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



Dear Friends,

It is amazing how much wisdom John can pack into eight gospel verses. 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 sin 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. And 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 her sister Martha, the worker bee. This gospel captures her contribution to the gathering with only two sparse words: Martha served. Yet 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 for him 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. Judas has 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 it festers into treachery. He locks it away ‘til greed and envy and anger consume him… then he betrays Jesus.

But before we start feeling superior to Judas, I’ll let you in on a secret: I have betrayed Jesus… many times… and so have you. But unlike us… and unlike every other sinner who has asked for and received forgiveness… in the end, Judas was never able to purge his heart, to name his sins and ask for God’s saving mercy.

That’s why we have Lent…forty days to get honest with ourselves and with God… forty days to grow in his grace. I pray we use this time well. Because when we do… when we crack open our hearts… and pour them out to Jesus… just the way that Mary poured out her gift of perfumed oil… when we free ourselves of the sewage of sin… it smells like heaven… it has the fresh aroma of mercy… the fragrance of faith.

God love you!


A Reflection for 
The Fifth Sunday in Lent
©The Reverend Canon David F. Sellery

Copyright © 2019 David Sellery, All rights reserved.

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