Uncontrollable. Her actions seem uncontrollable. Her desire unstoppable. Driven by unseen forces, incensed by the scent of axe body spray, or old spice, or the latest super manly cologne the women in the adds are compelled to some PDA, some public display of affection. Some of us might find these male hygiene commercials amusing, others offensive–that we women can be so easily driven by passion, driven to act out, driven to unseemly, reckless, inappropriate acts of affection.
While we can’t be certain how everybody in the room that day in Bethany, as Mary kneels in front of Jesus, opens up that expensive jar of ointment, perfume, and pours it on his feet, and pulls her hair out from behind her vail, taking it out if it’s constraints of combs and ties, and drapes her face over his legs and feet. We can’t be certain how everybody responded. We know only of two. The gospel writer John only gives us Judas’ words, and we are told right away that he Judas was embezzling, stealing. We also know that Judas is on a path of betrayal. We can’t be certain, but I’m wonder if the others were uncomfortable. Perhaps Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back from the dead was jealous of his sister Mary’s boldness. Martha who is once again hard at work may not exactly rejoice in her sister’s audacious and unhelpful actions. We can only imagine what the others felt, how they reacted or didn’t with Mary’s PDA –public. display of affection, or if you will–public display of adoration or audacity.
What we do know is how Jesus responded. Jesus doesn’t do what he should. He doesn’t correct her, tell her to leave him alone, to stop touching him, pull herself together. Instead Jesus welcomes this audacious act. He welcomes the immoderate act of love, affection, gratitude.
What makes this scene so much more powerful is that this isn’t a victory lap, a holiday party. There is real danger, very real threats of violence. The leaders, we are told are out to get Jesus, by any means necessary, and in the days before drones, and assault weapons, this is going to get personal, and going to get ugly quick. Judas will betray Jesus. His followers will scatter, will deny him, will hide, and Jesus will be found guilty of sedition of treason. Then Jesus will be executed as an insurgent. With all that coming on, Mary is compelled to let loose, to give thanks, to show her love with this public display of affection.
It reminds me of a scene from a movie that many of us probably saw last year. Maybe even read the book in The Hunger Games The main character, Katniss befriends Rue, a competitor in the deadly games. When Rue dies, Katniss decorates this young girl’s body wildflowers. She spends her much needed time and energy on this outpouring, extravagant, and fleeting act of love in an arena of death.
Some look at us here, look at us know and wonder why? Why are we spending our time, our energy, why do we gather with people who don’t look, act, speak, think like we do. Why doe we do what we do? This Public Display of affirmation–of worship, of joining, of being the church. Some call it doing church. Church isn’t just the people, but what the people do together. We have and do church. So this church, what I,’m talking about isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. Now, doing church isn’t just showing up; it isn’t just going through the motions. and when someone says they having church it means they are really getting their praise on, getting into it, worshipping, praying, filled with praise and power. Kind of like Mary who, as we say let it all literally hang out.
Some may say, well it’s Lent, this isn’t a time to praise, we can’t let loose our alleluia’s (oops there I did it) just yet. We have to wait till Easter. It’s not time. Others may just object well simply because they don’t feel very praisy. You know life is hard, we’re can get pretty tired, we’re sick, we’re grieving. Honestly sometimes praise just doesn’t come naturally. We feel like we don’t have a reason to give thanks, to be all out and public about our faith, about Jesus.
Well that’s exactly when we need to be turning to God, literally or figuratively getting down on our knees, praying, praising, hugging, holding hands, forgiving, singing. We need the worship of God’s children to lift us up. We can look at Mary and say wow! We can listen to her, and say amen.
You see God is good all the time. Jesus doesn’t wait till we’ve fixed ourselves, ironed out our troubles. Jesus is here, the Spirit isn’t controlled by the liturgical calendar. God didn’t wait till the slaves in Egypt had their act together, he took them out through the rushing waters. God didn’t let the exiles living in a foreign land suffer there for all eternity, God brought them back, God brought them home. God has done amazing things for our spiritual ancestors. God enabled our parents (maybe not biological, but spiritual) in this congregation to build a place for us to worship, to teach, to share the faith. God didn’t stop in 1917 or 1950, God is doing, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
God will continue to visit us,and fill us with good, when we are feeling old and tired, God’s offering us something new. When are alone, and feel like the world is against us, look around we may not be the rich, the powerful, but we are something more, we are blessed with God’s Spirit of mercy, conviction, driven by the desire to love, to be, to do church, together. Rich or poor–they are always welcome, we are always welcome right here with us. That’s what Jesus meant. Our Jesus would never dismiss the poor. No, that’s why we’re here, where we’re at to be with one another. to be with
Christ. We give baskets full of food, we open our wallets to share our gold, we give sometimes a far more precious commodity our time and our energy. Most importantly we publicly and openly give our hearts to God hearts and our hearts to one another. We don’t share the peace of Christ with hands outstretched, with hugs, and even kisses as a break in worship but as what worship is all about. The world maybe trying to push us down, but Jesus is pulling us up. That’s why we come every week to be uplifted, to see a vision of Jesus alive today and every day, we come to hold and be held, to pray and to be prayed for, we come to worship, commit openly public displays of affection and adoration.