St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Lent 5, April 3

“This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, … ‘Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. … There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.//Wild animals will say, ‘Thank you!’ … Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.” [The Message Remix by Eugene Peterson] And, the Psalm: “God, do it again-bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted the crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessings.” [ibid.] And, then Paul: “I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ-God’s righteousness. … I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have made it. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.” [ibid.]

It seems we’re being told that at this point in Lent we should be well on our way to being transformed so we can celebrate the Easter feast. That poignant story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with the nard ointment-think how wonderfully thankful she was for Jesus in her life. Jesus raised her beloved brother from the dead! When he came to see them after Lazarus’ death, she stayed indoors too deep in her grief to greet him-probably angry Jesus hadn’t been there to heal her brother when she needed him. Sure, he could drop in and visit and enjoy their hospitality but when the rubber met the road, he wasn’t there.// Mary was transformed by the love Jesus had shown toward her family. She wanted to show him the ultimate hospitality-anointing with expensive oil-his feet, not his head, his feet. She moved from sitting at his feet to hear his words//to perhaps anger because he wasn’t there when she and her siblings needed him to complete devotion and admiration-she would give the most expensive thing she owned for his comfort. Jesus is the resurrection and the life: For Mary, for Paul and for us.

I was trying to think if I have ever felt abandoned by God and I really haven’t had a time like that. I’ve had rough times: sick children, sick parents, bad relationships, loss of friends, my own illness, disillusionment with mankind-yet, I have never felt God was not with me. When bad times come I increase my prayer time-I am compelled to because otherwise I couldn’t make it.

To know Jesus was a day’s journey away, that he could reach out and touch my sick loved one-sure I would send for him. And, I would be upset if he didn’t come. In the end, he did come and it was just the right time. Mary and Martha and Lazarus expected they would be healed from serious illness because they were special friends of Jesus. This has not worked for everyone during this pandemic and many have died over the centuries who were close to Jesus. These close friends of Jesus were grateful for any healing they received from him.//Raising Lazarus from the dead when it seemed too late, that act would change their whole lives. So, of course, Mary anointed Jesus with nard. It was an extravagant act.

What form will our acts of extravagance take? We eat from silver dishes at our table here. We have fancy brocade vestments and fine linens. Our albs are rather pricey especially considering they are used sparingly. These expensive items are here to exhibit the abundance of God. Mary had experienced the abundance of God and, like Paul, the things she had held dear were like so much rubbish. The nard was an investment for the future-it would not lose its value. Mary willingly poured out her life’s savings for the comfort of Jesus because Lazarus’ life was worth far more than any nest egg. Mary was grateful for the grace she had received.

She had to know Jesus was in danger. He had chosen not to stay at her home for Passover this time-I assume to protect this dear family of siblings from harm. Mary must have felt a sense of urgency to do this one last thing for Jesus. A meal topped off with nard ointment for his feet. She must have finally understood what kind of power Jesus had. Power over the grave.

Paul lived extravagantly-he thought nothing of placing himself in danger to build up the followers of Christ. Mary gave this extravagant gift to Jesus for one last time. Our god can make paths through the ocean and rivers in the desert. What form will our acts of extravagance take?