We are inching closer to Holy Week and hearing again what is often called the Passion Narrative. The first week in April we will read again the chapters that record Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Thanks to Mel Gibson’s film a few years ago, the word Passion brings to mind negative thoughts of blaming Jewish people for Jesus’ death and a glorification (even fixation) of violence. To be sure, what we will read over the coming days is violent. It is a violence that is echoed every night in our news: whether it is a gunman in France or racial tension between police and different ethnicity or the YouTube video on Uganda’s Kony being viewed over 84 million times. And because violence is around us, we sometimes prefer for the church to be a sanctuary; a place set apart where for at least a few fleeting moments we don’t have to face the brokenness or violence of the world. For a few minutes we can rest. For a few minutes we can convince ourselves that maybe singing hymns with gusto and listening to sermons about love are really what the world is about…only to walk out the church door out into a world where no one is singing hymns and very few people ever talk about love.
Part of the reason why I believe Holy Week is important is because it does invite us to immerse ourselves in the world God so loves. And such immersion is to deal with the vulnerable, raw, and real emotions of life. Real and raw emotions like heartbreak, betrayal, denial, brokenness, pain, and death. And we do that not to feel guilty or to glorify these emotions as more faithful than others such as joy or love; we experience Holy Week year after year after year to remind ourselves that God can be found on the mountain top and in the valley. God is relentless in relationship both when the lights are on and the laughter comes easy and when we feel like we are in the midnight of our soul.
The reading above is a foreshadowing of the brokenness that begins Holy Week. A woman breaks open a jar of perfume and dumps it over Jesus. Ever walk through the cosmetic section of Boston Store? I find myself wheezing and rushing to get through the strong odor! Imagine how fragrant a whole vase of perfume would be. That scent might have followed Jesus all the way to the cross. And that was the point Jesus said when the others scoffed (the literal translation is the disciples snorted at her). Jesus affirms the ministry and love of this woman, says we will always remember her…just not her name unfortunately. But maybe that is okay. Maybe when we read this we should remember a woman in our life whose love and presence and actions recently made a difference to us. I think about my kids’ teachers who are both women and both give tremendous amount of time and energy and love to my kids. I think about my Wednesday and Saturday morning Bible study groups which would very lonely to lead, because 99% of the attendees are women. Where have you recently been blessed by a woman…remember her…say her name aloud.
One other quick note. This passage ends with Judas deciding to stir the pot and betraying Jesus. In my mind, it is not a coincidence that right after criticizing this woman’s actions for financial reasons, Judas gets the proverbial bag with a dollar sign on it. Money is often a reason why we judge things right or wrong. Money is often a factor for doing something or not doing something. Unlike the widow who freely offers all she has, unlike the unnamed woman who recklessly and lovingly pours out a costly jar of perfume, Judas turns right around and has not learned the lesson of money. The question for us today to ponder is, have we?
Prayer: Gracious God guide our words today. Slow our tongue when we are critical to instead speak the truth in love. Enter our lives when we go to reach for our wallets to ponder Your call. And help open our noses to the smells all around us today. In the name of the one who was drenched by perfume, Jesus our Christ. Amen.