First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon- April 7, 2019

The House was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  4/6/19  by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. The House was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
    3. Story of how grandma’s house smelled, and the Czech restaurant
      1. Smell is a powerful sense
      2. Not to dismiss those who have scent sensitivity, nor to say that all things smell equally good to all people
        1. Lilacs – grandma’s house
        2. Grape juice
  • Going to talk about a lot of different things today, but keep the smell of perfume in mind
  1. Mary’s Faithful transgressions
    1. Anointing of Jesus’ feet – not head
      1. Kings are anointed on their heads
      2. Corpse’s feet are anointed
  • Inspiration for Jesus washing disciples feet?
  1. Using her hair
    1. Extreme intimacy – women of that time would usually only uncover and let down their hair for their husbands or intimate family
  2. Extravagant use of nard
    1. Only one that Judas raised an issue with
    2. The house was filled with the smell of the perfume
  • Left over from embalming Lazarus?
  1. Doing a new thing
    1. A messiah who dies
      1. The futility and disappointment of humanity
      2. The graciousness and forgiveness of the divine
    2. Exuberant love – fullness of spirit
  2. Women (especially women named Mary) have a much greater acceptance and understanding of Jesus’ message.
    1. Mary may have been the only one in that room to hear what Jesus was actually saying about what was to come
      1. And, as so often happens today, when a woman acts, there is a quick judgmental male voice that attempts to silence her. And Jesus again defends and supports her.
    2. At the Last Supper, the disciples, amongst other topics, argue about which of them are the greatest, but “the greatest” will deny, reject, or betray Jesus in the next day
    3. Who remained by him at the cross? In Luke 23:49 “But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
  3. Extravagant Love –
    1. Reminds us of the parable of the prodigal Father last Sunday
      1. Need to celebrate
      2. This week, need to mourn?
    2. Mary’s response to what’s coming
      1. Can’t save Jesus, but can share love
      2. First instance of Christian realism?
    3. Christian Realism
      1. One of the founding theologians of United Church of Christ
        1. Christian Realism – Kingdom of God cannot be realized on earth because of the innately corrupt tendencies of society. Nevertheless, there is the call to work towards the kingdom, knowing that all our results will be imperfect at best.
        2. Political theology – formed after seeing the difficulties in American society, horror of the Holocaust,
  • Neither liberal nor conservative
    1. Liberals didn’t like the pessimism they saw – realism is a reaction against the social gospel
    2. Conservatives often claim allegiance to Niehbuhr’s philosophy, but neglect the ongoing commitment to social justice
  1. Influenced Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, and Jimmy Carter.
  1. Serenity prayers
    1. God, grant me the serenity
      to accept the things I cannot change,
      the courage to change the things I can,
      and the wisdom to know the difference.
  2. Now, the part that’s not as well known
    Living one day at a time,
    enjoying one moment at a time;
    accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
    taking, as Jesus did,
    this sinful world as it is,
    not as I would have it;
    trusting that You will make all things right
    if I surrender to Your will;
    so that I may be reasonable happy in this life
    and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

                                            Reinhold Niebuhr

  1. Mary couldn’t change Jesus’ fate, but she could express her love for him
    1. Ministry of presence – cannot always change events but can be with them
    2. Doesn’t lessen the call to justice – just tempers expectations
  2. Clarification on “The Poor will always be with you?” verse
    1. Has been Weaponized
      1. 3500+ verses in the Bible about the poor, needy, and how to care for them. No single verse wipes them all out
    2. Can’t separate Jesus from the poor
      1. Deuteronomy 15:11 Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.
      2. Due to the nuances of Biblical greek, this could also say, “Keep the poor among you always”
  • Shown in the Common purse of disciples – to give to the poor
  1. We rarely give our best to the poor. Hand me downs, expired food. It’s a common argument to stand against something, but not one that usually translates into actual improvements
  2. Yet, the focus of this scripture isn’t about whether or should we should help the poor at all
  3. Jesus points out that it is not a waste to spend time, money, emotion or energy on Jesus.
    1. Lavishness towards others
  4. Frugality and lavishness
    1. Reminiscent of the parable of the prodigal father from last Sunday
    2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Churches vs. 7 habits of highly Ineffective churches
      1. Splash it on vs. spend as little money as possible
      2. Cheerful giving is what God seeks not a modestly that leads to a harshness of the soul
    3. Lavishness in a time of oppression or scarceness
      1. Thanksgiving – in general and the US Holiday
      2. Celebration in the midst of austerity
    4. Mary’s response to grief?
      1. During memorial service preparation finding outlets to mourn, to express love
        1. Reading
        2. Eulogy
  • Bringing food
  1. Burying remains
  1. Our responses to today’s grief and pain
    1. This is a hard time – regardless of political spectrum or affiliation
    2. How are you doing?
  • Future conversations on self care, and community care?
  1. Putting ourselves in the ‘lenten’ spirit
    1. Remember the reason for the season
  2. Meditation on upcoming Holy week
    1. The ‘failure’ of Jesus’ ministry
    2. Not jumping to Easter
      1. Palm Sunday is celebration of Jesus’ entry
      2. Easter is celebration of Jesus’ resurrection
  • What if you skip the in-between?
  1. Palm and Passion Sunday
  2. Maundy Thursday
    1. Strip the sanctuary
  3. Good Friday – Ecumenical
  1. The house was filled with the fragrance
    1. A testing of beliefs translated into actions
    2. God is making a way in the wilderness
    3. Cultivate: The House was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
    4. Letting Go: Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look God is doing a new thing
  2. Communion – extravagance and cultivation
    1. A simple act – not extravagant in the spread or the presentation
    2. Extravagant in the love and symbolic reminder
      1. What God does for us
      2. What simple acts and gestures can be, when infused with love
    3. Love permeates the room

 

 

 

Readings

Isaiah 43:16-21 Common English Bible (CEB)

16 The Lord says—who makes a way in the sea
    and a path in the mighty waters,
17     who brings out chariot and horse,
    army and battalion;
    they will lie down together and will not rise;
    they will be extinguished, extinguished like a wick.
18 Don’t remember the prior things;
    don’t ponder ancient history.
19 Look! I’m doing a new thing;
    now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
    paths in the wilderness.
20 The beasts of the field,
        the jackals and ostriches, will honor me,
    because I have put water in the desert
    and streams in the wilderness
    to give water to my people,
    my chosen ones,
21     this people whom I formed for myself,
        who will recount my praise.

John 12:1-8 Common English Bible (CEB)

12 Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, “This perfume was worth a year’s wages! Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.)

Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.”

Click on the link below to enjoy e audio version of this Sermon.

 

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