And the Fragrance Filled the House

And the Fragrance Filled the House

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume”

 This is a household that new the stench of death, a family that had experienced death’s cruel sting. Just one chapter earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus comes to Martha and Mary too late – Lazarus has died, he had laid buried four days in his tomb, we hear that the stench of death and decay emanated from it. At that time, when Mary threw herself at Jesus’ feet it was to weep and protest that if he came sooner their brother would be alive. Jesus himself, moved by the mourning, by the loss, and by the sting of death; Jesus wept. The stench of death and decay, the pain of death and loss, fills the town, the homes, and the hearts of all present at the tomb of their dearly loved Lazarus. Jesus, however, in the final sign of his ministry, shows that he is the resurrection and the life, and calls Lazarus out of his tomb – o death, where is your sting.

And so here we are, Jesus and Lazarus recline at table, Martha serves, and Mary once again throws herself at Jesus’ feet – though this time there are no tears of bitterness, no confrontation and disappointment instead there is an outpouring of lavish care and tenderness. Taking a posture of humility she anoints Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume and dries it with her hair, the smell fills the house – this is not the smell of decay, nor of death, this is the smell of abundance, of beauty, of life.    

But why has Mary performed this act?

(Image: The Anointing at Bethany by Daniel F. Gerhartz)

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Temptation

Temptation

In facing temptation Jesus shares in this most universal, though most unfortunate aspect of the human condition. The deep solidarity of the Incarnation goes this far, indeed further; because Jesus is the one able to resist temptation even to his death.

This sermon explores why scenes of temptation have so long captured the artistic imagination, and asks why Matthew crafted his temptation narrative to mirror his Passion account, and how that communicates the good news of deliverance from the powers of sin and death.

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Tending Bodies Marked For Death

Tending Bodies Marked For Death

The story of Rizpah and the anointing at Bethany demonstrate how our care for the bodies of the dead, those approaching death, or those burdened by the existential deaths our society deals in, is a way of reflecting the careful attention paid to our bodies by a God who formed the human body out of the clay of the earth, who knits us together in our mother’s womb, and who will raise us bodily in the resurrection. (image: Rizpah by George Becker)

Amidst all the political drama of the story of David, it is this act of grit, performed by a grieving mother, that is commended as moving the heart of God.

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The Fear of Death: the cause not the curse

The Fear of Death: the cause not the curse

As new creations, born again, we empty ourselves of the fear of death, not because of a life that is to come, but because of the life that is now (all the life, the depth of life that is available). It is not selling out our fellows (which comes from the fear that leads to greed and the faith that leads to escape) it is buying in to the world, investing in the now, through the selfless love/hospitality/service of the other. Our embrace of the New Being and acceptance of our status of new creations liberates us from the fear of death because it overcomes sin… overcomes separation.

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