Worship Times and Styles

Saturday, 5:00 PM in the chapel

Traditional worship in a relaxed, intimate setting

Holy Communion every week, open to all believers

Sunday, 10:00 AM in the sanctuary

Traditional, liturgical worship in our beautifully designed main sanctuary

Nursery available for children under age 4

Holy Communion every week, open to all believers

Children are a part of the body of Christ, and we encourage families to worship together. Activity bags are available in both worship spaces, and Pastor Jerry shares a fun, meaningful message for children every week.

Fifth  Sunday of Lent

April 04, 2019, Second Sunday of Lent

Pastor Jerry Reynolds

Today’s lessons put us in sensory overload. They are all about extravagance: from the extreme sweetness of perfume, to the stench of death; from the joy of Lazarus returned from the dead, to Jesus being condemned to his own death, in restoring Lazarus life. And then we see extravagant love not only to Jesus but God’s extravagant love to us again.

In the John’s Gospel, we hear how Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed Jesus' feet with a costly perfume called nard. In today's dollars it’s worth tens of thousands/$.  So Mary poured it out on Jesus' feet.  And Jesus did not object!  It's an amazing scene. Matthew in his gospel adds a memorable remark from Jesus: "I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." Over two thousand years later, in a place half way around the world, what Mary did long ago is still being told. It is a lasting tribute to a woman's love for Jesus Christ.

Nard is from the spikenard plant that grows high atop the world in the Himalayan Mountains--that vast mountainous region that separates China from India. There it’s delicate blossoms were crushed, made into a sweet smelling ointment called nard. It’s bottled in expensive alabaster jars and then shipped some 3000 miles by camel caravan across what today we call Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria—and finally to the outskirts of Jerusalem. How Mary got her hands on this rare, expensive nard, who knows? But when Jesus came to dinner, Mary took that nard, poured it over Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with its extraordinary and beautiful fragrance.

When Jesus' enemies heard that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they were up in arms. "If we let him go on like this," they said, "everyone will believe in him. And the Romans will come and destroy us.”  They were worried because some of Jesus' followers wanted to incite a rebellion against Rome—which is not at all what Jesus had in mind. But that is exactly what a lot of Jesus' supporters were hoping. And if Jesus' supporters revolted the Romans would most certainly come and destroy the Jewish nation. So Caiaphas, the high priest, came up with a very simple solution. Kill Jesus. Or, as Caiaphas put it: "Better for one man to die, than for the whole nation to perish."

The people had not yet set themselves in opposition to Jesus; they weren't openly hostile to him. They were content to observe whatever might happen. They didn't want to be involved. They were merely observers. The people were also fickle, one day shouting their "hosannas," but only five days later crying, "Crucify him!" But before we point the finger, bear in mind that in America today, there are thousands and thousands of people who call themselves Christians, but still do not speak up for Jesus. In America today, the gospel has often been twisted to support our opinions, our lifestyles, or our politics. To speak up for Jesus' message of love and justice is still very risky.

But Mary, as soon as she had the chance, broke open the bottle, poured the nard over Jesus' feet ... “and the whole house was filled with its fragrance.”  I love those words. When she wiped the ointment off his feet with her hair, then wherever Mary went, the fragrance was sure to go. It would forever be a reminder of her love. Wherever she walked, when people saw Mary, they caught a fragrance and they thought of Jesus. Where is Mary every time we come across her? She is always at the feet of Jesus. An extravagant love, that takes Mary from washing Jesus feet, to being at his feet on the cross, to seeing him dead on a slab stone for anointing, to wrapping him in a burial shroud, to going to his tomb the next dawn, wondering how she will roll away the great stone sealing it, only to find the stone removed. There is something very special about people who spend a lot of time at Jesus' feet. There is no substitute for taking the time, day by day, to sit at the feet of Jesus.

It was Judas, the betrayer, who objected. "What extravagance!" he said. "What waste!" But Jesus' reply indicates that, despite Judas' objections, there are times when extravagance is called for. But Judas extravagance was his own self-serving love. Ultimately, Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Whereas Mary’s ointment was worth so much more than Judas received in his betrayal of Jesus. Judas kept the bag. Mary broke the jar. She gave all that was precious to her. And this moment with Mary at Jesus feet, Jesus reminds them that they will always have the poor with them, he is reminding them, and us, of our ongoing call and duty to serve the needs of what he calls elsewhere "the least of these my brothers and sisters."

So today I ask, “What is your most valuable possession?” It’s different for all of us. Is it the desire to succeed? Is it your self-image? A bank account? Family? Would you or could you give it for Jesus?  God doesn't need your most valuable possession, but you need to give it, or at least make it serve a greater purpose. How extravagant is your love? Is it extravagant at all, or do you simply go through the motions? We sing the hymns. We utter the prayers. We might listen to the preacher. But then do we love others in the way that Jesus loved--as much as you love yourself? Remember, love expressed is not sufficient. It isn't good enough to say "I love you" by singing hymns and attending church. As good as those things are, love has to be heard, maybe smelled, to have any meaning.

Such a strong perfume would have lasted a long time. Everywhere Jesus went--as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as he cleansed the Temple, as he gathered in an Upper Room, as he appeared before Caiaphas and Pilate, I wonder if Mary's perfume still lingered as a reminder of her great love. And then, perhaps--just perhaps--when Jesus uttered his last words of forgiveness and completion on the cross, he might have sensed a faint, sweet fragrance that reminded him that he too had been greatly loved. Like Mary, spend some time at Jesus’ feet. "I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."  So may it be of you and all of us. AMEN!

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