The Rev. Dr. Paul Jacobson
Monday in Holy
April 2, 2012
Grace Episcopal Church
We feast on the abundance of your house;
You give us to drink from the river of your goodness.
In the name of God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, there’s a party going on in Bethany. Jesus is in the home of Martha and Mary, this time not for Lazarus’ wake but for his welcome home party. Lazarus was dead, and now he is alive again and sitting at the table with Jesus. Again Martha is serving the guests and again Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus.
So there’s a party going on at Mary and Martha and Lazarus’ house, but this time there’s a strange twist. Normally when guests come over their heads are anointed with oil. But here Mary has broken open a jar of precious perfume and is anointing Jesus’ feet with it. (Spikenard) Nard – related to Valerian (a soporific!).
Furthermore, Mary has let down her hair in public – an extraordinary and unheard of act of devotion – and is wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. Her beloved brother was dead and now he is alive again. How could she not celebrate in such an extraordinary fashion? The Lord Jesus has given back her beloved brother.
I wonder what Dan Brown would do with this story?! The Bethany Affair! Oh, the shame of it! Jesus and a different Mary (the other Mary?) carrying on behind poor Mary Magdalene’s back and right there in public.
Of course, some people just can’t stand a party, and in John’s Gospel it is Judas. In John’s Gospel Judas is planning to betray Jesus. Here Judas is an embezzler who normally takes from the disciples’ common funds. He sees Mary wasting a vial of perfume on Jesus – a vial that would have cost almost a year’s wages – and goes a bit ballistic! What a waste on a guy who has a contract out! Of course, he can’t say that in public, so Judas complains that the vial should have been sold and the money given to them to care for the poor … as if!
And Jesus seems to be able to read Judas’ heart: The poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. End of episode.
So, at what might have been a simple celebratory dinner party, we have lots and lots of currents, don’t we? Lazarus was dead, and now lives. Jesus lives, and is prepared for burial. Jesus tells Judas (us) to take the long view, but the RIGHT long view – his passion, death and resurrection, AKA The Paschal Mystery!
The Eucharist today is a party. But it, too, is shot through with layers of seemingly contradictory meanings. The Risen Christ serves as host and table and banquet. The caloric value of the food and drink are negligible, yet we without them, we would quite perish. Sin and forgiveness, death and life are in the same dish.
As you pause in this moment on the way to Calvary and the Garden, I pray that you may find yourself lavishly anointed with Christ’s self-offering love. As you receive the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation today, may your hearts hum with the strains of the Psalmist:
How priceless is your love, O God! *your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee * because by thy holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world. Amen.
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