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Worship Series: I’m In
Worship Theme: I’m Invited
Lesson: Psalm 32 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)
Music: CW 385 Chief of Sinners Though I Be, CW 304 Jesus Sinners Does Receive, Just a Closer Walk with Thee (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: I’m Invited
When was the last time you received an invitation? Was it for a birthday party? An anniversary celebration? Someone’s retirement? Maybe it was for a wedding! No matter what the occasion, they thought you were important enough to invite! Sometimes, receiving an invitation can be intimidating, especially when you might feel (or someone else might feel) that you don’t belong. I’m going to show you a clip from Downton Abbey, and I’m going to ask you to share your thoughts once you’ve viewed it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series Downton Abbey, Tom Branson was the family’s former chauffeur. Sybil, one of the daughters, fell in love with Tom and they were married. As you viewed the clip, what made Tom uncomfortable, both before and during dinner?
Have you ever been somewhere you weren’t welcome? Think back to the section we heard from Luke 7. Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus to share a meal with him. Picture the scene. Simon’s house is not like Downton Abbey—it’s not filled with fancy decorations and a banquet table. As a leader of the Jewish people, Simon would have plenty of comforts to enjoy in his house. He would provide an excellent meal for his guest.
In the middle of the meal, an uninvited guest turned up. She was well-known in town—a “sinful woman.” She made her living as a prostitute. She certainly was not welcome at Simon’s house. Simon was a righteous Pharisee, not one of her unsavory customers. As she made her way inside, fear tugged at her heart. “What if Jesus won’t see me?” Embarrassment tried to drag her down. “I’m not dressed for this, in fact, I don’t even know how to act around these people.” Shame certainly tried to keep her away. “How can I go in here? People will assume that I’m after Jesus for all the wrong reasons. Who would believe someone like me?”
Simon remained silent as he watched her interact with Jesus. He heard her crying. He saw her tears. He noticed that she had let her hair down in public—unacceptable behavior for any honorable Jewish woman. Simon was just as embarrassed that she was in his house, talking to his guest. Simon thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would realize who is touching him and what kind of woman she is, because she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39 EHV). He might as well have shouted out loud, “What is this woman doing here? Get out! You don’t belong!”
Have you ever felt that way when you’ve walked into a church? When you’ve walked into Salem? Have you ever felt unwelcome, and the only time someone looked your way they wondered why someone like you would be in church? Have you felt uncomfortable before the service started, wondering why you came in the first place? Are you afraid of what people might say if they knew all the terrible baggage you bring with you? Are you ashamed—ashamed because of your past, or possibly ashamed because of who you are now? Are you embarrassed because you don’t know the Bible very well, or maybe not at all? Or, maybe embarrassed because others seem to know so much more?
The woman who came to Jesus understood shame and embarrassment. “She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, stood behind him near his feet weeping, and began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she began to wipe them with her hair while also kissing his feet and anointing them with the perfume” (Luke 7:37–38 EHV). The woman didn’t say a word to Jesus. She had lived an unsavory, sinful life. She had used her body in ways that dishonored God and dishonored herself. The depth of her shame brought her to Jesus. Jesus understood unsavory people. Wasn’t one of his own disciples a tax-collector? Hadn’t he welcomed Mary Magdalene as one of his followers, a woman who had been possessed by seven demons?
What would Jesus do with this “sinful woman”? The woman didn’t dare look Jesus in the eye. She stood behind him as he reclined at the table. Sorrow over what she had done wrung tears from her eyes. Those tears fell on Jesus’ feet like rain. She didn’t have a towel to wipe them off, so she used her hair. She wiped Jesus’ feet dry, kissed them, and then anointed the Anointed One with her precious perfume. She trusted that this Jesus, who had healed the sick and raised the dead, who had called a tax-collector and another socially unacceptable woman to follow him, would have room for her in his heart along with all the other misfits of society.
Was there room for her? What would Jesus do? Would he send her away? Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:49-50 EHV). Jesus didn’t send the woman away. He couldn’t—he loved her too much to do that! Instead, Jesus sent away her fear, shame, and embarrassment! That’s the meaning of the Greek word “forgiven”—Jesus sent all her sins away! Jesus loved her, just as he loved Simon the Pharisee. He wanted both of them to follow him, and his words of forgiveness were an invitation to trust in him. The woman trusted. Her faith in Jesus’ promise brought peace to her heart and soul. She didn’t need to live in shame and embarrassment any longer. She could live in peace!
Jesus offers the same invitation to you and me. Maybe you’ve heard it before, and maybe you haven’t. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 EHV). Jesus invited that sinful woman and she came just as she was—full of shame and fear and sin. He sent her sins away. Jesus invites you and me to come just as we are. He doesn’t care what we’ve done, where we’ve been, who we’ve hurt or who has hurt us. We can tell him that we don’t belong. We can say that our list of sins is too big for him to cover. We can try to tell him that we don’t deserve him. Jesus will listen without judging. Come to him with your tears and let them run down your face on his feet. He won’t send us away. He can’t! l He loves us too much! Jesus loved us enough to die for us. He forgives us! He sends away everything we’ve ever done, everything that disqualifies us from being part of his family. He invites us to rest in his arms, and then leave today experiencing peace, real, heart-lifting peace. Are you “in” for that invitation? I am!!!
Jesus invites all of us to come and find peace and rest in him. I like to offer another invitation to experience those gifts in a different way. You’re invited...to join a growth group. A what? A growth group! A growth group is an opportunity for us to grow closer to Jesus. That happens when we gather together for worship around God’s Word and sacraments. It’s an opportunity to build deeper connections with each other. It’s an opportunity to grow in service to each other, to our Salem family, and to our community.
When you join a Growth Group, you’ll get together with about 9 other fellow believers on a regular basis. You will begin to foster meaningful friendships. The Growth Groups are sermon based. You’ll dig deeper into the sermon from that week using the questions provided with the bulletins each week. You’ll have a chance to pray together and serve others. Are you in? I’m in!
Does the invitation make you feel a little nervous? “You want me to do what? Get together with about 9 other people? I can’t do that—I’m afraid. I’m afraid they’ll know more than me. I’m afraid to get close to people—it seems like I get hurt whenever I try. I’m ashamed of the life I’ve lived. I don’t belong anywhere. I’m nervous—what if they make fun of me, the way I talk or the way I dress.”
Remember—Jesus addressed every one of our concerns. He has sent away all our sins and accepts us just as we are. A Growth Group is a great opportunity to share that comfort with each other! It provides an opportunity for our faith to grow. Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on bedrock. The rain came down, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not fall, because it was founded on bedrock” (Matthew 7:24–25 EHV). As we get together with fellow believers on a regular basis, we build on the foundation of Jesus together. Are you in? I’m in!
A Growth Group also gives us the chance to encourage one another to get together and keep growing in the Word. “Let us hold on firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. Let us also consider carefully how to spur each other on to love and good works. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23–25 EHV). Are you in? I’m in!
You are all invited! I pray that every single member of Salem will join a Growth Group. In the next three weeks, we’re going to talk more about this opportunity to grow in faith and in our connection with each other. Next week, Pastor Jake will share how VALUABLE you are to Growth Groups and to this gathering of believers. Pastor Enter will follow up with how INFLUENTIAL we are as we pray for each other and our Growth Groups. On the final weekend, Pastor Jake will talk about how important it is to be INVESTED in these groups and in the mission of our congregation. You are invited! Are you in? I’m in! Amen.