Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on Jesus' Anointing: Part 1 - Feet

The story of Jesus' anointing can be read in all four of the canonical Gospels.  We'll take a look at Mark 14.3-9 (NRSV).   [Picture - I took of sculpture at Santa Barbara Mission depicting sinful woman being helped by Jesus]

3While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.4But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8She has done what   she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

What's tough for the disciples to understand here is that even though Jesus taught them that care for the poor is a priority, it is not thee priority of a follower of Jesus.  When Jesus tells them, "you always have the poor with you" (14.7) he is not telling them that poverty will never cease, so they might as well not worry about it so much.  Instead, he is teaching them that as followers of The Way, they should purposefully be surrounding themselves with the poor.  Even as we should be creating relationships with and caring for the poor, we should even more so be cherishing our time with Jesus, who sustains us and enables us to care for some one other than ourselves.  

This is why we worship.  I would argue that the definition of worship is to figuratively and often times literally fall at the feet of someone or something.  In our case, I really like the Gospel of John's twist on the story (John 12.3),  where the very costly perfume is poured on Jesus' feet (instead of his head).  Mary (according to John's Gospel) anoints Jesus' feet as an act of worship!  

So the deeper message and reality for disciples is that when we have the opportunity to fall at Jesus' feet, and give to him what is so very costly to us, we do so as we give our lives in worship.  It is here where we lay our gifts and our crowns at the feet of the King.  And, it is here where we expose our broken selves to the mercy of Jesus where we receive our calls to serve and care for the poor.  All attempts to care for the poor without the sustaining patience and guiding wisdom of God, as we see here, have much potential to be in vain, no matter what we perceive our motives to be.  

What are your thoughts on the relationship between worship and charity?

Friday, January 1, 2010

This is a New Year

I apologize, I took a blogging break to focus on work and my personal life during the holiday season.  Yes, church work is ridiculously busy during December!

Anyways - here's a devotional for your new year.

Lamentations 3 -

21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 

You should read the whole chapter!  Heck - read the whole book of Lamentations!  Either way, Lord help us to embrace what is new this New Year.  G. K. Chesterton wrote - “The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul” (thanks @philosophytweet!).  His promise of love and mercy never end, no matter what has happened in the past.  Let us be made new by this promise.