Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Surprising and Spontaneous Acts of Love

For those that weren’t there this Sunday, I wanted to briefly go over what I talked about during my sermon, and for those that were there, I thought it would make sense to reiterate what I said (in perhaps a slightly more coherent message) and also to add a few additional thoughts as well.

Here’s the gospel story from last week, where Mary anoints Jesus with costly perfume at the home of Lazarus. It’s a story that’s in all four gospels in one form or another, suggesting it was a very important story to many of the different groups of early Christians:
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12: 1-8).

Try to picture the scene in last week’s gospel story… it’s sort of strange, and really surprising, particularly if put in our own contemporary context. Imagine having the following folks (and perhaps others) at your next dinner party:
  1. A recently dead, still perhaps very stinky guy (that might be one reason for all the perfume) lounging around waiting for his “welcome back” dinner to be served… that’s Lazurus.
  2. Someone that was journeying to your home, happy to be with his friends, even though he would soon be heading over to your local capitol city where he faced certain persecution and death… that’s Jesus.
  3. The least likable, least trustworthy of all your friends, who for some reason was appointed by the previously mentioned friend to hold onto his wallet (and iPod… and cell phone… stuff like that). This not so trustworthy guy also randomly decides to be really practical and criticize all the fun that’s about to happen… that’s Judas.
  4. A person who is really stressed out about getting dinner ready, not able to fully appreciate the company of her friends, and is “cumbered by many things” (Luke uses that phrase)… that’s Martha.
  5. The weirdest person in the group… perhaps refered to as a “space cadet” or something perhaps a bit nicer… the spontaneous loopy one. Right before dinner is served at your that evening, she decides to pour a big bottle of perfume on one of your guest’s feet… and that big bottle of perfume costed her a year’s worth of wages… that’s Mary.

Who of these characters do you most identify with? Maybe the practical side of Judas? I could see that making sense… but even more likely, you probably identify with Martha. She’s doing exactly what she’s “supposed to do,” and while in fact she is doing a great deed (the meal couldn’t have happened without her), but is so burdened with stress she can’t fully appreciate the surprising new things God was at work on.

Who comes out as the hero of this gospel story though? Which character do you most want to be like? Mary is the character forever remembered (in all four gospels) for her act of amazingly spontaneous, extravagant love… I bet you probably most want to be like her (or Jesus, but being exactly like him would be pretty tough). It’s still tough though to even be like Mary though… we’re so often burdened, so often weighed down by various things, we can’t fully appreciate the gift of life around us… we can’t seem to always be spontaneously kind and loving to others.

I know I certainly have to think about more fully appreciating life and being spontaneously… I think it’s something worthy for all of us to think about.

God’s peace,

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