April 7, 2019

by Jane Taylor

Fifth Sunday in Lent


On this 5th Sunday in Lent, Jesus has made his way toward Jerusalem in Luke’s gospel.  We switch to this passage from John 12 with Jesus at the home of his good friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Bethany.  They gather for a meal as many of us often do in our local churches.   
Martha serves the meal.  As usual, she knows what has to be done and she does it.  Mary is quietly in the background until unexpectedly she anoints the feet of Jesus with a very expensive perfume, and she then wipes his feet with her hair.   
Judas Iscariot criticizes Mary’s action as a waste of what could have been given to the poor.  John’s Gospel immediately tells us that this is because he is a thief. Jesus quickly tells Judas that Mary has anointed him in preparation for burial and that it will ALWAYS be possible to serve the poor, but that Jesus will not always be there.  Therefore, we rightly admire Mary’s love and extravagant generosity, particularly since Jesus himself praises her. 
Truthfully, we are often more like Martha or even Judas.  We want to be sure that everything counts and nothing is wasted.  In the local church and in the rest of our United Methodist connection, we look for responsible budgets that make the best use of every penny.  We want to be good stewards of what we have been given; however, Christian stewardship is founded on an overwhelming love that leads to what some people might consider waste.


While we are preparing to celebrate Easter and all the activities that go with it, millions of refugees live around the world in miserable conditions.  Addiction and violent crime statistics continue to rise in our country.   The list of hardships goes on and on, and includes pain, abuse, pestilence, greed, selfishness, prejudice, and destruction.  How can we celebrate? 
Like Mary, we celebrate because Jesus is with us.  Mary expresses love and gratitude for what Jesus has done.  As do we.  And the poor are always with us—in many ways, we ARE the poor, and Jesus calls us to serve others with the very same expression of love. 


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Lent photo by Kameleon007