The Love of Mary of Bethany

Sermon – March 13th 2016

 Mary of Bethany

 

Lent 5 (Year C)

By Roland Legge

John 12:1-8

 

 

We enter today’s Gospel story with Martha busy in the kitchen getting the meal ready for everyone to enjoy. Much to the annoyance of Martha, Mary is hanging out with Jesus in the living room.  Have you ever felt left alone in the kitchen?  In Jesus day it was the expectation that women would help to get the meal ready.  Mary was breaking the rules.

 

Mary was so touched by Jesus.  She new what was about to happen to him while the rest of them were living in denial.  Jesus was about to be killed.  She wanted to soak in as much as possible of his teachings, energy and presence before he left this earth.  I like to think the Spirit took her over, that day, and led her to prepare him for his burial. She did this with her love for him, and sharing the costly perfume that she had saved for a special day.  What Mary did was scandalous!    Judas complained that she could have helped a lot of poor people if she had sold that expensive perfume.  He raises a good question as to how we are all called to be good stewards of what we have been blessed with.

 

Even more scandalous was the intimacy she showed Jesus.  First she let her hair down which was improper for a woman to do in public, especially with a man she was not married too.  Then she had the audacity to end the ritual anointing, using her hair to dry off Jesus feet.  This would have made the people around her very uncomfortable. This was a great act of love and prophecy.

 

Mary understood the consequences of living in the way of her friend Jesus.  She wasn’t afraid to follow her master.  Jesus was grateful for Mary’s love and for her courage to act this out in a world that was hostile to women.

 

Sadly, the comment made by Jesus that “we will always have the poor with us” has been taken out of context.  I like how one theologian has said it should read “you will always be around the poor but you will not always have me (Jesus) with you.   Mary new this was an important time to acknowledge that something major was going to happen.  The love of God was about to be unleashed on the world in ways that it had never been experienced before through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Hence, this line was no excuse to it ignore the cries of the poor for justice.  It was more a reminder that we need to stay spiritually, physically and emotionally grounded through our lives to be able to keep doing the Spirit’s work.  This is what Mary was doing.

 

I also think that Judas keeps getting a bad rap.  Yes, Judas was the holder of the money. I don’t think he was as corrupt as some people make him out to be.  He asked a good question as to whether the spreading of the expensive perfume on Jesus feet was the right thing to do when it could have been sold and the money given to those who had little.  I think this is a question we all need to be asked.  Are we being good stewards of what we possess, of what we have been gifted?   When are the times that justify the spending of money on things that are beautiful such as stained glass windows, organs, computers?  When are the times we need to share all we have?  We need to listen to God in our hearts to know what we need to do.

 

I think Spring is always good time to assess what we own.  Is there anything we can give away because it no longer serves us, such as clothes we haven’t worn for along time, books we know we will never get around to reading, and anything else in our homes we no longer need.

 

At least once a year it is a good thing to reflect on how well we are using our money.  Are we giving enough to organizations that are doing the work of Jesus?  This doesn’t just to have to be Christian organizations.  It can be any organization making a difference in the world. As well, are we taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually?   Are we spending money on unnecessary things that hold us back?

 

It is also good to think about how we use our time.  Do we spend enough time taking care of our bodies, eating good food and getting enough sleep?  How good are we at volunteering our time?   Do we work too hard at our jobs?  Do we have enough time to spend with family and friends?  Do we take time to quiet our minds?  Do we take time to nurture our souls so that our hearts are always full of love to share?  How balanced are our lives?  What do we need to do to get our lives back in balance again?

 

We not only need to do this reflecting for our personal lives but for our churches too.  If we could get down to what being a member of Foam Lake United Church or any church is all about. Why do we exist?  What is our purpose?  I want you to think about this for a minute.  What is the Good News we have to bring to Foam Lake that will really make a difference in peope’s lives?  We can be ether like the majority of the disciples who were not willing to admit the cost of following Jesus or be like Mary who was committed to living in the way of Jesus no matter what the consequences were.

 

Good News is life renewing.  It is not about judgement and condemnation.  Good News is about creating a community where all people are truly welcomed.  Where the community is vibrant in bringing people together for worship, work, celebration and mission.  It is about making the community a more just and compassionate place.  It is all about bringing out the best in people.  It is all about accompanying and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ in being all we can we be.  Good News is about the sharing of the bounty of the earth, which has been given to us as a gift of God.  It is about ensuring that we each have enough and no one is ever left alone.

 

I believe that when our churches can find again the faith of Mary of Bethany we will find new life.  We will be better able to discern what is important.  Our focus will be to bring good news that is really good news, bringing abundant life to all people of the world.  Not the bad news that you are going to hell, something that I have never believed.  It will be a ministry that builds each other up.  It will be a ministry that really welcomes all people no matter their dress, ethnicity, color of skin, class, gender, sexual orientation, race or anything else.   It will be a place of celebration, embrace and hope.  It will be place to discern with each other how God is speaking to us today and what God is calling us to live out.  It will be a place of accountability where we ensure that each of us follows our callings.

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