A Gospel Reading
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mark 14:3-11, NIV).
Doug Rhoads, a staff member with us at NieuCommunities South Africa, made an off-handed comment during an imaginative reading of this passage this morning in our weekly Bible time that I have carried all day. He remarked that he was struck with the reality that this woman’s worship was solely a gift, and not a ‘purposeful’ one at that. Essentially, what she gave Christ was foolish and wasteful, and we see clearly the degree to which the members of Simon’s dinner party think this to be true. And yet there was something profound to this gift, something that stood purpose on its head and revealed the true nature of life with Christ. There are times for mission and ‘to-do’ lists, and there are times to be disciplined in what we are seeking to accomplish.
I struggle with this reality daily, particularly here in Pretoria, as our time is both structured and way free, and I feel a deep seated sense of responsibility to God, myself, my donors, and my community of family and friends to ‘produce’ something valuable with my time spent here in South Africa. Often, there is a nagging sense of guilt that “I am not doing enough, communicating enough, sharing enough, making known my service enough.” ENOUGH. And then along comes this beautiful woman who gets the heart of Christ, who somehow saw beneath the Messianic fervor of the culture of Jesus’ day, who ‘heard’ that Jesus’ death was impending, and somehow was clued in to what was to happen in less than 48 hours.
She stopped. She worshipped. Extravagantly. Expensively. Foolishly. With no regard to time, space, cultural expectations, what she ‘should’ be doing.
She understood this week. She knew Christ. And she suffered for it.
A Prayer of Desperation
May I not hurry though this Last Week–these precious moments as you journey to the cross and grave–missing you in the preparations for all we seek to celebrate. May I stop and pause in wonder, grief, delayed hope and gratification, waiting with You as you await our future reunion in which all will be restored. Slow us down, Christ. Our culture–my world–runs too quickly, too often. May we pause this day.