1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21 & Psalm 126
“I am about to do a new thing.” Children of God, the God who is the ground of our being, is ALWAYS doing a new thing!
The only other thing that is as certain as death and taxes – is CHANGE! Don’t we say things like, “Every day is a new day”, and “That’s all water under the bridge” – don’t we say things like that all the time?
We are creatures of a living God, and as such we are created anew every day! And that is such good news, people of God, for it means that every day we are given the blessed opportunity to do better than we did yesterday.
The big question is then, how do we choose to respond to this Divine gift? How do we live fully, become the best we can be, and love extravagantly, even wastefully every day as our expression of our joyful gratitude to the God of our understanding? Can we begin to understand ourselves as part of the Divine flow, part of the creative power that is what we call God, in whom we live and grow and have our being?
Hymn # 144 MV “Like a Healing Stream”
2nd Scripture Reading: John 12:1-8
“I am Mary of Bethany”
Scripture: John 12: 1-8
Some said it was a stupid thing to do. Some people were very nasty to me afterwards. But I would do it all over again if I had the chance.
He looked so tired. He looked sad and lonely as the disciples chatted around him. My brother Lazarus was there, and my sister Martha was busy in the kitchen as usual.
He loved us all. He worked so hard, teaching the people, healing the people, explaining the good news of the kingdom of God to the disciples. Sometimes they were so thick-headed, that bunch! I wonder if he ever got discouraged trying to explain to them that things were changing, that God was indeed doing a new thing, right here, right now!
I loved him so much. He raised my brother Lazarus from the dead, you know. He’d been in the tomb for four days. There was an awful smell. Lazarus loved him too – and my sister Martha – she would do anything for him.
I don’t know what came over me. He seemed to be in a world of his own – to know something we didn’t know. This terrible cold feeling of dread came over me. I can’t explain it. I knew something bad was going to happen to him. It didn’t take a genius to see that! The people were gathering around him in bigger and bigger crowds. The authorities were not happy. He even argued with them in public. It’s so dangerous to do that.
My heart was pounding so hard I thought it might burst – or break. I remembered the time I sat at his feet, trying to understand his words, drawn in by his kind eyes and his patient way of teaching us. I remember that he didn’t send me away when Martha called me to come and help her. Women don’t usually get to sit with the men when a Rabbi is teaching them. In fact he rebuked her gently, saying that I had chosen the better way, and it should not be taken away from me.
His ways were so different from what I was used to. He loved me as much as he loved my brother Lazarus, as much as he loved his male disciples. Women in our villages are expected to look after the home and the children, and not to be wanting to learn of such spiritual things as Jesus taught us. But he would teach anyone who wanted to learn. He would heal anyone who asked. He made us all feel so special, so cared for.
Who knows better than I how much that perfume was worth? It was all I had. I had been saving it for just this time. I felt so helpless, my heart was breaking, but I had to do something. I didn’t really think about it. Before I knew it I was crying, and then I was at his feet, where I had sat so many times before.
He gave us so much. He never thought about himself. He never complained, never said anything bad about anyone. He always had time to heal one more person, or tell one more story to help us understand. He was a good man.
I only had the perfume. It was the best thing I could give him. I poured it all over his feet. My tears were all over his feet. I had no towel. I let down my hair, and I dried his feet with my hair. The scent of precious Nard was heavy in the room. The presence of death was heavy in the room.
Not for a moment had I thought about all the other people who were there. They didn’t matter. I didn’t care what they thought. If I could do it again? My heart cries out “Oh yes – in a heartbeat, I would do it all again”.
(take off the scarf – PAUSE….)
Now the writer of John says that Judas was a thief – that he kept the common purse, and helped himself to what was in it. Small wonder that he was angry at Mary’s extravagant spending of what could have been sold for lots of money – money he would have had access to!
When Judas chastises Mary, Jesus intervenes: “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”
Last week we talked about the extravagant lifestyle of the prodigal son, who wasted his inheritance in lavish living. We also noted that the father of that son loved his sons, both of them, extravagantly – beyond what they might have deserved, because neither of them treated him well.
Mary’s gesture was certainly extravagant. Real love is extravagant – we want to give our best to the ones we love.
Mary could feel that things were about to change. She knew Jesus was on a God-given mission. He was following a path dictated by his mission, and there would be no turning back. There was a fullness building in this tide in the affairs of this people – there was momentum building at this time. As we walk this way with Jesus, we can feel it too, can’t we? Storm clouds were gathering, the tension around Jesus must have been almost palpable by now. And he was weary.
In a few days, he will do for the disciples what Mary just did for him. He will wash their feet with his own hands – the work of a servant or a slave. He will demonstrate for them, be an example for them, of how to love and how to serve others. Humility and compassion are the attributes he will imprint on their minds just before he leaves them. It’s not about power and control. It’s about love and service.
A few years ago in Powell River I saw a sign up over the Pentecostal Church up on Manson. The sign said “Love, Grow, Serve”. The hidden blessing in all of this is that when we love, and when we serve, we grow! We are nourished spiritually by the acts of compassionate service we perform.
Mary’s compassionate, extravagant act of service to Jesus was the act of a faithful disciple who had learned some very important lessons at the feet of the Master. In this moment her love flowered for all to see.
Let us Pray:
Creator of all that is, life-giver,
We ask that your Kingdom come – now!
Like Jesus, we are weary too – tired of the violence, the hatred, the corruption, the cruelty. Tired of the poverty, intolerance, and injustice.
We ask that by your grace you cleanse us now – all humanity – of our soul-destroying ways of being, of all the choices we make that are not positive and life-affirming.
And we ask that you strengthen in us the will to do things your way – that we might truly be your Body of Christ in the world, called to lead your people to the new life, the new thing that you are creating now.
Help us, like Mary, to pour ourselves out in the service, foolish though it may seem, of your Kingdom – a new/old vision of earth, where the lion can lie down with the lamb – a peaceable Kingdom – a place where the law is LOVE – a place where all of us love one another as Jesus loved us.
We ask these things in the name of the one who came to guide us, and for whom we give thanks. Amen.
Let us take a moment now of quiet reflection to consider two things:
First, I invite you to think of one (just one) negative, life-destroying choice we have made – either individually or as a people – one thing that does not belong in the kingdom of God. (hold that idea for a moment)
Then, let us imagine or see or intend, one positive, life-affirming quality we know must be present in God’s New Earth. (please hold that idea for a moment also, as we pray – and when you are ready bring the first quality as a stone to the first bowl for cleansing. And then light a candle, to offer up the second quality as a gift for God’s kingdom)
Gracious and loving God,
Please listen to your children praying.
Lord, we ask you now to cleanse us all of these poor choices we have made both individually and collectively – and we release them to you, in the certain knowledge that by your grace, and your power, it will be done.
And we bring to you our gifts, the things we have learned are important to your vision of a new heaven and a new earth.
We may also at this time, bring before you our personal prayers.
We are your beloved children. We come before you as your church.
Lord, listen to the prayers of your children….(sing)
Hymn # 333 VU “Love divine all loves excelling”