pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Extravagant

Reading: John 12: 1-11

Verse 3: She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair.

Today’s story is one of extravagant love.  Mary is a good friend of Jesus.  Jesus had a special connection to this family from Bethany, to Mary and Martha and Lazarus.  This family appears several times in the Gospels.  In our passage today, Jesus is on His way to celebrate the Passover.  It will be His last stop at Bethany.  Perhaps Mary has a sense of this.  She seems to be aware of much concerning Jesus.  She was the one who sat at Jesus’ feet and she was the one who brought Jesus to tears outside Lazarus’ tomb.

As they are reclining after dinner, Mary shows extravagant care and love for Jesus.  She pours some very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.  On the surface, this is perplexing.  Why would someone pour perfume worth a years’ wages on someone’s feet?  These feet will soon be covered in dust and dirt as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem.  And then she kneels down and dries His feet with her hair.  This is extraordinary.  Jesus gladly accepts her gesture and even defends her for showing such great love.

Mary’s action may seem extreme, but it is just the kind of love the Jesus demonstrates over and over and over.  A son takes his share of his father’s wealth and squanders it away on wild living.  Instead of tossing aside this foolish son, Jesus paints a picture of a father that waits longingly for the son to return and that throws a big party when the prodigal son does come home.  A disciple struggles to forgive another again and Jesus says not to just forgive a few times but to offer forgiveness over and over and over.  One out of a hundred is lost and instead of rejoicing over the 99, Jesus shares the story of the good shepherd searching until he finds the one.  And instead of scolding the one for being lost, he gathers it up in his arms and joyfully carries it home.  Story after story of extreme, radical, extravagant, extraordinary love.  Mary was just following Jesus’ example.  It is how we are called to live out our faith as well.

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Building

Reading: Luke 1: 46-55

Mary’s beautiful song is all about God’s love for humanity.  She is aware of her direct role in this: she is bearing the Son of Man in her womb.  She rejoices in God her Savior and in her unique role: “all generations will call me blessed”.  Mary is aware of and deeply thankful for the role God has called her to fulfill.

Mary quickly moves past these thoughts and rejoices in the ways that God loves all of mankind.  God extends mercy to those in need and performs mighty deeds for those who fear him.  God blesses those in a relationship with him.  In doing so, God lifts up the humble and fills the hungry with good things.  God loves in many ways.

God’s love, however, is sometimes tough love.  God scatters those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  God will bring down rulers when necessary and will send the rich away empty.  God will not tolerate evil behavior by those with power.  God blesses us so that we can bless others, not so we can use our position or wealth to take advantage of others.

Mary’s song really speaks of God’s desired kingdom.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are kingdom builders.  We have a role to play in being the light and love in this time and space.  We too, like Mary, bear the Son of Man.  We bear Jesus in our hearts.  We can all bring God’s love to those who need God’s mercy and to those who hunger for either spiritual or physical bread.  We can all be conduits of God’s love flowing into the world.  We can also be the light shining into the darkness.  God’s kingdom is built on justice and equality.  If we are in positions with power and authority, we must use our place to insure justice and equality.  If, in our community, the leaders do not champion these things, we need to speak truth to bring about justice and equality.  May we each play the role of building God’s kingdom as we bear the light and love of Christ right where we are this day.


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The Better Choice 

Reading: Luke 10: 38-42

In today’s reading, Mary has chosen Jesus, the “better part”.  Martha has chosen busyness.  She is working hard to serve Jesus and His traveling companions.  While being a servant is usually a good thing, what Mary has chosen is definitely better.  When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her, Jesus names Martha’s lesser choice and defends Mary’s better choice.  The question is: did Martha stop and sit at Jesus’feet as well or did she let out a frustrated sigh and stomp off to continue her preparations?

Often we find ourselves in the same dilemma.  Do we stop or lay aside what we are doing to make the better choice that God has placed before us?  Do we take the time to share Jesus either verbally or through our actions when God places us in that situation where we can be His light and love?  Or do we go on with excuses and rationalizations rolling off of our tongues?

Later, in the Gospel of John, we see that Martha has learned what the better choice is.  After Lazarus has died, she is the first one to run to Jesus as He approaches to declare her faith in Him and to proclaim that He is the Messiah.  Whether it happened right after Jesus declared the better choice in Luke or whether it happened sometime before this story in John, we are thankful that Martha eventually made the better choice.

This day and every day, may we all be like Martha, joining Mary and sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing His words and growing in our faith.


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Mary Time

Reading: Luke 10: 38-42

“Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her”.  What is better is to sit at Jesus’ feet, to listen to His words, to meditate on their meaning, and to apply them to our lives.  Just as Mary did this, we too are called to daily do the same.  We are called to what is better, to spend time with Jesus.

Life is busy and there is always much to do.  We can easily fill our days up with a long to-do list.  There are so many people and things we are committed to.  We can all relate to Martha in this story.  She is feeling the pressure to always be on the move so that all gets done.  She is a doer and a worrier.  One cannot read this story without feeling at least a little like Martha and without feeling at least a little conviction.

