Rev. Katherine Todd
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
This story calls to me. It tells of a woman who breaks a very costly jar of ointment over Jesus’ head, unexpectedly, during a meal in someone else’s home.
This woman is unnamed.
She is not mentioned before or after.
She steps into the story, and just as quickly, she is gone.
But her presence in the story,
Her sacred act,
Her sacrificial gift – thought to have been her most prized and expensive possession… – it changes the narrative.
God is mystery. We only glimpse in moments God’s working among us. We sense in moments God’s presence and abiding love. We do not see continuously. Our vision breaks. Our faith has interruptions. We find ourselves overwhelmed and distraught and distracted by many things…
But in these moments, when we see with clarity of vision…
In these moments, when we hear, like God is speaking directly to us…
When we find ourselves compelled to act…
When our hearts become pregnant with a word we are called to speak,
With truth we are called to birth into this world…
When every neuron of our brain seems to be firing with idea after idea,…
When we have a moment of clarity, of vision, of word, of power,
May we, like this woman, act.
May we speak.
May we initiate.
May we birth that vision we have intothe world.
I do not imagine this woman who anointed Jesus saved all her money anticipating this very moment.
No, I imagine she had very different plans for this treasure. She may have been planning ahead for her own death or that of one she loved. She had parents. She may have had a husband and children. She likely had sisters and brothers. ANY OF WHOM would have been the likely recipient of such an extravagant gift. This was a heart gift. It was for loved ones. It was for the most heart-wrenching of moments…, of saying goodbye to one with whom you have shared love and life and joy and sorrow. This is the kind of gift reserved for one’s most treasured relations. It is the type of gift one gives with a full and aching heart.
And this woman.
This woman who has a name.
This woman who has a family and a story.
She uses ALL of this most precious gift, breaking the jar, holding nothing back, pouring it over the head of Jesus.
Can you feel the utter, logic defying, outrageous, extravagant outpouring of love???
What compelled her to give away her most precious possession in such an act of unbounded love and sacrifice?
This is one of those moments that begs for silence. The silence that is pregnant with
the truth we sense without words,
with beauty we feel without understanding,
with holiness and sacredness that we know and cannot speak.
But this act of great love
Moved some witnesses to outrage…”How could she WASTE all this on a moment? On one man?”
Indeed, she was not behaving logically.
She was not behaving at all.
A number of witnesses quickly surmise what she could have and should have done with her treasure…
But to this Jesus says, “No.”
What she has done, illogical, hugely generous, sacrificial, from the aching and outpouring of her heart,…
She has stepped into the flow of what God is doing.
She has joined in God’s story.
She has prepared Jesus’ body for his death and burial.
And she will not be chastised.
For her illogical, outrageous, extravagant gift is
and perfect in the eyes of God.
We can become masters at summing up and judging the actions of one another. They should have… They could have… Why didn’t they… Why would they…
But the true questions for us, are
What is God moving in us?
What idea does God have nagging at our hearts?
What words is God burdening you to spill out?
What deed has God given you idea for that you are called to birth into this world?
The true questions for us are not about our neighbors, our family, our friends…
Why they do and don’t do such and such…
The true questions for us, are
What is God doing in you? What is God doing in me?
Will we step into the flow of God’s bigger story?
Will we follow God where the path is illogical, where criticisms will flow, where the future is uknown?…
Will you and I be found giving all of ourselves
for the One who has given all for us?
This woman will always be known as one who gave it all.
How will our story read?