Sermon, Lent 5C, Sunday March 17, 2013, St Petri
Believing is Seeing: that we are free to let old things go and see
Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8
All things new
After viewing the media file “all_things_new”
What’s your next move?
Yes. What is our next move as people seeking the Spirit’s gift of faith so we can believe, and then his gift of new vision, so we can see more of Jesus at work in our lives and our church?
Will we cling on to what we know or forget the former things and leave the past troubles and ask God to help us believe and then see Him doing something new at St Petri and new with me and you?
This a choice his disciples had to over and over again. Imagine being in this room with that scented smell of perfume, the sound of a crying women and the sight a this woman kneeling over Jesus’ feet under the table – wiping his feet with this Chanel No 5 and her tears and then drying his feet with her own hair….
Would you have looked away in embarrassment at this show of complete abandonment to Jesus?
Would you have felt like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal sons – trumped in good behaviour by an outsider, an immoral person, a person not deserving of God’s affection?
Would you have then been angry with this woman who was not part of the inner circle – and doing this publicly embarrassing act of devotion.
Would you have been awestruck by the love and kindness on display from this Mary?
Judas could not go with this new thing God was doing. He could not embrace this act of devotion and love because he knew neither it seems. His hear was on other treasure. It was on treasure, not Jesus, we hear. And as Jesus said earlier, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also”.
But there was another man at this table who I reckon would not have looked away in the slightest. He probably would have been sitting back taking in this magnificent scene of devotion and heart-felt love and affection for Jesus. Lazarus. John tells us that he was there. In fact, Lazarus and his sister Martha were throwing this village party to honour Jesus. Surely it would have been to say thanks you to Jesus and to God for that miracle of miracles that had happened just a week ago – Lazarus was raised from that smelly dark tomb!
Now Lazarus is taking in the sweet small of perfumed air and the close affection with Jesus and Mary who does this great sign of devotion in front this large crowd in the house – this large crowd that were there to see the dead man now raised!
Lazarus is a living sign of the reality that when you simply believe in Jesus’ word and take his direction and leave the old ways behind – even death! New light, new light and new possibilities dawn. It is not until you have let go of an old thing of sinful self that you can see and enjoy the new thing of God’s righteousness and peace in your life.
“Come out” yelled Jesus out near there too that day. Lazarus came out! Lazarus now sits in the presence of his Lord seeing another attentive and devoted follower of Jesus believing and seeing.
Because Mary simply believed and showed her believing in devotion and service to Jesus, she saw what few others seemed to be able to see – Jesus coming death.
Jesus can see too. He tells them. Mary is not being irresponsible or greedy. She is not grandstanding. She is not trying to be one up on the other 11 in the inner circle or anyone else there. She is embalming his body for its imminent burial.
There would be more to come. There would be more moments of decision for these followers of Jesus as the week progressed to its end. In one moment after another, all of them would have to continually let go of how they had seen things before Jesus showed up. They would have to enter the struggle that he brought to bear on them. They would have to re-learn who God is, who Jesus is and who they were in light of all they saw and heard.
And isn’t that still how it is for all follower of Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected Son of God? Isn’t the Christian life one of continually letting go of what we think is so sure and so right when we are confronted with God’s way of things in his often “upside down kingdom” where the greatest things and people are the least the least are the greatest in his view?
I sense that many of us are aware to a greater or lesser extent that the Lord is up to something among us at St Petri. On the one hand, that excites us: What could God be doing with 500 people in the northern end of the Barossa Valley, SA?
If he can raise a dead friend and affirm a devoted woman and go on to be raised from death once and for all for all people, then what could he be doing with me and us?
Could my hopes and dreams for my local church start to be fulfilled in ways I did not expect or even understand?
Could the things that annoy me, disappoint me, hurt me about my church be left behind and a new St Petri emerge like a phoenix from the ashes? Is this actually happening around my ears and eyes in these weeks, months and years?
If so, what kind of phoenix would me and my church family be for this community?
On the other it scares us: Will I have to let go of the part I have been playing to make way for the new? Will I have to put my hand up for something I don’t even know I can do? Will I have to lay down the old wounds and issues and honestly let the Spirit of Jesus take it from me so he then can give me new gift, a new thing to get involved with, a new awareness of him in my life – even a new love for his people in my church. Could the Lord be calling us to a new way of doing what we know we are good at doing – all in Service of Jesus with his people?
Whether this new era scares you or inspires you, there is one reality here in these words of the Lord this morning that makes all the difference for us.
God makes us new.
The real joy in this telling dinner party scene is not that wonderful act of devotion and love done by Mary or the happy guy sitting at the table enjoying a better smell than he was a week ago! The real joy is the One who is getting ready for burial – and resurrection. That is the act of devotion, love for God and mighty power that is hope and life and new vision.
God makes us new.
As Isaiah says;
God brings us through the dark sea.
God makes a path for us to live on.
He turns our dry rocky hearts into gardens of life and living water.
God provides in any kind of weather of the soul
God gives us holy food and drink for forgiveness and life.
God forms us into a local church so all we can do is proclaim him with thanks and joy and love.
Friends, can you honestly say to the people around you – the doubters, the fellow followers, and all in between, I count money, clothes, fashion, wealth, popularity, things – even my very self as loss in comparison to knowing personally the love and affection of Jesus of Nazareth?
If you can’t, just wait on him. It will come. If you can, then say it and do it as Mary, Martha and Lazarus and the others did it.
What will the Crucified Lord of the Church do with us? What would the Spirit of Christ do with a few hundred people who count all the tea in China as loss as they gain more and more of Jesus in their daily living and doing?
I am not sure. My imagination is not that broad and my understanding not that limitless. But God’s imagination and understanding is broad and high and wide.
We will discover together again in this new time what a local community of Jesus’ people can contribute to a world in need.
To do so requires that we let the new time come and this only happens when we let the old way go.
Not that we forget our story and who God has made us to be. We respect each other because being a person connected to a local church means “learning to love the people with whom we have found ourselves in a local church”.
We love who we are and where we have come from as we follow Him together and simply ask that he help us believe and then help us see more of his will, his ways, his power, his compassion and love for his world.
Friends, there is only one thing to do together at St Petri,
“…..Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 we press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Jesus”.
Small Group Conversation Starters
If you could ask God to help you leave behind one thing, what would t be and why?
If you could ask God to give you one new things, what would it be and why?
MARY AND JUDAS
Mary showed such “gay abandon” regarding her own status and place in the community as she did this thing – a thing that many of the people in the room would not have understood or judged as “embarrassing” at the very least. Why did she do this at any cost – even at the risk of being judged as shameful by some.
What is Judas doing? What does his response to Mary’s act of devotion to Jesus show about his own heart and desire?
Where are you in the story? Sometimes with Judas, sometimes with Mary? Where are you with the Lord now – little distant or self-concerned or more connected and willing in your devotion to him?
How does Jesus respond to both Mary and then Judas?
He mentions embalming as preparation for his own burial.
He mentions this concern for the poor and the reality that “the poor will always be with us”. What is he saying here?
What does his presence and his death, burial and resurrection have to do with the ever-present poor and how his followers are to live in him?