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Summary: Sermon for the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year C 2013

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John 12: 1 - 8 / The Poor With Us

Intro: A group of pastors were gathered for a stewardship conference. A presenter spoke about offering a gift directly to God. He pulled out a $100 bill from his wallet, set it on fire in an ashtray, and prayed, “Lord, I offer this gift to you, and you alone.” --- Then, he spoke to the clergy, “Do you not understand? I am offering it to God, and that means it is going to cease to be useful for the rest of us.” --- How would you feel about such an action?

I. VS. 3 – Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

A. The story is found also in MT and MK where the head of Jesus is anointed by an unknown woman. Anointing the head is symbolic of the anointing of a king.

B. Here, the anointing if of the feet which is a prophetic act signaling the imminent death of Jesus.

C. Cost 300 denarii or about 100 dollars – great deal of money – “I love you . . . but” Love is not love if it nicely calculates the cost.

II. VSS. 4 – 5 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”

A. The words of Judas make sense to us, don’t they? What a waste of money!

B. How far should one go to show their love? Is there a point at which extravagance becomes foolishness?

C. I doubt that Mary thought it was a waste of money. What she did was done out of love for Jesus. Not only did she anoint him with expensive perfume; but, she also humbled herself at his feet and used her hair to wipe them. How many of us would stoop to wipe someone else’s feet?

III. VSS 7 – 8 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you; but you will not always have me.”

A. To some people the words of Jesus sound harsh – not intended as such. – grasp the chance to do things when they come.

B. What church serious about discipleship does not struggle with the tension between money spent in beautiful acts of love and worship and money spent on behalf of the poor?

C. Jesus was not counseling the neglect of the poor. He quotes Deuteronomy 15:11 “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Conclu: We live our lives in the shadow of the cross, but we also live in the presence of the risen Christ. So here is an invitation to daily companionship with Jesus, in extravagant acts of compassion and generosity.

There are people who feel the amount they can give to assist the poor is so insignificant in comparison to the need that they don’t give at all.

Yes, there will always be poor among us; but, following in the example of Mary, we must give extravagantly of our wealth and ourselves to Christ Jesus. Love is not love if it stops to calculate the cost.


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