Audio 5 Lent Yr C April 7 2019
Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8, Psalm 126
Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, Mary, thee people we know very well. We have spent some time with them in John’s story. Lazarus, who Jesus brought back from the dead, Mary, the one who sat at Jesus' feet to learn all she could, Martha, who prepared the meal, and was a bit resentful of her sister Mary. Both Martha and Mary wept at the grave of their brother, and yet here he is today, all of them preparing for Jesus' inevitable death, rather than mourning Lazarus' death. And they are hosting a dinner party for their friend Jesus.
There is Martha, preparing what I imagine to be an amazing and abundant feast, she would not settle for less. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house, fresh vegetables from the garden, a slow roasted lamb with garlic and spices, and for desert, a home made sorbet, more than enough for all. And there they gathered, giving thanks for Lazarus, who should have been dead, but is alive, ignoring the reality that Jesus will be dead soon.
These are ordinary people, not unlike you and me but for the place and time they lived. Ordinary people, living and giving thanks for the abundance and new life that has been bestowed upon them. All of which is gift, none of it deserved, or earned. God's grace poured out.
"Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair." Abundant, opulent, luxurious, overflowing. This is grace, freely given, priceless. Flowing out, flowing forth, flowing through. Filling the wounds, the cracks, the fissures with healing balm. This story, populated by our friends Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, is also about you, and me. With the costly perfume, Mary anoints Jesus for death, with love and grace God anoints us for life.
God's love, like the costly perfume made of pure nard, seeps into the fissures of our hearts, flows into the fragments of our loves, permeates the brokenness of lives. God's love, like the costly perfume made of pure nard, transforms the pieces of our lives into an integrated whole and creates us anew. An amazing gift, God's grace, how do you receive it? How are you transformed by it?
God's love, like the love of the cross, wins. God's love, like the love of the cross, returns violence not with revenge, but with forgiveness. God's love, like the love of the cross, flows in and through and among us. God's love, like the love of the cross, does not rescue us from pain, and sadness, and suffering, but gives us Jesus, who walks with us through the pain, and to the joy. God, in the flesh, loves us. Inhale the fragrance of the nard, it is all for you.
But it seems so extravagant, it seems so opulent, it seems so luxurious. Just think of all the people that money that was spent on it could help. Just think of all the food that money could buy. Just think of all the good that money could do. Judas reminds us of this reality. Who deserves that kind of grace?
Many of us spend much of our lives believing that we don't deserve God's love and grace, because of what we’ve done or left undone, or that someone else doesn’t deserve God’s love and grace because of their depravity. But it's never about what we or anyone else deserves or doesn't deserve. There are many people more deserving or less deserving than we perceive ourselves to be. Thank God that's not how God's grace works. It's what's so amazing about God's grace, God's love, it's not about us at all. It is about God. That's why we have so much trouble with accepting God's unconditional love.
That's also why we are not in the business of judgment. It's not up to us to determine who gets to sit at the banquet table, it's not up to us to determine who sits at Jesus' right hand and who gets the left. It's just not up to us. Our work is to put ourselves in a place to be present to God's love and grace and forgiveness and healing. Our work is to be receptive to the transformation that God dreams for us. Our work is to respond to the Love that wins with mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness.
And it's never about how much money is in the bank. Sometimes hunger is not about the money. "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." Sometimes hunger is about the holes in our hearts that keep us from feeling the needs of others. Sometimes hunger is about the holes in our heads that make us not understand it's not about how hard we work or how lazy someone else may be. Sometimes hunger is about our own brokenness that doesn't allow us to look into the eyes of those who we think are different from us and know we are just the same, created in God’s image.
And at the same time hunger is about our sisters and brothers who do not have enough to eat, whose homes are sub-standard, who sleep under bridges and in their cars. The only thing worse than not caring for the poor is pretending to. Caring for one another isn’t because we have something they don't, caring for one another is because we are created in God’s image, and because we are loved, and because Love wins.
This season of Lent calls us to turn around. Lent calls us away from all our fears and our doubts. Lent calls us away from all our feelings of unworthiness. Lent calls us to accept the truth of the cross. And the truth of the cross is that Love saves us. Love that is extravagant, love that is undeserved, love that gives of itself totally and completely. That’s what this is all about. We are sorely tempted to give in to the lie that we are nothing or can do nothing. But staring down hate with the temptation of revenge and retribution, Jesus loves, Jesus forgives.
Breathe the fragrance of God's love, let it wash over you, let it fill your brokenness. It will transform you, it will heal you, it will bring you new life.