most of the world. It was not enough that they had received God’s ultimate gift of life. They wanted also to ensure that other people did not receive it.
In our gospel reading, St. Luke presents us with a dramatic contrast between Simon the Pharisee and an unnamed woman in the city. Jesus had brought to their city his message of God’s forgiveness for all and gift of life for all. But like Paul’s opponents in Galatia, Simon was apparently not willing simply to accept those gifts and be grateful for those gifts. He, too, wanted more: like them, he wanted to ensure that certain other people, in this case the repentant woman, did not receive the same gifts. He wanted Jesus to shut her out.
In contrast to Simon, this unnamed woman got the message. She knew that she had received God’s gifts of forgiveness and life, and that was enough for her. Jesus recognized that her actions in caring for him were not attempts to receive forgiveness – she already had that – but rather that they were signs of gratitude for the forgiveness and life that God had already poured out on her and on the world. For her, enough was enough, and she was grateful for all that she had received.
The author of this gospel obviously hoped that other church members living in his time would follow the example of this unnamed woman. But the example that she gives is just as vital for us today. Too many of us still haven’t gotten the message.
When it comes to the things that we own, we still are never satisfied. We always want more. And when we face the possibility that other people, people whom we think do not deserve to have as much as we have, share in the same blessings as we do, we protest. We are not willing to say that enough is enough for us. We are not willing simply to be grateful for all that we have, without worrying that somebody else supposedly has too much. We insist not only that we should have these things, but that certain other people should not.
Even in so-called spiritual issues, many people try to create distinctions between those who supposedly should have God’s gifts of forgiveness and new life (and they always, of course, count themselves in that group) and those who should not. Those who hold to a particular approach to the Christian faith and life, for example, insist that only those who have had a so-called “born again” experience and who agree with their extremely narrow view of the scriptures – only those people can share in the life of God given to the world in Jesus. Other Christians, including Episcopalians by the way, are simply left out.
Yet even we Christians who consider ourselves to have a broader view of God’s work in the world sometimes try to limit the scope of God’s work, God’s grace, and God’s life. We sometimes take an “only us and not them” approach; it’s just that our definition of “us” is a little broader than that of the first group. We don’t limit God’s gifts just to particular kinds of Christians, but we still limit them to those who are Christian, just in a wider sense.
But what if we really embraced the words that we sang right before the gospel reading? What if we really believed that “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea”? That’s pretty wide! Would we be willing simply to accept the fact that we have received God’s gracious gifts of forgiveness and new life — and that that is enough, without trying to exclude other people from receiving those same gifts? What if God’s mercy and love are so “wide” that they embrace not only fellow Christians but also the adherents of the world’s other great religions and maybe those of no religion at all? Are we willing to accept a God that big?
If we are, then maybe we can sing with real conviction the third stanza of that great hymn:
For the love of God is broader than the measure of the mind;
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful, we should take him at his word;
And our life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.
When it comes right down to it, living a life of “thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord“ should, I suggest, be enough for anyone.