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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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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