When I train for a long-distance race, I firmly adhere to a running schedule which lays out how many miles to run, when to run, and what kind of run (speed, tempo, long, etc). Similarly, I adopt this approach to my Bible reading: I decide what books to be read and the start to finish timeframe. My goal is to keep to the schedule so that I can stay on task. (It’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to reading the Bible in a year program.) This Fall, I joined a women’s small group, and we were encouraged to establish a qualitative Bible reading, praying, and meditation routine. Hence, I have been slowly and intentionally studying the Book of Luke. (Think snails-pace).
My study of Luke also happened to coincide with my preparation for a fifth grade Sunday School lesson: it was focused on the passage about Simon and the sinful woman (Luke 7:36–50). It’s the story of Jesus being invited to the home of Simon, a notable Pharisee, for dinner. Their meal is interrupted by the arrival of an unclean woman who then anoints Jesus’ feet with her tears and perfume. (We never learn the reasons for her societal classification, but it’s presumed she may have been a prostitute).
I’ve read this passage several times, mainly giving thanks that I wasn’t like Simon, but the woman in this narrative was only a peripheral thought. But this time, I found myself weeping over God’s Word, because I identified with her, equal in sinfulness. As the psalmist says, it was one of those “taste and see the goodness of God” moments. I understood, not just with my head, but with my heart the enormity of Jesus’ question when he compares the five hundred versus fifty denarii debtor. I am the former, and I have been forgiven much but yet I was living my life like Simon: “‘But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’” (v 47). It opened my eyes to my need for honest repentance so that I could more richly grasp Jesus’ promise that “Your sins are forgiven.” (v 48).
This wasn’t my first reading of this Scripture passage, so why did it hit me so hard this time? I liken it to the difference between an earnest conversation over a meal versus a passing chat in the supermarket aisle. My heart was opened to the revelation of Luke 7 because I frequently and slowly spent time in God’s Word. There were days when Scripture reading felt like rationed sips of water (five verses at most) or in repeat mode (Luke 12), but when my quiet time ended, I felt like the Holy Spirit guided my study and not a schedule.
I am now in Chapter 22 of the Book of Luke and how fortuitous that it coincides with the Lenten season. I have enjoyed it so much that I am considering whether to start it again when I reach the end of Chapter 24.
Lanvi O’Malley serves as a 5th grace Sunday School teacher at GRC.