Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

Anointed

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Psalm 36:5-9

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

The Gospel Reading

John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet,  and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5″Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Reflection by Tonya

Listen to Tonya and/or read below.

My Aunt Almedia was an excellent party hostess. (She was the aunt who made sure when I married that I had a silver tea pitcher and platter so I could host my own dinner parties with style.) It wasn’t just the setting Almedia could pull off joyfully and elegantly, but it was also the atmosphere. Her dining room table was always filled with laughter, fun, and joy.

I imagine the dinner party in Bethany was just as exuberant! Lazarus was there–the man who had died and three days later came back to life! That brief empty place at the table filled again through the miraculous power of Jesus. Oh, what a joyful time it would be if we could sit around the table with our loved ones who are no longer with or around us. Sometimes it is death that separates us. But there are other reasons too: incarceration, family squabbles, distance, and now this global pandemic. Just imagine how wonderful it is going to be to sit down at the table with one another again when all this is over.

Who is the honored guest at the party? Yes, Jesus, the miracle worker. Words and actions of gratitude fill the evening. And then the party mood completely changes. Mary walks in and anoints Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfumed ointment. The smell of the perfume and the sight of Mary’s devotion catches everyone’s attention. What is Mary doing? Jesus’ feet have already been washed. And you don’t “anoint” the feet of the living, that’s what you do for the dead to prepare them for burial.

Judas breaks the silence and the mystery of the moment. He judges Mary’s devotion to Jesus as wasteful. That was some expensive perfume, Mary. You should have thought better than to put that stuff on Jesus’ feet! Why, imagine how much money you would have gotten from selling it. The poor sure could use that money. Wasteful woman! The gospel tells us what we cannot know about Judas’ character. He was the treasurer for the group, and he liked to sweeten his own personal wants with the group’s money. Jesus shushes Judas.

Mary of Bethany gets it. This one whom they celebrate tonight, Jesus, will not be with them much longer. Before Jesus puts words to what will become of him, Mary recognizes that the road Jesus must travel will lead directly to death. It is not until after this anointing Jesus will say things like, “The light is with you for a little longer….” (John 12:35) “Little children, I am with you only a little longer….” (John 13:33) “I am going to the Father….” (John 14:12) “A little while, and you will no longer see me….” (John 16:16)

Mary could have sold this ointment and given the money to the poor. She could have saved the ointment for Jesus’ burial. But she did neither of these things. Recognizing that Jesus was soon to leave them, she gave Jesus the best of what she had. Surely such devotion and adoration must have encouraged Jesus in walking the road set before him. He was not alone in his understanding that his Way of life would lead to death. Such an untimely act as what Mary did (anointing the living) would set the disciples’ minds to wondering. Mary’s gift blessed them too. They would not easily forget the fragrance of her service, sacrifice, and devotion.

Oh, that our devotion to Jesus would be so intense and sincere; that our service to the Lord would fill life with a pleasing fragrance; that our sacrifices would bring glory to the name of Jesus.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

 

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.

 


Artwork by Lauren Wright Pittman. Title: Anointed, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57085 [retrieved April 4, 2020]. Original source: http://www.lewpstudio.com – copyright by Lauren Wright Pittman. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Pittman writes of her artwork of Mary of Bethany: “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.”

The gospel was read by Michelle. The music was played by Tonya.


 

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