A sermon by the Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, adapted by the Rev. Linda Harrison;
Lent 5, April 7, 2019
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8
I wonder if in this moment, when Jesus is being loved with a grace upon grace kind of love, an abundance of love, a love that you could even smell, with a fragrance that [permeated pores and] would linger for days, that Jesus remembered his mother. Three years ago. Back in Cana. At that wedding. His mother, who loved him, who knew who he was and what he was capable of doing, [even as he said his hour had not yet come]. His mother, without whom, [we might] wonder when Jesus’ ministry would have actually gotten started.
Jesus insists it is not his time, but his mother knows better, as mothers often do. Because of her insistence, Jesus starts doing what he came to do. Because of her encouragement, Jesus realizes the time really had come. Because of her love, Jesus can do what he was sent to do. Jesus’ mother loves Jesus into his future as the Word made flesh.
Now, in Bethany, Jesus finds himself in the same kind of position, the same kind of transition, the same kind of situation. [You see,] immediately after Mary’s [anointing of Jesus], Jesus will enter the city of Jerusalem, [where, on the very next day, he will declare that his time has come]. And so, Jesus needs that same encouragement, that same love, to do what he must do. Mary’s extravagant love for Jesus makes it possible for Jesus to show extravagant love in what follow – washing the feet of the disciples, handing himself over to be arrested in the garden, carrying his own cross, dying, rising, and ascending. Mary loves Jesus into his future as the fulfillment of, “for God so loved the world.”
Jesus needed Mary’s love as much as she needed to show Jesus how much she loved him. That’s pretty much how love works. How relationships work. Reciprocity. Because, here’s the thing. To what extent can you do what you need to do, have to do, even want to do, without another saying, “yes, you can do this;” without another loving you into your future. Jesus is loved into his future by these two remarkable women – his mother and his friend.
[Karoline reminisced on the times when she was loved into her future and I thought of all the incredible moments I was loved into my future, when I was told, “Yes, you can do this. I’ve got your back. I believe in you.” Pursuing an undergraduate degree at thirty years old; working toward and achieving my MDiv as a mother of a toddler and into early elementary age; leaving my home denomination and finding a new one; homeschooling my child; ordination; founding this loving community where my dream is that we love one another into our individual and collective futures, and then love the world into its transformation.]
[Karoline asks,] Do you know what I mean? What it feels like to love someone into their future, even a future that is uncertain, even a future that will mean suffering? And what it means to be loved into your own? That without being loved into that future, you would have stayed right where you were?
But we also know people who object to this kind of love. Who find it unnecessary, a little over-the-top. Those who dismiss such love as wasteful, who think people are better off fending for themselves; that real strength means relying on individual fortitude rather than the faithfulness of others. That real power comes from trusting in your own autonomy and self-made success, rather than believing in the confidence of others.
[And Judas interrupts this abundant love, this reckless and extravagant anointing and] reminds us of the love resisters. These persons who either dismiss this kind of love or insist that only the weak would look for such prodding. These persons who, somewhere along the line, decided that the only future was the one they themselves determined. Or, these persons who, for reasons we will never know, never experienced a Mary kind of love and have never known what a difference it can make – [and it can make] all the difference in the world.
I think Jesus took Mary’s love with him into Jerusalem. I think he acted out her love when he washed the feet of the disciples, especially when washing the feet of Judas who was about to betray him and Peter who would deny him. I think he felt once again Mary’s love, her gentle touch, when he was beaten. I think he held on to Mary’s love, desperately, when he hung on that cross. And, I think he remembered Mary’s love and then, once again, his mother’s love when he looked into her eyes one last time and said, “It is finished.” And, then, I think Jesus took all of that love into the tomb, all of that love that would then love him into his future as the resurrection and the life [and our hope. All of that love poured out upon us, loving us into transformation, a grace upon grace kind of love, an abundance of love the tomb will not and cannot contain.]
Thanks be to God. Amen.