If you knew that you only had a week to live where would you be and what would you be doing? Not many of us ever think about this; at least until we hear the words spoken loud enough that they get our attention.
In our gospel lesson from John Jesus is at dinner with his close friend Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. It’s implied that other disciples are there too. So you know the house is bustling with activity. Martha and Mary and maybe some servants are working to get the meal prepared. The men are probably reclining on the floor around a table set up for the meal. We can assume that the house is filled with many different odors, some pleasant and some maybe not so.
What could be better for hungry appetites than the smell of roasting lamb, freshly baked bread, and new bottles of wine? And what could be worse than the body odors of people who had just come in from walking on hot, dusty Galilean roads, dirty feet and perspiring bodies?
And into all this walks Mary with an expensive bottle of fragrant perfume she had been saving, probably for her brother, Lazarus’ burial. She falls to the floor at Jesus’ feet; she deliberately breaks the bottle open and the contents flow all over his feet. The overpowering aroma of the most exotic, precious perfume soon fills the room.
Mary uses her long hair to wipe the oil all over Jesus’ feet. You just know that every eye in the room is focused on Mary and Jesus. Every one is questioning in their minds, “What’s she doing?” We might also have questions. Mine would be, “What’s God doing now!”
You can be sure that none of the people who were there in that room ever forgot what happened. Every time just a whiff of that smell touched their nostrils the memories of that day came flooding back. And they were reminded of the significance of Mary’s actions. As they reflected and remembered they understood a little better what God was doing at that particular moment.
Each of our senses trigger deep seated memories but none is more powerful than our olfactory sense. You guys may not remember the name of the perfume you wife was wearing on your first date or on the day you were married but your nose will never forget. Every time you encounter that scent you’re reminded of day in your life.
You know how it is when you walk into a home and you run square into the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. You’re immediately transported back in time to another time in your life that was especially meaningful to you.
It’s entirely possible to experience the same transformation in worship. It might be the smell of candles, or burning incense, or fresh cut flowers that reminds of a certain worship experience or a special spiritual happening. The sensual memories are so strong that we’re flooded with remembering.
What Mary did with the perfume was considered extravagant. Judas thought it was wasteful. And he probably wasn’t alone in his opinion. But Jesus squelched all of that thinking in the bud when he said, “Leave her alone.”
Jesus knew what God’s plans for him were. He knew his death sentence was imminent so why not let Mary anoint his feet. Jesus knew what God was doing. We, on the other hand just like the disciples, aren’t always as intuitive. We often ask ourselves, “What’s God doing now?” Or we ask, “What’s God going to do now?”
The Prophet reminds us God’s doing a new thing. We’re told not to look back. Don’t think about the old days; they’re over and done with. God is doing a new thing. He has new plans and it’s nothing like he’s done before. So, what’s God doing now?
You know, that’s a really good question. What do you think God is doing now? The session has been reflecting on that question for three or four months now. It’s not always easy to know what God’s up to.
Our Old Testament lessons remind us that God does things way beyond anything we can ever imagine. The wilderness their ancestors lived in for 40 years was going to be transformed with water, rivers flowing through them. Whatever it is God does it’s always a surprise, way beyond our wildest dreams.
Everyday when I wake up and stumble out of bed I wonder, “What’s God going to do today?” Sometimes as the day progresses the question changes to, “What’s He doing now?”
Friends, Mary gave a very extravagant gift to her rabbi and her friend. I wonder what it felt like to give such a precious gift and pour it out on Jesus.
I asked the young folks to think about their most precious possessions now it’s our turn. What are our most precious possessions? What is God planning to do with them if we give them up to Him? Is it possible for us to let go of them and let Him have them?
If we did would we stop asking, “What’s God doing now?” I don’t know. Maybe we’d be filled with awesome wonder and unable to put our experiences into words. It might be that our senses would be better at remembering and knowing what our Creator is up to.
I was reminded as I read these passages that just as Jesus was journeying to the cross and his death so are we moving toward death. Every day brings us closer to that moment. Can we with Paul give it all to Jesus so that we can experience the resurrection? Is it possible for us to give Him our most precious and costly possessions trusting in God’s providence? That was Paul’s plan. Everything else he used to think had value was just rubbish now compared to what Christ offered. He wasn’t looking back. He wanted to be in on whatever God was doing at that moment without question.
The question for us today is, “Are we ready to give it all to Him who died so that we might be free?” Are we ready to join God in whatever he’s doing today, without question?
Our old sinful natures will call our decisions “rubbish” just like the Pharisees said about the things Jesus did, but not our Father. He will take the meager offerings of our lives and transform them into gems that are too precious to put a price to.
What’s God doing now? He doing wondrous, new things that we never imagined were possible. That’s what God’s doing now. And he ready to take our lives and change them too. Can we take the first step and commit our all to Him?
Friends, God loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him. Thanks be to God. Amen.