I think a little conviction is good now and then.  It allows us to examine our lives, our practices, our priorities.  There is no need for guilt.  The story simply allows us to evaluate if we are spending enough ‘Mary time’s or not.  Deep inside we all feel the pull to spend time daily with God and we all know that life is better when we do so.  Once the habit is established, our daily personal time with God is closely guarded and kept sacred.

It does not matter if our Mary time is early in the morning, during our noonday break, or in the evening sometime before bed.  It does not matter if our time with God is relatively short or if it is really long.  Each of us are unique and need to find our own best way to come and sit at Jesus’ feet, to connect our heart and soul to His.  If you do not have Mary time each day, try it for a few weeks.  Pick a spot in the New Testament and read and reflect and pray for a little while each day.  If you do have some Mary time each day, blessings on your time each day in His presence!


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Go and Do Likewise

Reading: John 12: 1-11

Our Holy Week readings begin with Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume.  It is something she bought and has kept for just this occasion.  Mary anoints His feet as a beginning step of preparation for His burial.  While this surface fact is true, we must look deeper as well because Mary is a study in faith, a great example to all who call on the name of Jesus.

This story is not our first or last encounter with Mary.  In Luke 10 we see Mary as obedient follower.  As sister Martha works to make all the preparations, Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him.  Jesus indicates that Mary has chosen wisely.  Unspoken is the warning not to allow business to get in the way of following.  The lesson here from Mary is to place His Word as supreme in our lives.

We also encounter Mary in the story of the resurrection of her brother Lazarus.  In John 10 it was Mary who first sent for Jesus because her brother was sick.  As  news of Jesus approaching their town comes to the grieving home, Mary does not rush out to meet Jesus.  She waits until He calls for her.  Then she goes without delay and confesses her faith in Jesus’ power, even over death.  This is a confession we too must make if we are to surrender our lives to His will.

Lastly, the anointing.  There is of course the sacrifice of the expensive perfume.  But for many of us, like Mary we too can ‘afford’ to give of our resources.  But to go beyond is the challenge for many of us.  To allow the Spirit to lead and to be willing to see God’s vision of what lies just ahead can be difficult.  Here Mary does both.  She goes the extra step and uses her hair to wash His feet.  She allows the Spirit to lead her into this act of service.  In the next chapter we see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  He instructs them to follow His (and Mary’s) example, to be willing to serve one another.  Led by the same Spirit, may we be willing to go and do likewise.


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Seeing Jesus

Have you ever failed to recognize someone you know?  Maybe you have been to family reunions every two years for many years now, but suddenly you see a cousin you do not recognize right away.  You look and look at this stranger and then suddenly realize who it is, amazed at the change that has occurred in the last two years.

Or maybe you have experienced seeing someone in a new light.  It could be hearing someone sing a beautiful song that you had previously never heard sing.  Or it could be seeing your child demonstrate a ‘new’ skill or newfound maturity in a setting other than at home.  You smile and nod your head and purposefuly file away the memory.

In our story today, Mary and Joseph discover Jesus is missing.   After three days of frantic searching, they finally find him sitting in the temple.  He is holding court with the temple priests.  They are astounded by Jesus’ questions and His insights as they discuss God, faith, the Law, and so on.  But Mary and Joseph see none of these things at this point.  Their boy is found and in a sudden release of panic and fear, they scold Jesus for treating them this way.  Instead of seeing Jesus sitting rightfully among these wise and learned men, they only see a misbehaving twelve-year-old.  But all is not lost as at the end we read that later Mary treasures all of these things in her heart.

This story makes me ponder – do I too sometimes not see Jesus for who He really is?  Do I want to keep Him boxed into something I think I know?  Do I sometimes fail to extend the love that He has planted within me?  Or… do I sometimes not see Jesus in the person standing right in front of me?

Scripture reference: Luke 2: 41-52


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Mary Said “Yes”

Mary’s joy overflows and bursts out through this passage.  Right up front she states that her soul glorifies God and that her spirit rejoices.  Mary is filled with joy over being the one chosen by God to bear His Son because she is of a humble Spirit. She realizes that she is just a humble servant chosen by God to carry out this special role.  Her words that all generations will call her blessed because of what God has done reflect her humble heart.  Mary is well aware that it is God’s hand at work here.

In her words Mary also acknowledges that she is just one of many unexpected ones that God has called.  From early on with Abraham and Rahab on through David and now her, God has chosen the humble to play a role.  This pattern continued with the calling of the disciples and it continues with you and me – often unwilling but chosen nonetheless.

Mary’s song also spells out what we are chosen for.  Like all who have come before, we are called to lead people to God.  We can do no more than to fill our humble role and to trust God with the transformative work that will change people’s lives.  Through our words, actions, and deeds we bring God into the world around us and work to build His kingdom here on the earth.

Mary’s song also reminds us of what this role can include.  It includes condemning and working to fix the inequalities and injustices we see in society.  It includes caring for the poor and the outcast.  It also includes sharing the hope and love we find in Jesus.  Mary Said ‘yes’ to God’s call.  May we as well.

Scripture reference: Luke 1: 46-55