top of page

Sunday, April 3 Sermon




April 3, 2022 - The Fifth Sunday of Lent - This is the scripture, reading, and message from this morning. Be sure to check out the video from our service today - Amelia and Lucy provided songs and music for Girl Scout Sunday. We were blessed to have them share their gifts. Blessings on your day. Pastor TJ


John 12:1-8 (The Message)

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus,

so recently raised from the dead, was living.

Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home.

Martha served.

Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them.

Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet,

and then wiped them with her hair.

The fragrance of the oils filled the house.

Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said,

“Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor?

It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.”

He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief.

He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.

Jesus said, “Let her alone.

She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial.

You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”


Litany of Contradictory Things (abridged)

Wheat and weeds:

let them grow together.

Documented and undocumented aliens:

let them grow together.

Revolutionaries and reactionaries:

let them grow together.

Disciples prone to boasts and betrayals:

let them grow together.

Those whose thinking is similar and contrary:

let them grow together.

Joys and sorrow, laughter, tears:

let them grow together.

Doubt and faith:

let them grow together.

Denial and commitment:

let them grow together.

Contemplation and action:

let them grow together.

The helpful and the helpless:

let them grow together.

Wisdom of the East and West:

let them grow together.

All contrarieties of the Spirit:

let them grow together.

Michael Moynahan, SJ


All four gospels tell of this event. The fact that the four relate it somewhat differently speaks to the fluidity of the oral traditions on which our Bible is based. Matthew and Mark tell of an anonymous woman who anointed Jesus’ head, Luke and John describe a woman who anoints Jesus’ feet. Only John identifies her as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.


John, along with Matthew and Mark sets the event near the Passover Feast, while Luke places the story much earlier in the life and ministry of Jesus. In these other versions, the woman, identified only as “a sinner” anoints Jesus’ feet with kisses and tears and costly perfume while it is “the disciples,” rather than Judas, that raise the issue of wasting the ointment on Jesus.


There are five individuals named in the passage that Ron read for us this morning. They are Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and Judas Iscariot. We are told that Martha served and that Lazarus is at the table. There is nothing remarkable about either of those statements. Oh, except that Lazarus had been dead not long ago. That is an important detail in the larger story.


Those in and around Jerusalem were aware of the tensions between Jesus and the authorities, caused by the many miracles he was performing, called “signs” in John’s gospel. Turning water into wine, healing the blind, the sick, and the infirm throughout the region, feeding the 5000 with but a few loaves and fish, walking on water. According to the gospel of John, the sign that could not be ignored, the sign that sealed Jesus’ fate was the raising of Lazarus. Neither the Roman government nor the Jewish Elders were pleased with Jesus.


Jesus, knowing that he has a target on his back, knowing his earthly days are numbered, continues to sit with friends and foes at the same table.


I say this passage is a powerful argument for inclusion. Inclusion in our governments, inclusion in our communities, inclusion in our families, inclusion in our faith communities, inclusion at our Communion Table.


Everyone is welcome at the table. Who exactly does that mean? This passage alone suggests a few possibilities. The faithful and the unfaithful, the divine and the ordinary, the extravagant and the miserly, the quiet and the outspoken. That is good news for each of us. We are each at times, I suspect, all of these and more.


It is the interaction between Mary and Judas that grabs our attention. And Jesus’ reactions to both Mary and Judas.

Judas responds to Mary’s extravagance with jealousy, or anger maybe, and for sure with displeasure.


Judas, struggling to find his way – torn between doing good and doing evil – lashes out at Mary. Why is such a valuable gift being “wasted” when it could be sold to benefit the poor.


Jesus simply says to Judas, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”


Many commentators have made the connection between Jesus’ words and Deuteronomy 15:11 which tells us to open our hands to the poor because there will never cease to be some in need.


Jesus, although he welcomes all, does not give a free pass to those that err in judgement. He simultaneously rebukes Judas’ criticism while he blesses Mary’s actions.


Jesus lets Mary anoint his feet. He does not stop her. We can even suppose that he welcomed the gesture.


Mary chose to anoint Jesus’ body while he was alive. She uses no words, but communicates with her tender touch. She behaves prodigally, extravagantly, lavishly toward the healer and teacher that brought her brother back to life – and who soon will pay with his own life. The disciples were aware of the great tension between Jesus and the authorities, they were aware that he was in danger.


Theologian Debie Thomas writes, “Knowing what Jesus is about to face; knowing that he’s in urgent need of companionship, comfort, and solace; knowing that the time is short to express all the gratitude and affection she carries in her heart, Mary acts. Given the choice between an abstracted need (the poor ‘out there’) and the concrete need that presents itself at her own doorstep, around her own dinner table, Mary chooses the here and now. She loves the body and soul who is placed in her presence. In doing so, she ends up caring for the one who is denied room at the inn — even to be born. For the one who has no place to lay his head during his years of ministry. For the one whose crucified body is laid in a borrowed tomb. In other words, it is the poor Mary serves when she serves Jesus. Just as it is always Jesus we serve when we love without reservation what God places in front of us, here and now.”


Loving without reservation is not an easy task. As many times as we get it right, we may also get it wrong. It is important that we keep trying; that we are sincere in our efforts and open-hearted in our attempts.


Our poet this morning, Michael Moynahan, in his Litany of Contradictory Things, encourages us to “let them grow together.” Our Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ recently offered this Covenant of Care for us to grow together.


"We covenant to care for one another and offer compassion in thought, word, and deed. We will listen to learn, inquire to understand, and speak for hope and not harm. In both similarities and differences, we will ask for God’s grace and offer it freely to one another. Above all else, we will love and respect one another.”

I urge us all to continue to pay attention to what, or who, God is placing in front of us.


May we be so bold, so loving, so caring that we too offer extravagant gestures to the poor among us, knowing that whatsoever we do to the least among us we do for Christ.


Amen

Rev. TJ Mack – April 3, 2022


Lauren Wright Pittman's explanation of her artwork. "This is the posture that Jesus calls all of us into; a profoundly uncomfortable, shockingly reverent position; coming face to face, intimately engaging with the residue of Christ’s footsteps to smell and almost taste the journey of Christ."

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page