The Cross And The One

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

John 12.1-8

There were many. There were many, at this point in the story of Jesus from John’s gospel, there were many who wanted something from him. They followed him from town to town, even when he was in the wilderness, they tracked him down. They wanted, no they NEEDED him. They wanted, they needed healing. To remove the scales from their eyes, to give strength to their legs. They wanted, they needed him for food. Both loaves of grain to feed their stomachs and grains of heavenly wisdom to feed their souls. They wanted, they needed him to bring them freedom. From the areas of their life that were bound by one thing or another. They needed him to bring life to the parts of their being that were dead.

These who were in need sought him out. There were many of them and that was alright with Jesus because he came for them and he loved them to the last. There were also many who were seeking him not to get some benefit from the gift of wisdom or healing that he carried, but instead when they heard his stories, when they witnessed the way that he flaunted their rules and traditions and poked holes in their holiness, and when he challenged their power of theology, they sought him out to try and snuff him out. There were many of them too. There were so many of them, in fact, that Jesus had to go into hiding it says in John’s gospel. And he had to be careful of where he went and whom he saw. That is until his hour had come. There were many.

But in our story from John’s gospel this morning, as we travel to the village of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem , we hear a story not about the many, but about the One. There was one, a very special one. She came to Jesus not to get something from him, but to do something outrageous for him.

While they were sitting there at the dinner in Bethany, just after the hors d’oeuvres were gone and just as just as Martha was about to serve the lamb that she had been working on all day, Mary – spacey, flighty Mary – comes through the doorway and approaches Jesus and sits at his feet. She brings a jar with her, and as she breaks open the seal the scent of a very expensive perfume rises from the table and it permeates throughout the whole house. She anoints Jesus’ feet with the perfume, that expensive perfume. She doesn’t dab it lightly, she doesn’t save any for later, she takes whole pounds, not holding back one ounce. Then when she’s done caressing Jesus’ feet with the perfume, she doesn’t take out a towel, she doesn’t grab a Bounty. She loosens her hair and lets it fall over his feet. She dries his feet with her own hair.

Along with that scent of expensive perfume, a feeling of intimacy permeates throughout the house. And a strange silence hangs there. There’s awkwardness in the air. Because if we step back for a moment, we might notice how odd the scene is. Mary has crossed boundaries here. She does what women “ain’t supposed to do.” At least not honorable ones. Undo your hair and let it fall sensually around another man’s feet? Touch another man in public? Oh, that’s a no no! To anoint his feet with perfume? Not the head, like you would a king, but his feet like you would anoint a corpse. And she wasted that perfume. Three hundred dinari. That would feed a family for almost a year! So many things just don’t make sense in this scene. It’s just odd. Awkward. They don’t compute for the many.

Mary, however, is not the many. She is the One. She is the one who offers this lavish gift of love to Jesus on the eve of his death. She is the one who understood where Jesus was headed. She saw what was happening, the disciples didn’t have a clue. The people around Jesus didn’t understand. She didn’t have a lecture from Jesus, she wasn’t taught by Jesus, but she knew where Jesus was headed. She knew Jesus would not be distracted or deterred from his goal and so, in her final times with Jesus, she loved him. She didn’t do it for gain. She didn’t do it to curry favor. She didn’t do it so her Father in heaven would scratch a couple of marks in the good column in the book of life. She simply did it out of love.

And the fragrance of that perfume, the wonderful aroma of her love, spread throughout the house. Her love was not economical. Or sensible. Or rational. It was love. Extravagant. It was a cross-shaped love.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Lent in the Midst of COVID

    We’re in the church season of Lent, a time of journeying with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and to the cross.  In addition to Sunday worship services on YouTube we will be adding short mid-week Lenten devotions from Pastor Meg and myself (also available on YouTube).

     Last month Mary-Ann Muffoletto sent me a picture. She took a ‘screen shot’ of our most recent Zoom congregational meeting, and I’m thankful she thought to do this. This is the moment when we ordained and installed new elders and deacons to our church. This is usually a sacred moment of our worship together on Sunday mornings, a special time for those new deacons and elders and also for the congregation as these individuals step into leadership positions for us. We’re usually doing a “laying on of hands” at this moment, as we offer a prayer for these new officers. This last year Presbyterian churches around the country have doing this via Zoom, and here we are, lifting up our hands as a blessing for these church officers, as we lift them up to God in their new roles.

    The big thing on our mind in the church office and with Session is when will we be back in worship together? I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, but as more people receive vaccines and transmission rates continue to decrease in Utah and around the country, we get closer to that time. Two Session members have volunteered to work with Pastor Meg and myself on plans for when we get back into the building. Outdoor worship services in a park is also a possibility before we return to our church building. When we are back in the sanctuary and Bruner Hall together our plan is to record the service and make it available on YouTube for those who choose to continue worshiping from home.

    I want to close by sharing a few things with you about our building during this last year. You might think the building has been empty and unused, but I assure you this is not the case. While most of our activities have been put on hold, several things have been occurring in our building. Session approved Loaves & Fishes to serve take-away meals and that has been ongoing through much of the year. Additionally, numerous recovery programs (similar to AA) have been meeting throughout the year (for some people, being able to attend a sobriety meeting is a life and death matter). And finally, the Red Cross has been holding blood drives every month or so. Craig Mortensen passed along to me that Red Cross blood drives at FPC collected 490 units of blood in the last year. Most of these units even came from willing donors… (just kidding!). All of these activities have required people to wear masks and socially distance to prevent spread of COVID.

    It brings me great joy to think of how many people Loaves & Fishes has helped, how many people have continued their journeys of sobriety, and how many people were helped through blood donations in the last year. Each of these activities come with some risk of COVID transmission, but Session approved them because they are essential for certain members of our community. All of these happenings are possible because of the use of our church building. I thank all of you for your ongoing support of FPC Logan. I know we aren’t worshiping there, and many of us are anxious to be back in the sanctuary (I am too). Thank you for bearing with us and our cautious approach. Good things are indeed happening through use of our building and because of our collective journeys with Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace be with you on your Lenten journey.

    Pastor Derek

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