On the CHRISTwatch, in the CROSSwalk “MISS UNDERSTOOD”

Nobody ever holds up a foam hand at the game and signs, “We’re number two!” Nobody on the job wants to hear, “You were third in line for promotion.” When teacher hands back test papers, highest grade to lowest, we want to be first, not last.  Academy Awards tonight! Only the winners speak. Imagine… imagining your self! No matter your age. Who doesn’t want to be best, first, higher than low? We prefer the trophy, the sash, the crown. If just for a flash, boys to men, can’t you see yourself a linebacker, a hero or a sage? Even if just for a flash, girls to women, can’t you see yourself as “Miss… Something”. Miss 4-H, Odenton or Maryland; Miss Apricot or Cumquat, America or USA. Maybe Miss Congeniality. But hardly anybody wants to be Misunderstood! Unless you say it… like it’s spelled in your bulletin today. What if you went from not noticed, not appreciated, not valued, not-seen-for-who-you-really-are …to…unmistakable, unforgettable, unrepeatable, undeniable, unbeatable. Misunderstood to Miss… Understood… complete with sash and crown. Long, ago some young and not so young women and men actually did that. How? By walking with Jesus. ‘Following Jesus. ‘Staying with Jesus. So I ask you: isn’t this the way to go?

Get near Jesus. Get near him, and who-you-are will come clear. To you, and to everybody else. You move from misunderstood to Miss (or Mr.) UNDERSTOOD. And you get to understand. Did you hear the story? Here’s Jesus on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. He gets an invite. Come and dine with an important soul. He does. It’s a big party. The host is such a big cheese, he doesn’t greet Jesus at the door himself, shake his hand, escort him to table, or see to it he has napkin, knife or fork. BUMMER! Now when guys like this throw a party in Jesus’ day, everybody shows, just to be near the important host and his most important guests. One such nobody, a woman, comes. It seems she knows Jesus. ‘Even loves Jesus. ‘Treasures Jesus. O, she knows: she didn’t measure up to him. Who does? She can list a long list of mistakes, missed chances, messed up moments. [Her sash hadn’t many medals or patches. She was not much of a Girl Scout!]  When she puts all she isn’t beside what Jesus is, tears flow! And get this. Perfume too.

She won’t let her tears go to waste. (Sadly we often do.) No, she uses her tears to praise Christ. (Do you ever do that?) She showers his tired, road-torn feet with them. O, she knows lots she’s done has pushed her away from family, neighbors, what we’d call church. But there’s 1 symbol of connection, belonging left to her. The phial of perfume ‘round her neck. ‘Her only treasure. ‘The 1 thing that says, “‘Still a daughter of Israel.” Well she pours it all out on Jesus’ feet. And Jesus sees. Knows. Understands. All of it. Sin to sorrow. Self-surrender to faultless faith. And even before he speaks it, he forgives. And before she knows it, she is lifted/saved. She becomes for Jesus, Miss Understood, complete w/ sash & crown.

What a happy ending.

But there’s more: more mistaking, misunderstanding. Our hotshot host is standing there watching all this. He’s sayin’ to himself, I’m better, she’s worse. If only you knew, Jesus; if only you knew. [We say that, too. I’m better (than somebody) Jesus. Love me better. Love me best.] Hmph! He knows… and always better than we. To his host he says, “You gave me no kiss; she hasn’t ceased kissing. You did nothing to show me your special friend, she has bathed me in blessing, down to my toes. She sees her sins; yours are hidden to you. Do you see this woman?” ‘Really see her? She’s loved much and is pardoned much. YOU are ‘0 for 2’. I understand you both. And I see you as you are, and might become.” Is that good news or bad news, should Jesus say the same to you? You decide. Do you get a sash and crown, when an understanding Jesus comes around?

I’m fascinated. I’m hoping you’ll be at least a little interested. Despite the fact this woman is unnamed, the centuries want to make her Mary Magdalene. Her name appears just verses later. ‘The woman whose 7 demons Jesus cast out. The demons are never named. But the centuries have supplied a ready, endless, merciless list of suggestions for this lady. In fact, they have said she was no kinda lady at all. Scripture never says that! But we have, and do. Scripture does says Jesus heals and forgives Mary. Sad! We do not! Whom we misunderstand, Jesus crowns Miss Understood. Now there will be/are Girl Scouts here today. I can only wonder how we will treat them; and they, themselves, and each other. We put magazines in front of them that make weight, blemishes, freckles, height (+/-) and curves (+/-) demons by the dozen. We tell them to or let them text their feelings, and clobber them when they do. We drive them to picture their most private outsides to each other and prosecute them when they do. But we do not, as a whole people, attend their insides so closely as to know and correct their confusions. Nor do we faithfully nurture their confessions of faith. Literally, thank God for the Scout Group and the Youth Group and the Sunday School classes that can answer yes, should Jesus ask us, “Do you see this woman?” How I weep for God, whom some of these and other young women will have difficulty calling “Father.” Why, because we dads (and I’m in that union) have sometimes let them down. The worst, abuse in word or act. More ignore. Some don’t try to understand. We are remote sometimes, unkind, not tender. Yet it is from us more than any that they will learn what to hope/expect/demand in a life-partner and as co-parents to their children. We can do better.

Ooo… how I thank God there’s an antidote. To me. To menfolk, our culture, our families, our every goof-up with these children/all God’s children. This sister-of-the-perfumed-praise knows. The Magdalene knows. I hope we will help each other know. It is Jesus. I believe that unnamed woman follows him. Mary does, as we have read, all the way to the cross. Because Jesus understands her, she comes to understand, from this world to the next. Miss UNDERSTOOD, she. Her sash has one badge only. Jesus calls her by name in the Garden of the Resurrection. Her crown, she is the first to tell, “He is risen!”  You and I can bear the same crown with the very same word!

Gracious, this message seems to have begun at a table, passed by a cross, and come to a garden. May the same be true for each of us. Perhaps it’s a matter of understanding. A holy matter. God understands, in Jesus Christ. And so can we. We can take a step, like those who followed long ago, just by coming to table here today. A loaf and a cup, the promise of a sash and a crown!

You can only imagine what a glory it will be!

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