This Week's Focus -  "The Fragrance of Faith"  
    Click Link for John 12:1-8




Dear Friends,

It is amazing how much wisdom John can pack into eight verses of gospel. This week we get a character study of Mary, Martha and Judas… a portent of Calvary… and further insight into God’s love. C.S. Lewis captured the essence of this gospel, when he wrote that: “The allegorical sense dawned on me the other day. The alabaster box which one must break over (Christ’s) holy feet is one’s heart… And the content becomes perfume only when it is broken. While they are safe inside, they are more like sewage.”

How much sewage do we carry around in our hearts because we don’t open them up to Jesus? How much pride; how many resentments; how much anger and envy do we tote around for a lifetime? Internalized under pressure, it stinks… contaminating our lives, infecting all around us. But when we have the courage to crack open our hearts and pour them out at the feet of Jesus… the sludge of life becomes the fragrance of faith.

Jesus understands and appreciates Mary’s outpouring of love. She is giving the best she has to the one who brought her brother back from the dead. Obviously Jesus is no ordinary guest. And this is no ordinary gift. She doesn’t shop Amazon. She doesn’t have FEDEX deliver it. Overcome with faith and joy, she literally throws herself into thanksgiving. Falling at the feet of the Savior, she anoints them with precious perfume. Then in total supplication she wipes Christ’s feet with her hair. As expressions of devotion go, it doesn’t get more complete than this total surrender to love.

How different from Martha, the worker bee. It is the Martha’s of the world who hold us all together… who do the grunt work… who serve and serve and serve. Day in and day out, they are the faithful nurturers of our families. They set the table… without which there would be no feast and no precious anointing. In this gospel account, Martha and Mary are clearly two separate characters with very different dispositions. But they can also be seen as two different aspects of a single character; two distinct aspects of love… service and adoration. It is a reminder of what God holds precious. He doesn’t count the number of pies we baked for the church picnic. He doesn’t audit the size of our donations. But he does measure and he does value the love we bring to every gift, to every task, to every prayer.

In contrast with the love of Martha and Mary, there is Judas. He talks a good game. But his pieties are totally self-serving. He is skimming from the community purse. He sees Mary’s extravagant outpouring as a lost opportunity to dip in for more. Jesus sees right through him… yet still loves him.

Judas has followed Jesus because that’s where the action is. He has heard the gospel every day from Christ’s own lips. But he’s not satisfied. He’s invested a lot of time in this Messiah. And he wants a piece of the action. What’s in it for him? Where are the goodies? When will the kingdom of God start generating some cash flow?

His disappointment turns to resentment… then festers into treachery. He locks it all away ‘til it consumes him and then betrays Jesus. Unlike Peter and unlike every other sinner who has betrayed Jesus… then asked for and received forgiveness… in the end Judas was never able to purge his heart and pour it out to the crucified Christ.

But what about us? Can we overcome our pride? Can we truly get honest with ourselves and with God? I pray the answer is “Yes.” Because when we do… when we crack open our hearts… and pour them on Jesus… it smells like heaven… the aroma of mercy… the fragrance of faith.

God love you!

Lord Jesus Christ,
Most Merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
help us this day and everyday
to see Thee more clearly,
to follow Thee more nearly,
to love Thee more dearly,
for Thy Name’s sake. Amen.


A Reflection for The Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2016

©The Reverend David F. Sellery
St. John’s Church, Salisbury, Connecticut

Copyright © 2016 David Sellery, All rights reserved.

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