(Click HERE to find the video feed. Bless you deeply and richly!)
Generous Giving: “Extravagance and Extra-vigilance”
Lent 6, Palm Sunday, 04/05/2020
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
This morning we begin with a Musical Prelude that was written, composed, played and sung by Jake Davis. Listen to this (and read along) as a testimony of faith – and consider the ways his words could be your own words [“Walk with the Carpenter”].
Spokane is just about to start its third week of “quarantine”. And, looks like we are this way until Cinco de Mayo! Maybe longer. Please let us know if you need help gathering food, supplies, medicines. We will get through this, but it does mean hunkerin’ down a little deeper and little longer.
I really just want to talk about Holy Week services and Maundy Thursday Communion and Easter Cantatas, etc…. But, alas, on this Palm Sunday we are waving these “jazz-hands” [palms], and we are doing daily Holy Week devotionals on-line, and the Easter Cantata is on hold until whenever we’re allowed to get back together again.
Until then, we rely on our faith-roots to grip tight to God’s Word and God’s truth, and to find hope, peace, joy and love wherever we can.
Our worship today comes from several locations, so, bear with us – our opening music was recorded earlier, as was our Call to Worship – our prayers and preaching will be “live” – hang with us as we struggle to make this happen as smoothly as we can.
Friends, be filled with God’s holy presence and power, in your homes, through your phones and computers, and in your lives. Feel free to laugh at our efforts … and pray with us … and hear God’s Word.
Vern Lightbody leads us in the liturgical responsive Call to Worship from Romans 11:33-36 (the Message).
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today we read a Bible story that happens early on Jesus’-Palm-Sunday-entrance-day into Jerusalem – from John 12:1-8 …. —-
To set the stage for this story, the chapter that leads into this tells the story of Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus who had died, and Jesus raised Him back to life. This is the same story where the “shortest verse in the Bible exists”, right? “Jesus wept.” So, Lazarus died, and his sisters Mary and Martha are grieving. Mary stayed in the house and Martha went out to find Jesus – you remember the other Mary and Martha story where Martha is doing all the work and complains that Mary is just sitting at Jesus’ feet – this time Mary is just sitting at home crying and Martha seeks Jesus’ presence! And Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life – do you believe this?”
Then we come to today’s story – a pre–triumphant entry story, it’s actually preparatory for the triumphant entry story – Bethany is a town on the back side of the Mount of Olives – Jesus walks the 2 miles from Bethany around the hill, past the Garden of Gethsemane, down the hill toward Jerusalem and the people prepare the path with palm frawns and their cloaks and blankets! But, just before that:
1 Six days before the Passover [on the weekend before what became Resurrection Sunday], Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served [as would be expected, I guess], while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; [picture this, smell the aroma, listen for the splashing liquid, experience the wonder] she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Think of all the ways we might show kindness to others. Our Generous Giving devotional points out that even in this short story we count five or six ways kindness is shown in Lazurus’ house:
- Friends opened their home to Jesus
- Martha served Him dinner
- Lazarus offered the gift of his presence
- Mary anointed Jesus’ feet
- Judas reminds those gathered of other ways they could love, of their responsibility to the poor
- Jesus reminds those gathered that the opportunities to show kindness are abundant
The two main characters here are Mary and Judas. Mary does the amazing thing with her hair and expensive perfume. And Judas, the author tells us, is a selfish pig who only looks out for himself.
Imagine, with me, for just a minute, that we don’t know Judas, that the author doesn’t give us the inside scoop that Judas is a thief, and is about to betray Jesus, the Hero of the Gospel Accounts. Do you disagree with him here? He tells us that this expensive anointment could have fed hundreds at the Union Gospel Mission, it could have provided diapers for dozens of single moms, it might have been traded for two cases of Charmin® toilet paper!
Have you ever looked at one of the great cathedrals in Europe (or downtown or the South Hill) and thought, “Wow! This is amazingly beautiful, but there are homeless people all around the building – what a waste!”? We might also say that about our new car, our extra bathroom, our vacation to DC or Cali or Mexico… right?
