“Mary took a pound of costly per

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					Lent 5, 3/21/10 - John 12:1-8             Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’
feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance
of the perfume.” (v. 3)

We humans spend a lot of money on perfume and cosmetics, billions and
billions of dollars every year I’ve read. Mary had spent the equivalent of a
whole year’s wages on that jar of pure nard, a perfume, a fragrant oil, made
from the root of a plant from the Himalayas of India.

But let’s not be overwhelmed by the fragrance nor by the expensive price
tag just yet. There is so much more to see and ponder in this scene from the
gospel of John.

It is a dinner party in Bethany, a town not far from Jerusalem, at the home
of Jesus’ friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. But it is more than a simple get
together on a Friday night with frozen Lasagna. John is clearly giving us
hints and signs, in this scene, of the divine drama that was unfolding.

Let us not miss the hint of resurrection we see in Lazarus just brought back
from death by Jesus only days before! Perhaps, as he is reclining at table, he
is recounting what it was like to be dead, remembering the feeling of it and
the pungent smell of myrrh all about him.

John also wants us to remember, in the snide and disingenuous speech of
Judas about caring for the poor, the treachery that lies in the human heart,
how quickly we can betray another.

He wants us to see Mary not only as a hostess and friend but also as a
prophet, seeing her anointing of Jesus not as a mere impulse of
extravagance but as a costly act of worship. “...for where your treasure is
there will your heart be also.”

And Jesus? For John, Jesus is the lamb at the Passover feast who now
breathes in the smell of the perfume filling the house as the fragrance of
holy death and the smell of God’s love!

What does God’s love smell like? What is the fragrance of forgiveness, or of
welcome, of new life and freedom? Is it fragrant like flowering magnolia tree
in the front court yard? Like lilac in full bloom? Like newly mown grass in
summer? Like the ocean breeze? Yes, yes indeed!
Lent 5, 3/21/10 - John 12:1-8              Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14

Can it also smell like one who hasn’t bathed in a week, or whose breath is
strong enough to make your eyebrows curl?

Oh yes indeed. All of the above! For we have come to see in Jesus the
fragrance of, the nature, of God’s love reaching out to touch the lives of the
sick, leprous, weak, drunk, outcast wretched of the world to offer welcome
and healing, freedom and new life.

Mary pours out her whole bottle of perfume without hesitation or regret
because she knows it is only a trifle compared to the magnitude of God’s
love that she sees in the Messiah at table before her.

She too smelled the fragrance of a love that filled that house, a love that
now wafts over all history, all creation, and to you and me!

In the everydayness of our lives, amid the tensions and struggles and little
deaths that we experience, in a world torn apart by deep hatreds and
resentments and war, as well as in the joy and beauty that we encounter
and experience, there are the signs and hints of God’s steadfast,
extravagant love.

Certainly the signs and hints are palpably present in this house today as we
hear the words of Jesus around this dinner table and share with him in the
breaking of the bread and the poured wine of this feast.

Come to the Eucharist and taste the goodness of God; encounter the
fragrance of God’s steadfast love for you, for all. Amen.

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