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17th March 2013 – Lent 5 – Matthew Moistner


Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Isaiah 43. 16-21; Philippians 3. 4b-14 & John 12. 1-8

Sermon Text

Matthew Moistner

Matthew Moistner © Sybille Yates


When I was asked to preach on this day, St. Patrick’s Day, I was enthusiastic. Although Scottish, not Irish, we do share the Celtic connection with our Irish brethren. This is the reason for the kilt today, to show love and to honour those in our congregation who hail from Ireland or those who have Irish ancestry.

Our gospel reading from John also shows us an act of love and honour. Six days before Passover, Jesus went to Bethany. While there, he visited the sisters Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. It was while Jesus was there that an event unfolded that tells us just how much one can love another. Mary took a very valuable ointment and anointed Jesus’s feet and wiped his feet with her hair. Why would she do such a thing? Was it on impulse? Was it to return the favour of Jesus’s earlier act of raising her brother from the dead? Whatever her motives, one thing is clear. The love that she had for Jesus was more valuable than any amount of ointment.

In our lives, how often do we do something out of impulse for love? How often do we do something in return for a previous act of kindness? I’m not talking about the impulse such as impulse buying, although this I imagine could be construed as being done for the love of shopping! Rather, doing something on impulse for the ones we love. Just last Christmas I bought for my wife a beautiful gold watch. I didn’t plan to do this when I awoke in the morning. However, such was the beauty of this watch that, on impulse, I bought it to show my love for her. I didn’t do this because she did something for me, as Jesus did for Mary in raising Lazarus from the dead. But the fact that she had done many favours for me in the past only results in the strength and bonds of love growing stronger. The value of the watch doesn’t lie in its worth, but it lies in its gesture and meaningfulness. Mary took the most precious thing she had, the ointment, and used it on Jesus. Not only that, but she also wiped his feet with her hair showing just how much she loved him. In Palestine, a woman normally had her hair tied up. To have a woman with her hair unbound was a sign of an immoral woman. Yet this did not worry Mary as such was the strength of her love, she didn’t care what others thought. The outside world and those around her were oblivious to her. At that precise moment she wanted to show Jesus just how much she loved him.

It wasn’t only Mary’s actions. The ointment itself also played a part in showing to the world the love she had for Jesus. The house was filled with the perfume of the ointment. You can just imagine this beautiful aroma of the perfume permeating throughout the house. This wasn’t simply the aroma of the perfume; this was the aroma of love. As this beautiful fragrance spread throughout the house, so did love. The fragrance was a love that grew and grew, stronger and stronger until it was all around the room; it was around them and it was within them. For this beautiful fragrance wasn’t only something that hung in the air, this beautiful fragrance was also the actions of Mary. This beautiful fragrance that permeates throughout the house and throughout our lives is love.

We can still experience this fragrance today. It lives on through the words of today’s gospel reading. We, as Christians, often hide the fact that we are Christians. We are often very self-conscious of showing others that we are Christians and don’t outwardly advertise the fact for fear of ridicule or what others might think of us. Yet we could all take a page out of Mary’s book. Let us not worry about what others might think; let us show the Lord that we love him unequivocally, as we love our wives, our husbands and our children. We are not afraid to show love to our wives, our husbands, our children. We do this every day in our lives with small tokens of affection. It may be a kiss in the morning as we say goodbye to go out to work. It may be a home cooked meal waiting for us as we come home at night. It could even be a beautiful gold watch at Christmas. As Christians, we wear rings to advertise the fact that we are married and that someone else holds our heart. These acts are beautiful and wonderful and we don’t mind displaying to the outside world the love we have for our wives, husbands and children because we love them so strongly. However, is showing love to our wives, our husbands and our children simply enough? What about showing our love to God as Mary had shown to Jesus? Now I’m not suggesting we should all wear crosses around our necks and walk down the street with a bible in our hand. It also doesn’t have to only be shown in the collection plate every Sunday. We could still advertise the fact that we are Christians and that we love God every day by showing it through our actions toward others. Let us not be embarrassed to show our love to God just as Mary was not embarrassed to show her love for Jesus.

Judas Iscariot did not see Mary’s act of love. What he saw, he was not very happy with. What he saw was that the ointment was being wasted. He begged the question, why was this ointment not sold for ten pounds and the proceeds given to the poor? Was Judas really thinking of the poor or were his motives due to his own selfishness? Judas did not see this as an act of unselfish love but as an act of irresponsibility. He wanted the money for himself for he was put in charge of the money box. We, as sinful Christians, sometimes act in the way of Judas. We often put our own needs first and sometimes do not see the meaning behind the actions that occur right before our very eyes. We don’t think of Mary’s actions as a sign of heartfelt love but as a waste of a profitable opportunity.

In the final line of our gospel reading, Jesus states that the poor you will always have with you, but me you have not always. Mary knew that Jesus’s time was near and would never have the chance again to show him her love. Some opportunities will never come again if we don’t act on them now. The impulse, such as the buying of the gold watch, was an impulse reaction to show great love. I felt something at the time; saw this beautiful watch and I decided to buy it. Had I waited or thought about it, perhaps I would have purchased something less meaningful that would have not have shown my true love and appreciation as much. I’m not saying we must often go out and buy on impulse. If I had done that, I’m very sure my gesture of love would be perceived as a gesture of foolishness. We must never shy away from showing true love and living today as God wishes us to do. We should show God our love by living to love and help one another on impulse and not wait and leave it for a later time. For, as the old proverb states; ‘you never know what you’ve got, until it’s gone.’ We might never again have the opportunity to once again show our love to one another or to God. Let us remember to do things now, to not only tell those around us that we love them but also to open our hearts to God, because we may never have that opportunity again.