After the service finished I returned home in good time for a delicious chicken curry lovingly prepared by my beloved, as I was taking the afternoon service at 3pm at Kearby Chapel. It is a lovely little chapel just beyond Kirby Overblow with only 4 members but they always sing the hymns with gusto, even though there are usually about 6 or less in the congregation and the organist. I must admit I am always relieved to find it as I have been known to drive past it and have to turn round and come back to find it. It has a lovely view from its site but it is set back from the road, so it can be easy to drive past if you approach from the wrong direction. They are always very welcoming.
We read psalm 126 responsively as the call to worship. We sang ‘Praise to the holiest in the height’ before I led the opening prayers and the Lord’s Prayer. I read from Isaiah 43.16-21 before we sang, ‘As the deer pants for the water. A member of the congregation read Philippians 3.4b-14 and then three of us joined in a dramatised reading based on John 12.1-8. We sang ‘An army of ordinary people’ before I preached.
No one noticed that Mary had gone until she came back holding a slender clay jar in her hands. Without a word she knelt at Jesus and broke the neck of the jar and the scent filled the room. As everyone in the room watched she loosened her hair in a room full of men, poured the balm on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair; it was an extravagant unrespectable and excessive act of love. She took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus; she did not count the cost, but gave her all when she anointed Jesus. Martha as usual worked away serving Jesus but accepted her sister’s action as she knew Jesus would have understood and appreciated her sister’s extravagant act of love. Judas found Mary’s action wasteful as the money could have been spent on the poor and fed a labourer and his family for a year. Jesus said that the poor would always be with them but they would not always have him. Mary had been anointing him for his burial and Jesus knew his time was running out and only he recognised the value of her action.
Isaiah was prophesying in the period of exile and told those in exile to forget their past failures and even God’s saving action in the Exodus and look forward to the new thing God was going to do. God had got something even better for them to look forward to. Paul too counted his heredity as a Jew of pure ethnic stock, a persecutor of the church, a Pharisee blameless in the eyes of the Law as nothing because of Christ. His only hope was now in Christ’s death and resurrection and he recognised that he had yet to attain perfection and pursued the higher calling of God in Christ.
Do we share Judas’ view about the waste and extravagance of Mary’s gift? Do we think perhaps that such money could be used to fight injustice and poverty in the world? Could we make such a sacrificially generous offering in love to our Lord Jesus? As I was brought up with the ‘Waste not Want not’ philosophy, I am not sure whether I could have made such an extravagant act of love. I am rather more like Martha, as I find it easier to be busy, than to stop and listen like Mary, but I am valuing more and more resting in our Lord’s presence, so I can grow closer to Jesus. During this time of Lent we are walking with Jesus through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection. Let us grow in our love of Jesus, and learn to love and accept those in need and draw them to know him.
We sang, ‘Saviour, blessed Saviour’, before I led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘And can it be that I should gain.’