Readings for 5th Sunday in Lent, 3/25/07:
Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8
- "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" - Such words of hope! I think that verses about things being made new are usually among people's favorites in the Bible. Why? We as humans are so faulty, we need to hold on to the hope that God can do something new out of the messes we're creating.
- "The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches." Picture Lion King? Seriously, envision a God who is so awesome that even the wildness, the out-of-control, will honor this God.
- "so that they might declare my praise." I don't know if I like the image of God creating humans simply so there could be someone to praise and worship God. Even for God, that sounds a little cocky, doesn't it? I don't know - I guess I was always more struck by the idea that God created us out of love, and the desire to share love with something. As God says while creating humans, "it is not good for [human] to be alone." Perhaps neither is it good for God!
- "we were like those who dream." I like this verse - sounds like it should be from some Shakespeare play, some poetry. The psalmist talks about how surreal/unreal/dreamlike it felt to be restored, to be made whole again by God, to be returned to Zion. What, in your dreams, could God make of your life?
- "May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy." A good benediction!
- One of my least favorite things about Paul is that I feel he is always boasting about himself while pretending to be humble. But here, he actually is making good, thoughtful points about his identity and his identity in Christ. A faithful Jew all his life, Paul says his faith identity would give him reason to boast except that now, in Christ, these things are "regard[ed] as loss]." Why? These things simply aren't important in Christ: in Christ there is no Greek or Jew.
- "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead." Like last week's texts, here again is a theme of a clean slate. It isn't easy to forget the past. Indeed, it is not always wise either. But what Paul urges here is to forget the identity that was without Christ, so that we can focus on 'the prize' of living fully in Christ in the present/future.
- How does that translate in this text? Well, first, I note that John never mentions Judas without also mentioning that Judas would later betray Christ! (This annoys me.) But, it also makes me ask, would I react any differently than Judas at this seeming waste? Probably not. I'm not much for extravagance. I don't like spending money on things that seem frivolous, like jewelry, makeup, etc. Perfume would definitely be included for me. How would you react? Honestly!
- "You always have the poor with you..." How I wish Jesus had never uttered these words! How often they have been taken out of context as an excuse not to do all we can to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed and impoverished. If only he could imagine how wrongly we would use his words!
- Overall, I think Jesus is speaking about the time of God. As a freshman in my first religion class at OWU, with Dr. Emmanuel Twesigye, I first learned the Greek words chronos and kairos, our regular human time, and "God's right time for action." I think Jesus allows Mary's action here because she is rightly sensing the kairos time they are in. This was precious time with Jesus, preparation time, on the extremely difficult journey to the cross. After Jesus went to the cross, there would be much work, much work to do. And God would/does indeed demand us to do this work of service. But for a moment, these matters of preparation had there place.