Saturday People 3-13-15

In this sermon I explore John 12:1-8, the anointing of Jesus. We see even in the midst of life, there is the tension of death present. We live in this reality.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I’ve heard it said that of our 5 main senses, smell is most strongly connected to our memory…that certain aromas can instantly remind of us of certain moments or places or individuals…and I think that’s true. In the very least…I know that my sense of smell keys in to certain things…and I’m guessing that many of these aromas are pretty universal.

Who can deny the smell of a freshly cut orange…or the wonderful aroma of lilac flowers in the early spring…two of my personal favorites are the smells that come up from freshly mown grass or freshly turned dirt…its wonderful.

But on the flip side…sometimes smells, while identifiable, are also pretty stinky…it never ceases to amaze my kids when we find ourselves driving down the road behind a livestock trailer and I’m able to identify whether its carrying cattle or hogs or horses…simply by the smell…Certainly its true…aromas…our sense of smell…its important and strong.

I bring all of this up because today’s gospel appeals to our sense of smell…the anointing of Jesus…and the abundant gift that Mary bestows upon Jesus when she anoints his feet with a pound of costly perfume…and an aroma that fills the house. (pause)
Now I think most of us are fairly familiar with this story…it shows up in all four gospels…and while the details get a little muddled across the gospel boundaries…the basic plot is the same…Jesus is reclining at the table, enjoying the hospitality of his host, and a woman comes in and pours oil on him before wiping his feet with her hair, when low and behold, someone squawks about the waste of resources.

The setting changes…the identity of the woman and the host changes…and the voice of opposition changes across the different gospels…but the story itself remains pretty constant. That being said…a couple of these unique details here in John’s account catch my attention. First off, we hear that the event occurs in the home of Lazarus…and we also hear that it occurs after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Just how long after, we’re not sure…but that story occurs in chapter 11 of John, so it couldn’t have been too long.

And so we know that Lazarus, as he’s reclining there at the table alongside Jesus…sharing this time together with the Lord…Lazarus is experiencing a bit of a unique situation. He’s been dead…but now he’s alive again…one of only 3 people that Jesus brings back…but at the same time…we have no indication that Lazarus is now experiencing life in “THE RESURRECTION.” That life that we are promised will come in the last days…rather, all indications show us that Lazarus, along with those other two individual’s raised by Jesus, were simply experiencing life in the same way that they had before…and in the end died once more…but in the meantime…where do we find him? Here…spending time with Jesus…experiencing ongoing relationship with the Lord…and now let’s put a pin in that and come back to it in a bit. (pause)

The second interesting point that John’s account of this story makes…is Jesus’ response when Judas squawks about wasting the oil…all selfish motivations of Judas aside…Jesus says that she has prepared him for his burial…and that’s what this anointing is all about…its coming right up…we hear that its 6 days before Passover…a few more days and Jesus dies.

That’s coming up for us on the calendar as well…two weeks from today…we’ve got the triumphal entry, which incidentally, immediately follows this story in John…and then we’re off through Holy Week and the glorious resurrection of Jesus…the empty tomb…the risen Lord…cue the trumpets and bring in the Easter Lilies. (pause)

If you’re anything like me, you’re ready for Easter. This season of Lent is just long enough…and just dark enough…that by this point…I’m ready for that empty tomb…and as I think about that…I’m reminded of something an old mentor of mine taught me…that we are Easter people…we are people of the resurrection…and we live in a reality where the tomb of Jesus is empty for he has risen…but each and every year we go through this time…this time of remembrance…this time of preparation…and even though we embrace the promise that we are a new creation…and that we join with Christ in a resurrection like his…we also realize that we have to go through Good Friday before we can get to Easter.

We have to go through Death before we can get to the new life that lies beyond it…and in our story today…Jesus reminds us of that. “Leave her alone, she has kept it for the day of my burial.” (pause) Jesus knows that he has to go through Good Friday to get to Easter…and as much as he might have feared it…and as fervently as he prayed to the Father to allow Good Friday to pass from him…he still took it.

