Lent 5, Year C, 2013

Mary wasn’t always so happy with Jesus, you know.

Just a few weeks before, Jesus allowed her brother Lazarus to die.  Mary knew Jesus could cure him, she absolutely believed in Jesus.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus are described as Jesus’ friends in scripture.  They aren’t just his disciples, they are his people. They have a deep connection with one another.  So letting Lazarus die was inexcusable.

When Jesus showed up at Mary’s door four days after Lazarus had died, she was so upset she did not even notice he had arrived.  Martha had to come in and gently tell her he was there.  Mary wept at Jesus’ feet and told him that if he had been there, Lazarus would have lived.

Jesus is so distraught he weeps.  The text leads us to believe he tarried on purpose, but even if letting Lazarus die was intentional, Jesus feels the pain of his friend’s death like a lead weight.

We know what happens next.  Jesus shows Martha, Mary and all their friends how powerful he is.  He calls Lazarus forth from the grave and against all odds Lazarus comes back to life.

And how better to celebrate resurrection than with a party?

This house which had so recently been a house of mourning was now a house of celebration!  How thrilling to get a chance to honor Jesus, who brought Lazarus back to Mary and Martha’s life.

Of course, the party wasn’t all happiness.

Jesus has been telling his disciples for some time that he is going to die.  And the authorities were upset enough by Jesus that they were actively looking for him, to put him to death.

So, this party is a celebration of life, and friendship, but the looming threats to Jesus’ life means this also might be the last dinner Jesus will have with his friends from Bethany.

How do you adequately thank the man who has brought your brother back to life?  How do you express your grief that this amazing God-bearer might soon be killed?

The only way Mary can express the fullness of how she feels about Jesus is to break all the rules.  She scrapes together an incredible amount of money, and buys a pound of perfume.  She lets down her long hair in an incredibly provocative act. And then, in a society where women did not touch men to whom they were not related, she pours the perfume over his feet and begins to caress his feet with her hair.

She anoints Jesus for his death, but she also anoints Jesus as her King.  She is his only friend to acknowledge the reality of his situation.  The disciples never want to believe that Jesus is going to die.  But Mary, Mary is willing to face reality.  And Mary is willing to take big risks to show her love for Jesus.  Mary pours herself out for her friend.

How do we show our love for Jesus?   How do we offer thanks to a man whose feet we can no longer anoint?  How do we pour our selves out for Jesus?

We gather , we worship, we sing hymns of praise, but we can do more.

Glennon Melton is a woman who, in 2002, found herself alone, drunk and pregnant.  After 20 years of abusing alcohol she made the decision to quit drinking, keep the baby and began her recovery process through the help of AA.  She ended up getting married quickly and having two other children.  Through her recovery she began a blog called Momastery in which she has explored her faith, motherhood, addiction and living an authentic life without the armor alcohol gave her. Her blog has become incredibly popular with women responding to her unusual transparency.  A community of women has developed in the comments section of the blog who encourage and support one another.

This past year, Glennon has gone through unspecified troubles in her marriage, which have sent her through a tail spin and have led to a separation.  Out of that pain, though, has come something remarkable.  Because of her experiences she has been able to write a book.  Because of the book, she has been able to go on a book tour, and because of that book tour, she had met incredible people all across the country.  One of those women, Sarah, runs a home for homeless pregnant and new mother teens in Indianapolis.  She wrote to Glennon, in a long shot, hoping Glennon would come speak as a fundraiser for this home.  Glennon agreed immediately and the two women began corresponding.

Sarah wrote to Glennon explaining that there was a young woman with an infant who was homeless but very much wanted to join the program, but the program did not have the $83,000 needed for the young woman to join them.

After pondering this, Glennon announced to her followers that she was starting a flash Love mob.  For 24 hours she would be accepting donations on behalf of this girl.  The rules were no one person could donate more than $25.  Thousands of women responded and more than $100,000 was raised.

Women, and presumably at least a few men, around the world did something stupid.  They gave money to a stranger.  To someone they had never met.  I’m sure there were people in their lives who rolled their eyes and muttered something about a scam under their breath.  After all $83,000 is an extraordinary sum to spend on one girl and her baby for one year’s care.

But overwhelmingly, in the comment section of the blog, women who donated just wanted this teenager to know that she mattered.  They wanted her to know that God loves her and there is community of faith throughout the world that will support and uphold her.  A common refrain in the comments was a simple exclamation of “Love Wins!”

Since Christ’s ascension, we have become the Body of Christ.  To love Christ, is to love our neighbor.  To love Christ is to love a lost young woman and her baby.  To love Christ means being willing to look at the world honestly and see it in all its brokenness and all its love.  To love Christ means to reach out beyond ourselves and take a risk to love another.

There will always be Judases around to rain on the parade of people who do extravagant acts of love.  There will always be people who think going through life with their armor up, unmoved by the needs of others, is better than going through life feeling all the pain and need of the world.  And we should have compassion for these people—who knows what pain they have experienced in their own lives to make them create such a impenetrable exterior.

But we also know that the kind of barriers that Judas put up, how he hid behind righteousness and responsibility, ultimately prevented him from really having a relationship with Jesus.  His own anxiety would not allow him to accept the reality of Jesus’ divinity, death, or love.  Mary, on the other hand, whose behavior was so shocking and inappropriate, loves Jesus and Jesus knows it.  Mary hides behind no barriers, she puts herself forward completely honestly and authentically. Mary pours herself out for Jesus, as Jesus will soon pour himself out for Mary.

Will we have the courage?  Will we be brave enough to let down our hair and do something shocking for Jesus?  Will we put down our armor and let Jesus in?  Will we pour ourselves out for others as Jesus has poured himself out for us?

May it be so.

 

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