"Wasting Resources"

Janet Hudson

April 1, 2012

One of my best loved hymns which helps me with worship and adoration was written by a man who had been locked up in a tiny cell in an asylum. The words were found etched on the wall of his cell after his death.

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the sky of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill and everyone a scribe by trade,
To write he love of God above would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh love of God, how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall from age to age endure
The saints and angels’ song.

This is the beginning of a week, more than any other, when we are called to reverence, awe and adoration of God.

Read Mark 14:1-10

She has no name, this woman who gate crashed Simon the Leper’s dinner party for Jesus, and who proceeded smash open the alabaster jar and pour about $20,000 worth of ointment on his head.

(I calculated a wage of $10 per hour for 40 hours a week over 50 weeks).

Perhaps she has no name because we are supposed to put our own names into this story?

“Jesus was at the home of Simon the leper. They were at the table when ________

came in with an alabaster jar full of $20,000 dollars worth of pure oil of nard.”

Oh love of God, how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall from age to age endure
The saints and angels’ song.

What costly gift of love can we give to the One who emptied himself of all that it means to be Eternal God in order to become one of us: a human being bound by all the restrictions of a physical body, becoming as humble as a servant, obedient to the point of death, even to death on a cross?

Sometimes, at this time of the year we sing the Spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and we see all the ways in which we might have been complicit in Jesus denial, betrayal, condemnation and cruel death.

But, although we spurn the love of God at times; we also accept it and return it.

So….

Imagine that you spontaneously, without due consideration, did spend a years wages on a one-time, somewhat frivolous, consumable gift of stupendous adoration and love for God.

There might be within you, a certain amount of anxiety, worrying about the recipient’s reaction at your boldness accompanied by deep joy and reverence as you did this audacious thing.

But then imagine what conflicting reactions would you get from:

          Your family?

                   Your own inner selves?

                             Your friends?

                                      Your faith community?

No doubt there would be many emotions expressed; indignation, fear, anger, rage, fury, envy…

The voices would be pragmatic, moralistic, high-toned, scornful. Criticisms leveled would include:

  • What an extravagant waste of good perfume. And that wonderful alabaster container, broken, useless now!
  • Why didn’t you consult us before doing such a thing? We could have advised you about the best uses for such a large sum of money! That’s what community means you know! You have insulted your mission group!
  • You know how short I am of money – you could have given it to me – or at least some of it! Why couldn’t it have been a smaller gift?
  • You could have given it to a more worthy cause – the hungry poor for instance.   
  • What sort of person buys this kind of luxurious, imported cosmetic. (think of the humungous carbon foot print…)
  • Pooh! What an overpowering scent!
  • That shows really bad taste!

But Jesus, with oil trickling down all over him springs to your defense. He says to your critics, “He/she has done a beautiful, unique, lovely, gracefully winsome thing to me. Leave him/her alone”

Jesus experienced the woman’s gift as rich in meaning, gracious, grave and truthful. “She has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.” He said.

She was also being extremely provocative, because the anointing of the head is the ritual conferring royalty; The word Messiah means Anointed One. No one had proclaimed Jesus as Messiah openly. No one had anointed him as the Messiah of God.

Silently, this brave unnamed woman came to Simon’s house with her perfume and she took it upon herself to act as priest, prophet and king and anoint Jesus’ head. Her action was not only extravagant but daring in the extreme. Sacrilegious almost.

Jesus gift to the woman was that this story would be told in memory of her throughout the world wherever the good news would be preached. In fact she has actually become part of the Good News.

Part of the Good News is that the human heart is not totally depraved, but has within it a wellspring of worship. A place where Jesus is recognized for who he truly is, a place where courage rises up in love no matter what conventions are disturbed, where there is a flame of generosity and response to grace.

This nameless woman, breaking open her flask of costly perfume appears again and again in stories of faith. She has inspired saints to stand firm in the face of persecution, and artists to paint and sing their adoration - while the pious sneer that such things are unnecessary, wasteful, impractical and unspiritual.

She has inspired people to follow the Spirit’s call to make adoration their reason for being, even when friends and family complain that they are wasting their lives. She has smiled upon thousands who tend the flame of prayer and love of Jesus in the midst of busy lives, when those around them view their devotion as wasted effort diverting them from achievement and doing good. Her memory has been present like a fragrance in thousands of bold responses to Jesus in the face of condescension and disapproval.

There is a way we can emulate her love and devotion this week (without spending $20,000):

  • We can be present to God through this Holy Week in all the various ways which are offered. Take this most significant of weeks seriously: Steep yourself in the Holy Week Scriptures, read good devotional books such as The Last Week by Borg and Crossan or A season for the Spirit by Martin Smith.
  • We can attend services, such as noon prayers at the Festival Center.

It is really important to try not to jump from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday without acknowledging the significance of the passion and death of Jesus in between.

Dayspring has some offerings for the C of S community this week if you care to avail yourselves of them.

  • There is the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service – the Service of Shadows. Beginning at 7 p.m. This is an ancient service where the chapel is lit only by 8 candles and as each passage is read, a candle is extinguished until we are in total darkness.
  • On Good Friday there is a meditation followed by silence from 10 until 4. at Retreat, and
  • On Saturday evening – 7 p.m. there is a vigil on the land, rain or shine, culminating in an Easter Bonfire (usually with hot Cross Buns) on the hill overlooking the Lake of the Saints.

What happens when you pour hot water down a rabbit hole?

You get hot cross bun(nie)s!