St Luke's Anglican Church in Enmore a lively, inclusive welcoming liturgical community

The Gospel according to John 12: 1–11

The Gos­pel accord­ing to John 12: 1–11 Preached at St Luke’s Enmore Sunday 22 Janu­ary 2017

This is a really spine tingling pas­sage. The gos­pel writer Mark, writ­ing, in my view, of this same event that we have just read in John, says “where ever the gos­pel is preached in the whole world what Mary has done will be told in memory of her” … amaz­ing isn’t it! The vil­lage of Beth­any in the 1st cen­tury Jesus says when the gos­pel is preached this story will be told in memory of Mary, or in hon­our of her… and here we are in Sydney 2000 years later telling this story and remem­ber­ing and hon­our­ing Mary of Beth­any.

Hon­our­ing women is some­thing that we are strug­gling with as a soci­ety at the moment, let alone in the church… There are ways in which we need to repent of the many ways in which we do not hon­our women; one woman killed every week by her part­ner… we are not doing well.

Domest­ic viol­ence is a real issue….some women in soci­ety and the church are liv­ing in fear and ter­ror. At hos­pit­al this week two women talked with me about their exper­i­ence of this very issue and are strug­gling under the weight of it.

Often behind closed doors women suf­fer viol­ence and bul­ly­ing at the hands of a con­trolling and dimin­ish­ing part­ner. So Jesus call to hon­our Mary has a very con­tem­por­ary res­on­ance.

In our gos­pel read­ing today we find Mary, who is often presen­ted as a bit docile, break­ing her cul­tur­al rules by leav­ing the kit­chen and being in the liv­ing room, not nor­mally her place and kneel­ing and touch­ing Jesus, some­thing for­bid­den to woman of her day. She is say­ing, this is where I want to be, I’m break­ing out of the tra­di­tion­al role because I need to be with Jesus.

Mary took a risk in anoint­ing Jesus, I won­der if you have ever taken a risk in doing some­thing that was a bit ‘out there’ and been cri­ti­cized for it, you might have made your­self vul­ner­able, or giv­en someone a com­pli­ment, or been very gen­er­ous, and some­body says some­thing kind of sharp, ‘what did you do that for?’ It’s a hor­rible exper­i­ence to be on the end of and that it is exactly what Judas does.

Mary has poured per­fume on Jesus feet, worth a whole year’s wages… a huge gift- amaz­ing gen­er­os­ity. And what does Judas do, he cri­ti­cises, ‘what did you do that for, could have giv­en that to the poor’ as if he cared about the poor… he is a thief and in love with money… even giv­ing to the poor needs to come out of a ‘Mary type’ devo­tion gen­er­os­ity, not a sense of duty that has a jar­ring edge to it.

Jesus explan­a­tion of what she has done is that she has anoin­ted him for buri­al. Jesus him­self makes the con­nec­tion that it is a buri­al anoint­ing, that is the mean­ing he gives it, so Jesus is point­ing to 6 days down the track to when he will die… and he seems to say that it is Mary who gets what is in store for him way before any­one else. Mary pre­par­ing him for death, it is an intim­ate and insight­ful thing that she does as she makes her­self vul­ner­able with a gen­er­ous offer­ing in terms of the value of the gift and the inten­tion of the heart.

It is as she goes right out on a limb in her love for Jesus and in her ador­a­tion and wor­ship of Jesus, at that beau­ti­ful and intim­ate moment Judas tramples all over it with his cri­ti­cism. Jesus steps right in… ‘leave her alone…”

Per­haps you know the exper­i­ence of hav­ing someone come to your res­cue like that- you turn from shrink­ing to expand­ing as a per­son… you are begin­ning to feel crushed and then when res­cued you feel you can stand and breathe… that is what Jesus actu­ally does for all who come to him, when we have the voice of an accuser the voice of Jesus speaks grace and mercy and pro­tec­tion. It’s what Chris­ti­an com­munity should be at its best where we allow people to flour­ish and to expand, a place where that soul des­troy­ing cri­ti­cism has no home.

Three times Mary of Beth­any is men­tioned in the Bible and each time she is at the feet of Jesus… some may think it’s a kind of meek and mild thing, a kind of doe eyed self-neg­at­ing activ­ity… but actu­ally this pic­ture of Mary is a great pic­ture for us of let­ting noth­ing get in the way of the ador­a­tion of Jesus… now I’m a bit uncom­fort­able with ador­a­tion lan­guage, it can sound a bit soppy… but really the heart of the Chris­ti­an life is a life sur­rendered to Jesus, it took guts and determ­in­a­tion for Mary to express that and it takes guts for us to do it to… espe­cially in the face of mil­it­ant athe­ism and in the face of the Roy­al Com­mis­sion when those who allege to fol­low Christ have behaved so appallingly and where the Church has actu­ally pre­ven­ted people from see­ing Christ because of its own sin.

It can be hard to retain a pos­ture of devo­tion and sur­render. We may have mes­sages in our head to add to the mes­sages from out­side that sound like Judas, what did you do that for. A sur­rendered life can be a hard life to live when every­one around us is push­ing them­selves for­ward, push­ing their views for­ward, the Chris­ti­an call is to dis­cern Gods voice amidst all the oth­er voices and respond, like Mary, with love and devo­tion. A love and devo­tion that builds our resi­li­ence and hope.

Mary por­trays really the heart of the Chris­ti­an life for us, because everything in our walk with God comes out of sur­render to God and wor­ship of him, that’s where our life flows from. If it doesn’t come from there it comes from our own effort, our own des­per­ate attempt to make God love us and be accept­able to him, it comes from a life with Christ at its core…summed up so beau­ti­fully by the pray­er of Igna­tius… Lord give me only your love and your grace they are enough for me…