Reflection for March 25 – Kate Heichler

 Mark 14:1-11

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Reflection – Kate Heichler

Is this act by an unnamed woman (in John’s gospel this act is attributed to Mary of Bethany, who anoints Jesus’ feet with the nard…) – is this an act of worship or of wasteful extravagance? Obviously, many of the men who witness this event see it as scandalously wasteful. It gives Judas Iscariot the push he needs to follow through on the plans for betray Jesus to the religious leaders. Jesus saw it another way, as an act of honor presaging his imminent death and burial; he predicts that this woman’s act would be told all around the world and across time. And it has been. 

Here’s a question for us: Shouldn’t worship always be wasteful? Extravagant, inefficient, overflowing in beauty? Is time spent in worship productive? Is it cost-effective to build, preserve and heat buildings of towering beauty that are used for a few hours a week? Are all those words and prayers and songs and flowers and publicity really gaining anything? Not by the world’s standards.

But we don’t live by the world’s standards. We are invited to live by God’s standard’s – a God whose love for us is so extravagant, he gave his only Son to come into humanity in order to save us. One Good Friday I was feeling depressed about the world, and I said to Jesus, “Was it worth it? For this? For us?”

Obviously, he thought so or he wouldn’t have given himself over unto death – for only so could he break the hold death had on us. We worship a God of extravagant love – and this woman knew that was the best way to love God back. Let’s love God back by the time we “waste” in worship this week!

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