People are suffering everywhere! They are suffering in Bethany, in Bethlehem, in Jerusalem; they are suffering in downtown Spokane, in Hillyard, right outside our doors on Nevada Street. Jesus has made it His mission to care for those in need – the widows and orphans, the sick and lonely, the imprisoned and home-bound. But in this story, here they are, enjoying a delicious meal and pouring expensive ointment on feet! When Jesus leaves Lazarus’ house smelling like Scrooge McDuck’s cologne closet – what will people say?!
So, what do we make of this? Jesus says that Mary did the necessary thing – this perfume is a part of His burial ritual – but He’s not dead yet! We are still sixish days before he will be arrested and crucified! But Mary remembers the day Jesus came to comfort them after Lazarus’ death, and she remembers how Martha had stated her belief in Jesus as the resurrection and the life! This is Mary’s way to demonstrate her extravagant faith, too.
Yes, God calls us to care for those around us who are in need – but that does not mean we don’t also honor God with our sacrifices directly to offer praise to Him! There must be a balance!
In just a few days Jesus is about to invite His disciples to join Him for His last supper – instituting the Communion Feast, which we are about to celebrate in our homes.
Communion embodies Jesus’ extravagant love for us – His life and death given for our sake. As we observe, let’s do so celebrating God’s extravagance – but also remembering that His lavish love overflows our lives as we experience extra-vigilance in caring for our neighbors!
Today is officially Palm Sunday. The end of John chapter 12 tells this story – Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Why did we read the PRE-triumphant story today? Because there will be a Sunday when we can meet TOGEHER again! THAT day will be a celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem [and Spokane and LPC] – THAT day we will celebrate the Lord’s Table and Communion TOGETHER – THAT day we will celebrate EASTER, the RESURRECTION, our Lord’s VICTORY over death and over COVID-19!
Until then, let’s pray … with extravagant and extra-vigilant faith….
Prayers Offering Communion Service –Prayer led by Linda Tufto…..
Friends, today we experience something brand new to the whole Christian Community – I mean, we’re not the first church to do this, but we are the first generation to wrestle with this as a possible thing to do – On-line Communion.
There has been much debate – over the theology and over the practical practice of – celebrating the Communion meal … while not in communion with each other.
So, to set the record for us – we are in an unusual life-circumstance wherein keeping distant from each other is the wise option for health – so this will be an unusual, irregular, and not-to-be-made-normal practice.
“Virtual Communion” draws from something in the past (the actual sharing of Communion that we have previously experienced) and looks forward to something in the future (the restoration of this practice once the present constraints are relaxed). This should remind us that our usual practices have exactly the same status!
And we look forward to something even much greater—a feast in the Kingdom of Heaven, where our sharing is not just a morsel, but a fully satisfying feast on God and all His extravagant goodness with all of creation. Today, in our homes, or when we are restored back to our Christian community, we experience a mere foretaste of a much fuller reality.
What matters here is not what we offer to God, but what God offers to us, His whole people, gathered together, to receive both Christ and “all the benefits of his Passion” as we remember Him in bread and the cup.
So … from geographically afar, but in Christ, gathered in His name over our phones, tablets and computers … using whatever elements we might have in our own homes … we hear the Words of Christ:
As Christ sat in that Upper Room, with His disciples (including that same Judas who had by now already betrayed Him), He took the simplest elements of the Passover Meal and made them far more powerfully meaningful.
Follow-along with me, [hit the like button or click the <3] with whatever simple elements you have in your home, something like bread, and something like wine or grape juice –
Jesus took the “bread”, and He blessed it and broke it, and said, “This is my Body broken for you, every time you eat of this, do so in memory of me” – as we receive the gift of broken bread, “together”, receive also Jesus as the true resurrection and the life….
And He took “the cup”, gave thanks and blessed it, saying “this cup is the Cup of Redemption, the New Covenant, my blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins, every time you drink of this, do so in memory of me” – He also said that He would “not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He sees us in Paradise” – so we look forward to when we shall do this together in person, face-to-face again, and even more-so in the Heavenly Kingdom, face-to-face with Jesus Himself! – as we receive the gift of “this” cup poured out, receive also Christ’s extravagant love and extra-vigilant mission to be at one with Him!
Marksbury, Erika; Generous Giving: An Illustrated Devotional; Illustrated Ministry; Racine, WI; 2020; Pp. 24-26.