Kendall Harmon: The Powerful Woman With No Lines And No Name

One of my friends has the delightful habit of sending me New Yorker cartoons. Certainly one of the best features a man behind a bookstore counter on top of which is prominently featured Allen Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. He has a big smile on his face and says to the customer “I haven’t read it, but it’s a great book!”

Alas, that is too often a true reflection of how many Episcopalians actually relate to Holy Scripture.

It is such a fabulous book, but we only experience it when we learn to be Scripture students and spiritually attentive Bible readers.

Consider the story of when Simon the Pharisee has the preacher over for dinner (Luke 7:36-50). As for many a good Episcopalian, having the rector over is a big deal for Simon. Etiquette must be properly followed. Invitations must be carefully issued. Everything must be done in correct Anglican fashion, decently and in order.
Then a woman from the wrong side of the tracks crashes the party. She does not have an invitation, and she violates every protocol. Indeed, having messed up all those things, she cannot even give to Jesus the gift she wants to give him in the way she wants to give it. Her heart is so broken by the depth of Jesus’ love for her that when she simply gets behind him she starts crying, and then before you know it the ointment intended for his head ends up on his feet.

Simon is livid, and has a conversation with himself about Jesus’ failure to get upset and to follow the proper procedure when something like this happens.

But Jesus marches to a different drummer. “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing,” Pascal said, and Jesus not only spoke in but also heard the language of love. He saw more than what this woman was doing; he heard why she was doing it. She was loved, and wanted to find a way to say thank you.

Many a parent has accepted a very strange gift from a child with pleasure and joy ”” because it was given out of love. I remember Mom showing me early letters I had written. One of her favorites, written when I was about 6, read: “Dear Mom: I hate you. Love, Kendall.” There isn’t a parent reading this who doesn’t understand why my mother had it in the file.

Pleased about what the woman was doing, Jesus entered into Simon’s conversation with himself and told him a story. Two people owned someone money, one owed 5 million dollars, and the other 50,000. They both had all their debts erased. Who do you suppose was more grateful? Simon knew the answer and gave it.

Then Jesus commended the woman as a heroine in the kingdom of God to Simon. Do you see her, he said. She did what she did because she knew how completely she had made a mess of her life and therefore how profoundly God had forgiven her. As a result, she loved much and wanted to find a way to say it.

What a story. The heroine is a woman who has no name and no lines. That does not sound like a prescription for a successful play, does it, to have the key character without a name and with nothing to say?

But Jesus specialized in turning the world upside down. This woman has the real power that changes the world, the power of the Holy Spirit that enables her to be loved by God in Christ and then to seek no matter what to try to express it to others.

I hope to meet her in heaven some day. In the meantime I am going to plunge myself into the Bible and try to read it carefully and let it hit me with the full force God intends it to. It really is a great book.

–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is editor of the Anglican Digest and Convenor of this blog


Posted in * By Kendall, Theology, Theology: Scripture

7 comments on “Kendall Harmon: The Powerful Woman With No Lines And No Name

  1. KAR says:

    No, it doesn’t sound like a prescription for a successful play, then neither is my life, so her testimony is one of hope. This essay is food for the soul, thank you.

  2. Mike Bertaut says:

    Ah, how wide can we spread this message? Is there any field too far for the Lord to harvest? Thanks for this today, to remind me exactly how falling has driven me to Love the Lord, and how his Word made that possible.



  3. Undergroundpewster says:

    The Church saw the need for people to take the Bible in bits and pieces long ago, and we have the daily lectionary as a useful tool. Many of us remember trying to tackle the whole thing from cover to cover and failing somewhere in Genesis. We can make the daily readings part of our discipline and in a few short years cover most of the Bible (some of the more bloodthirsty psalms have been expurgated). I use the following and include the link on my blog.
    There are others, so my question is why don’t you put one on T19 in a conspicuous place?

  4. appletree says:

    I oftimes feel like the woman with no lines; having what I feel is something important to give (or say, or do) but failing most miserably in the delivery process. You speak volumes, Kendall. Go direct to the source. Let the Pharisee in each of us be still. Listen, through His word, for the Holy Spirit to speak.

  5. DonGander says:

    “I hope to meet her in heaven some day.”

    But I have already met some of her kind. Those who are totally unable to find words to thank their Savior; those who have been forgiven much. But their deeds of love and grattitude to Him who gave all, flood over and I am blessed by their presence.

    There are some that post on this very board.

    Dr. Harmon, you have touched some.

  6. anglicanlutenist says:

    The other gods were strong!
    …but Thou wast weak.

    They Rode!
    …but Thou didst stumble,
    to a throne.

    But to our wounds,
    none but a god with wounds can speak.

    And not a God has wounds,
    ….but Thou alone.

    (I forget where I first read this little poem)

  7. The_Elves says:

    Underground pewster:

    Lectionary websites are in the long list of links we have wanted to add to the sidebar for several months. But our time available for helping with the blog has been seriously curtailed in recent months. It’s all we can manage to help with routine admin stuff (responding to e-mails) and comment monitoring. Some day we’ll finally find a day where we can put in the chunk of time needed to pull together the rest of the sidebar links. We’ve got some vacation time coming up in late November… maybe then.