2016-03-13 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
John 12:1-8 sermon “A Waste of Worship”
THIS WEEK is a story for the senses…esp. the nose! A smelly story…in the best sense…so let’s get a whiff of what was wafting through the air…
[pass around the spikenard]
We’re on the cusp of the last week of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth…he’s unhurried, thoughtful, intentional…and where does he want to be?
He wants to be with friends…in the rural town of Bethany, a few kilometres from the hustle, bustle and crowds of Jerusalem, Jesus arrives at his friend Lazarus’ house. It’s a middle class abode…dusty floor with a large olive-wood table in the front family room…woven mats are placed on the ground and Jesus and a few of his disciples gather around the table with Lazarus and a few members of his extended family. The smell in the air is lamb stew. Martha is hard at work…she’s proud of her stew and is excited to share this meal with her friends.
The flat bread and the hummus appetizer has been served and the disciples and family members are having lively conversation…could it really be that just a week ago Lazarus was called forth out of the burial tomb?? What an emotional roller coaster it’s been for this group of friends…and today, seems like a day to celebrate and be glad but there is also a layer pensive reflection in the air.
Gladness and sadness, joy and sorrow, mingle together amongst laughter, the breaking of bread, the splashing of poured out wine.
>> find your place in this story…
Mary quietly enters the room from a corridor behind Lazarus and his houseguests. Jesus is sitting on the ground, legs outstretched and leaning against the chest & shoulder of John. Mary un-corks a clay jar of aromatic ointment, pours a pound’s worth into her hands and then begins spreading it and massaging it liberally onto Jesus feet, shins and calves. There is so much flowing out of the jar and out of her hands that it starts to ooze upon the floor mats. Mary realizes that there’s no towel within reach so she reacts quickly by letting down her long locks of brown hair.
She’s wiping Jesus’ feet, sopping up the oil with her hair. Her hair and his feet shine and diffuse a sweet, musky, earthy fragrance that overwhelms the room.
Mary is weeping, overcome with emotion and devotion for her friend, longing to show him how much she cares for him, appreciates him, loves him.
Her tears and the ointment mingle together…and after what seems to be a long, drawn out 1-sided exchange the room becomes eerily silent.
What is going on here?
No one dares to speak to this intimate ritual of anointing.
AND what would possess Mary to bring out the costly ointment perfume (bought for the burial prep of Lazarus, but of course not used!) and then recklessly pour it out on Jesus’ feet?
This is not cheap stuff, not bought at the local “copper coin” store…this is expensive nard, priced at price that only royalty can afford!…a laborer would have to have pay a year’s wages to buy this imported-from-the-himalayan-mountains fragrance!
And that’s exactly where Judas’ accounting mind had landed…the dollar signs flipping through his brain…that’s 15,000 dollars worth of ointment that foolish woman is splashing all over the place…
“What are you doing woman? Have you no shame? Acting like a whore!
Why was this perfume not sold for 15,000 dollars and the money given to the poor? You foolish, short-sighted woman…wasting it on the feet of the teacher.”
More silence. Everyone frozen in their places. Holding their breath, waiting for someone to make the next move or say the next word…
Jesus, with a stern but heart-full stare, hones in on Judas’ condescending glare.
Jesus lifts his hand and declares:
“Leave her alone….She brought it so that she might keep it (and even use it today) for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
* * * * * *
Breathe in and smell the aroma of the spikenard…
What is the invitation…and thus the ensuing animation of this story in the story of our lives…individually and corporately?
If you were here last week, you heard me share the “FBC Let Us Be’s…” and one of those “Let us Be’s” was “Let us be MORE Jesus-y and less Pharisee.”
In today’s story we might branch that out a bit to say:
“Let us be more Mary-y…and less Judas-see.”
Breathe in again….
Think of and imagine this scent-filled space that reeks of lavish love, extravagant devotion, wasteful worship…. Or ________________ (you fill in the blank)…
>>>> invite feedback here <<<<<<<
And let’s allow these images to push back against the places of our hearts and imaginations where we’re tempted to be like Judas (w w j d)…
yes, there are places to be wise and prudent and to be a bean-counter…but in the way of Jesus…in the way of living out the heart of Jesus…there is no bean counting. There’s no scrimping. There’s no withholding.
It’s wasteful. It’s reckless. It’s outrageous. It’s ___________________ .
As we walk the final ¼ of our 2016 Lenten journey let our lives be filled…[and our] nostrils be filled with the outlandish scent-flooded devotion of Mary…
She fills the room with lavish, intimate, heart-full love…and might we do the same?
It’s not so we can get to a “happily ever after,” neat and tidy ending…God knows (and we know!) that Mary’s next week of life and devotion will be filled with heartache and misery…
Bad news abounds in Mary’s story and bad news abounds in Jesus’ story….he’s just 6 days away from his final breath!
And bad news abounds in our stories…our lives, too, are filled with betrayal, darkness, hardship, death and sorrow…
But the good news is that in Christ, there is an abiding companionship….and in the midst of our many, many needs, “There will be enough to go around.”
…Mary gives the forecast: it will be bad, very bad, but that’s no reason for Jesus’ friends to lock their hearts and head to the cellar. Whatever they need, there will be enough to go around. Whatever they spend, there will be plenty left over.
There is no reason to fear running out–
of nard or of life either one–for where God is concerned, there is always more than we can ask or imagine–gifts from our lavish, lavish Lord.
~ Barbara Brown Taylor
May we know of lavish love from our lavish Lord in these days…
You might not be in a place where you can see it or smell it…but that’s why we’re here together as a community of faith!
Seeing for & with one another…
Smelling the fragrance of grace…at varying degrees of “whiff-ful-ness”…
Sensing the Spirit’s consolation and companionship…
And we encourage each other with phrases that echo this go-out-on-a-limb faith of Mary….we say: “There will be enough to go around!”
Be ye blessed…sisters and brothers…take heart, breathe deeply…and as a people who are lavishly loved, may we recklessly and wastefully pour out God’s grace and mercy to one another, to those communities of work and friendship that we are sent to this week…to our city and even to the ends of the earth.
We do this, in the name of the anointed one…Jesus Christ our Lavish Lord. Amen!