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Well, once I had set my mind to doing it, there was no turning back. It was a risky thing to do, some might say it was foolish. But, well I just felt it HAD to be done. So I picked up what I needed from the house, swathed myself in cloaks so as not to be immediately recognised and set off.

It was not that far from where I lived to his house and I knew the way quite well - only he would never admit to knowing me. And so getting in to the house was not difficult - men always show me the back entrance where I will not be seen entering and leaving. I paused for a moment, listening to the sound of talking, eating and drinking. Was I really sure I wanted to do this? In such a public way?

My mind went back to the first time I met the Master. Listening from the back of the crowd to what he had to say. The way he talked about God made my heart race. made me feel even more disgusted about myself and what I do, My eyes filled with tears and I saw him look at me with his compassionate face, before I stumbled away. I was not good enough even to hear him speak...

But later on...he sought me out. How he found me I don't know. Int not only Simon the Pharisee who pretends not to know me in this town. But he came to me, he talked with me alone, he held my hand. That touch. I who am so often touched have never been touched with love before. And he left me with so much to think about...

Which had brought me to that moment, outside the room in the Pharisees house. Would I go in? I could do nothing else.

I'm no good with words. Its by my actions I am known. So I spoke again with my actions. I took the most precious thing I owned. Expensive perfume given to me by a grateful 'friend'. I stood behind the master. he sat sprawled on the couch to eat, his feet behind him. My love and gratitude for all he had done for me meant that the tears spilled from my eyes. He had set me free, shown me that I was worthy of love. I wanted to show my thanks and let him know that I had turned my back on the past. So I anointed his feet with the perfume. It was one of the most special moments of my life.

It didn't last long. Nothing ever does for me. The muttering began. 'If he knew who she was he wouldn't let her anywhere near him'. I could hear others saying more of the same, and worse. But the Master quietened them with one of his stories, saying how the one who is forgiven more will love the more. Stressing what a beautiful, welcoming thing I had done for him. Telling me my sins had been forgiven. Telling me to go in peace. And that is exactly what I did. I went in peace, feeling an acceptance by God, a love I had never felt before. That's how I've come to be one of the followers of the Way, one who travels with Jesus the Master. And like today, I'll tell my story to all who will listen.

Why did the woman do this? Why did she anoint Jesus feet? Did she know that the Pharisee meant to insult him by not treating him with the courtesy due to a dinner guest? What we can tell from the story is that she was motivated by love. Jesus said that she showed 'great love' in honouring him in this way. The woman gave of herself because she had been shown love by Jesus. In some way that we are not told about in the Bible, jesus had demonstrated to her the love of God, shown her how important she was to God. I don't think Jesus would have skated round the issue of who she was and the sinful things she - along with other people had done. But he must have given her a clear sense of how God loved her and thought her better than the life she was leading. He offered her forgiveness and a chance to break free from the cycle of guilt and self loathing. And she blossomed in that love.

Its the cycle that everyone can ride, the cycle of guilt and self loathing and ride it we all do. We hate ourselves for being weak and doing wrong, we do more wrong and we hate ourselves even more and so feel it doesn't matter if we do even more wrong, but we just hate ourselves more...well I'm sure you've been caught up in it too.

And you can get consumed by these feelings, they can eat you up. Look at king Ahab. He got his way, but it came from doing wrong, it tasted of ashes. He went to claim the land but Elijah caught up with him there. King Ahab looked at the prophet and said 'Have you caught up with me, my enemy?'. He knew that he had been caught in the wrong. And afterwards he repented of it. And in Psalm 32. You wouldn't think this had been written thousands of years ago, it sounds like modern psychology.

When I bottled everything up, hid away all I'd done, I was screwed up inside, I cried all the time, I felt completely drained. I felt punished, I felt unloved. But then I sat down and starting talking about everything I had done, I didn't hold anything back. You gave me another chance. And it felt so good. I knew I was forgiven - and I feel great! I could shout for joy!

We need to unburden ourselves. To hop off the cycle and try something new. We all do. because we all do things that are wrong. Oh, yes we do. And it doesn't help to say, 'well I'm not as bad as her'. In the reading from Galatians, Paul was telling his readers that jews are just as bad as Gentiles, worse perhaps because they think they are better! Because we all do things that are wrong - oh yes we do! Paul explains this by talking about the Law - with a big L. Everyone does what is wrong because we have the Law, but it is so big, so much is asked of us, that we cannot help but break it. The Jews held great stead by the Law, anyone living outside the Law was wrong, without seeing that they too, were breaking the Law.

So Paul says, 'Just forget it. It just makes things worse. Jesus came, not to offer a new set of laws, not an Idiot's Guide to the Law. But to set us free from that cycle of wrong-doing and self loathing.Through the cross I no longer have to live by the law but by faith. I'm forgiven, I'm loved with a love that cost God such a lot. Through the cross I am set free.'
Or as Paul put it in his own words
This life that I live now I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me.

That is how much God loves us. That is how much God wants us to unburden ourselves and break the cycle of wrongdoing and self loathing. God wants us to feel free, to feel we are loved, to love ourselves. And then to act in love for others. Feeling forgiven, feeling loved and learning to love yourself can make such a difference in life. It gives you confidence to life and love, it enables you to share love with others. i've been reading on my newsgroups on the internet about how people find it difficult to hug, to show affection, because they had not been hugged and shown affection as children. Love makes more love makes more love makes more love.

Of course sometimes love can cost a lot to can demand that we put ourselves out for others or that we make a stand for what we believe in. It can mean being ridiculed for what we believe, having the courage to say - that is not right and doing something to change it. It can involve great sacrifice. But it can bring great rewards. Love makes more love makes more love makes more love. When we offer our burdens to god and seek his forgiveness, when we commit ourselves to Christ and his service, sometimes it can be costly. But in terms of being loved, fellowship with others and greater self worth, the rewards far outshine the costs.

And when we think of all that God has done for us, as we share bread and wine, body broken, blood poured out. When we feel all the love God has for us, all the hope he gives us for the future, I pray that we may all feel moved enough to be prepared to give our extravagant costly gift to Jesus, just as the woman did. And I know that we will be rewarded with God's peace, just as she was.