Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poured out

Mary's anointing of Jesus was the text for this Sunday's Kingdom Kids. While listening to sermons, studying the scriptures, and praying over this lesson, I got the sense of something more bubbling just beneath the surface. Since then, I've scratched at the surface hoping to unearth this treasure, but it's remained just beyond my reach. 

It had been two months since the event that had the whole town of Bethany abuzz. One of their own, a man named Lazarus, died and was in the tomb for four days when Jesus arrived. He hollered into the hollow of the tomb, "Lazarus, come out!" Even the dead had to obey his voice. The grave handed over her captive. Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

"Who is this man that death bows before him? Could this be the Promised One of God?"

The way the crowds flocked to Jesus frightened the Pharisees, "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him." So they plotted to get rid of the man (Jesus) and the evidence (Lazarus).

Spring was in the air; Passover was on the horizon; Freedom was the battle cry. The Jewish nation flittered with excitement. Would the one rumored to be Messiah come to Jerusalem for Passover? Would God deliver his people from Roman rule as he delivered them from Egyptian slavery?

Fear wrapped her tendrils around the Jewish leaders, "We will lose our place and our nation." They kept a wary eye open for Jesus, biding their time and waiting for the opportune moment to turn the crowds against him.

Jesus was at a private party with a few of his closest friends in Bethany. Simon the Leper was the host, grateful for company as only one who has long been estranged can. Lazarus was there, breathing anew the air he once took for granted. Martha was there, scuttling about serving food for the meal. The disciples were there, eating and reclining at the table. And Mary was there. Dear, sweet, Mary, sitting at Jesus' feet.

While the others conversed, Mary listened. She wore around her neck a year's worth of wages bottled up in an alabaster jar of perfume. Seeing no greater use for her treasure, she broke the jar and anointed her king. Perfume soaked Jesus' hair, ran down his cheeks, dripped from his beard, and fell to his feet. The room filled with the aroma as Mary knelt down and wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. Such devotion! Such beauty!

It was Judas Iscariot who broke the sacred silence, "What a waste! This was a very expensive jar of perfume! Why wasn't it sold and the money given to the poor?" The other disciples were quick to agree, "Yeah, a year's wages! Think of the food and clothing we could have bought for the poor."

It seemed like the right answer. It was Jesus who had taught them to care so deeply for the poor and the outcast. But in their meticulous pursuit of the practical, they missed the beauty. In their quest for rightness, they missed truth. The amount of perfume was excessive. Unless, of course, you were getting a body ready for burial.

"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "She has done a beautiful thing. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. This perfume was meant for this day and this purpose. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial."

Jesus had spoken clearly of his imminent death no less than six times. And now, surrounded by the fragrance of death and the holiness of tears, the disciples bark their rebukes. They haven't been listening, but Mary has. Could it be that Mary knew exactly what she was doing?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"He just needed to know his dad loved him."

On Family Sunday (1/30/11), I talked about my heart for the families at Racine. Last night, I ran across this sound recording and decided to share it here.

Family Sunday - Sound Recording

The opening story came from this book. You should read it. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Student of the Week: Ian Gayer

The student of the week is Ian Gayer. In Sunday School this week, Ian offered to wait until everyone else had chosen their three pieces of candy before choosing his. When it came time to pray, he volunteered to pray for Aden in his basketball game. I am so proud of Ian and how he is becoming more of a Christ-like leader every day!
One of my favorite things about Ian is how he flings himself wholeheartedly into whatever he does. As a person who is all too often crippled by fear, there is much for me to learn from his uninhibited resolve.
Last Spring, I took the 2nd-5th grade ice-skating at the Jones Center. As we entered the building, we met a woman with wet hair and a towel draped over her shoulders. Ian looked quizzical for a moment, then spoke, “Huh? She must have fallen through.”
Yet, not even the prospect of breaking through the ice could intimidate Ian. He put on his skates and raced to the rink. Almost as soon as his feet hit the ice they swung out from beneath him and he crashed hard. But he didn’t stay down. With a helping hand, he hopped up and swung his legs as fervently as before. Each time he fell, he winced from the pain, smiled, and got back up. While most kids were clinging to the protection of the walls and carefully creeping forward, Ian was out in the middle of the rink, skating, falling, and rising with vigor. With each crash he did not grow more timid, but more determined.
I am like those who cling to the walls, afraid of a misstep and a fall. But I’m trying to learn to be more like Ian.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Reminder

This was a letter written to our sponsored child, Effa. If I had one prayer for you and me today, it would be this:

So I am closing my eyes
and I'm praying for those in my life
Let us feel, 
Let us love,
Let us be alive
Let us know you

"Let us Know You" by Andrew Osenga

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. when he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

This Sunday, we're studying the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl. In order to experience the joy of finding something of great value, the small groups will follow a map to a hidden treasure. I've been thinking all week what treasure they should seek. Part of my struggle in finding the right item is my uncertainty in how to interpret the parables. What is the item of great worth, and who is the man who gives up everything for it?

Option 1:
Item of great worth = Christ's kingdom (more specifically, Jesus)
The man who sold all he had = us

Option 2:
Item of great worth = Christ's kingdom (more specifically, us)
The man who sold all he had = Jesus

What are your thoughts, dear reader? Should the treasure point them to the infinite worth of knowing Christ and gaining his kingdom? Or should the treasure be a reminder that Christ gave everything he owned to gain us?