Now here’s the thing…we are promised in the waters of our baptism that we are claimed by God as his children…and we receive the promise that we inherit the gift of the resurrection…we will join with Christ in a resurrection like his, but we also join with Christ in a death like his…and this is not shocking…we all owe one death in this existence and there are no exceptions to that…but in addition…we also experience what I can only call a “little death” each and every day.

Remember that we are forgiven of the sin and pain and darkness that exists within us…we feel it, but we are forgiven of it…and every day, when we sense that darkness and repent of it and turn ourselves back to the one who created us we are that new creation…but by doing this we are experiencing that little death…each and every day. And so, in addition to being Easter people…people of the resurrection…we also realize that we are Good Friday people…because we have to go through the death before we can get to the resurrection.

This is true in the big picture…that we each experience death, but through the promise of God we join in the resurrection…and it is also true for us in the here and now…as we experience the little death of sin and darkness before experiencing the promise of new life in Christ.

Now its important that we realize this…that the gift of Jesus isn’t limited to just some new life out there in the unknown future…that’s part of it…but he has told us that he came to give us life and give it abundantly…in the here and now…

That abundant life is lived with God…in relationship which is made possible again through the death and resurrection of Christ…he has made it possible for us to turn away from the darkness that is still present with our reality and within our individual lives…to turn away from it and return to the path intended for us by the one who made in the first place.

The Hebrew have a word for this…and its connected to something I’ve talked about before. On Ash Wednesday I talked about the word TOV…the GOOD…the way that God made us and desires for us to live…and this notion of repentance…of turning away from that sinful darkness and returning to God…of turning back to the good…back to the TOV…the Hebrew calls this T’SHOOVAH….everyone say that with me..T’SHOOVAH…its one of those words that requires excitement to say…and I think that stems from the fact that its exciting and life giving…it is life abundant when we spend it in the TOV…in the good life intended WITH the LORD. (pause)

Now all that being said…it raises the question…where do we find a life in T’SHOOVAH? Do we find it as Good Friday people…in the recognition of death? (pause) I don’t think so. And do we find it as Easter People…embracing the resurrection that we have yet to fully experience? (pause) I don’t think so. I think we find in the middle of the two…in the midst…in the tension that lies between death and resurrection.

So maybe we are Good Friday people…and maybe we’re also Easter people…but I think we find T’SHOOVAH…when we realize that we are Saturday people…living in the tension between death and new life…between the cross and the empty tomb…a life lived, not perfect, but TOV…GOOD…a life lived in relationship with the Lord. (pause)

And now I’m going to go back to that spot where we put a pin…and Lazarus…reclining at the table with Jesus…having experienced death…literally in his case…but yet to fully encounter the resurrection…and what are they doing? Seems like they’re simply spending time together…abiding together…living life together.

Through Christ, this relationship is possible, because we see in Jesus that God dwells among us…with us…and through Christ, we are drawn to the Father…but not only that…through Christ we are also given the ability to forgive one another…to repair the broken relationships between us as individuals…

This abundant life…promised by Jesus…IS experienced in the here and now…it is found in relationship with God and one another because if you recall clear back in Genesis, when God is making humanity and he calls it TOV, he recognizes that it is NOT good…it is NOT TOV…for us to be alone…and through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ…the work that we are invited into…we live in community together. (pause)

We are Good Friday people…and we are Easter people…and as we see today, we are also Saturday people…and we are all of these rolled into one…we live in the tension between death and new life…a tension that was present within today’s story.

I’m going to wrap this all up with one more thought…remember how Mary poured out the oil…and the aroma of the perfume filled the entire room? Jesus said that she did it to prepare him for burial. This was common…for when a body went in the tomb and began to decompose, it smells…death has a smell and if you’ve been around you know what I’m talking about.

And so, when they put a body in the tomb, they anointed it with perfume…to try and mask the smell of death…but you can’t…the two mix in together…the fragment with the foul…the pleasant with the painful…life with death.

And that’s what Jesus is talking about as he looks towards his own death…the death that makes new life possible. Its all wrapped up together…for Jesus and for us. This is the tension of being Saturday people…and what a blessing to know that we are not alone in that tension…but that we have one another…and we have a God who exists there with us…so let’s live here in the abundant life lived together with God and one another…let’s live on Saturday knowing that its T’SHOOVAH. Amen


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