Sunday, March 21, 2010

You Wondered Whether It Was Going Anywhere?

That sermon? So did I, for days. But here, after some thoughts about Mary and her astonishing behavior, is how it finally concluded:

We have religion because we live and then we die – so I once heard a great preacher say. We have a framework in our religious lives, a framework of community and practice, that helps us prepare and respond and endure when death enters our lives. And perhaps it seems at first glance that that’s what this story is about – a small family community that has encountered death, and new life, and is about to encounter death again, and a woman who responds with unabashed and extravagant love to the gift of life that has been offered to her.

But there will be more to this story in the weeks to come. And while we may have religion because we live and die, we have faith because we live and die -- and live again. It is to the source of that faith, the person of Jesus Christ, the person who in his life and in his very being reveals God to us, that Mary’s act points. It is to the relationship of love that he offers that she responds. She responds in kind to a love that is both intimate and powerful, to a love that is itself a priceless treasure, to a love that cannot be contained. She knows, as we all do, the stink of death that pervades our lives when a loved one is lost to us. But she also knows the love that will finally overcome death, the love that is truly stronger than death, because she has encountered it in her friendship with Jesus.

I may not know from personal experience what scent means. I may have to rely on the words of others for descriptions that no doubt cannot do justice to the marvel of an aroma filling a room. But I do know, from Mary’s actions, that love has a fragrance, a fragrance far more powerful than the rank odor of death which her nard was originally intended to counteract. The fragrance of love, poured out by a silent witness, tells us that love triumphs death. The shadow of the cross looms ahead and yes, it is a terrible shadow, the shadow of suffering and defeat, the shadow of the wrenching separation imposed upon us by death. But what pours out from that cross, and seeps into every corner and crevice of human existence, is love. A love so commanding in its brokenness that it rescues our shattered lives and restores them to wholeness. A love so powerful in its silent flow that it saturates everything in its path. A love that invites us to respond fearlessly and extravagantly, allowing it to stream from our lives as freely as oil poured from a jar. Thanks be to God.


  1. and it will keep going places.

  2. Amazing, Robin. And I can't believe I have always missed the connection between "it's been four days--there will be a stench" and the fragrance filling the house.

  3. Love the visual...and really almost aromatic images you offer. How was it to preach this?

  4. Simply beautiful, Robin.