Thursday, March 14, 2013

Head over heels

The readings for Sunday 17th  March . Lent 5 (formerly known as Passsion Sunday) Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126;Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8
This story (John 12:1-8) in which a woman pours strong perfumed oil over Jesus, 
spikenard (here), always reminds me of an incident with our eldest child 
who one day aged 2 or three sprinkled a whole bottle of perfume over herself and through the house. The perfume was aptly name Poison
It helped me to appreciate a number of things:
  • How quickly kids learn to emulate their parents without any fear of consequences.
  • The difference between perfume and scent (not immediately obvious to men...other than by cost)
  • And how children remind us of our stupid attachments. 
  • She was having fun...but I, mindful of the cost, noted how this could have been better spent on the poor!!
Yet is is not difficult to understand what is being said here. 
God is extravagant.
God pours out on us the costliest perfume there is...Jesus
And the "smell" totally fills our life and transforms us.
We can be scandalised 
by the waste and extravagance
but in the end...the gesture, the passion, the statement
are more important 
than the meanness
which we are so often given to.

This story is "over the top", 
extravagant, passionate...even poisonousBecause God is like that..."over the top" and passionate.
John's narrative 
invites us to share God's life
in the way that God 
shares life with us.

We use the word Passion 
to describe the climax of this story.
It is a word that is oft used and abused.
Our world almost uses it 
as a synonym for lust filled desire
Our "passionate" relationships
are filled with bodily heat, 
and risk
of daring and bravado.
Passion puts us in a place
where we usually do not like to be.
(Certainly not after the age of 30!)

As we go back to the linguistic roots
we discover that Passion
does not mean "hot steamy sex" at all
it means sufferingSo this is why we refer to the stories of Jesus's arrest and crucifixion
as The Passion.

ConnectionIf we think this through 

then we understand something fairly important
about God, about our call to be like God,and about the challenge to be passionate.

And it is that LOVE and SUFFERING
are so intimately connected
that they can't actually be separated.
If we are to Love Passionately then we will
we will Suffer.

The great theme of John's gospel
is that God Loves us:
his people and his creation
so much so 

that he will give us a Son
who will be the total expression of his love for us
More than this, 

this Son
who is God's great gift
will be poured out over us, 

over the world, 
over those who believe, 
over humanity
with the same extravagance
that we witness in this story
of the most precious ointment
just being flung about
as if there is no tomorrow.

Do we get this?
or do we, like Judas,
stand back and see

not the invitation to throw ourselves into life and love
but rather we  say...What a waste?

it is "a waste" certainly!
but there is also a sense 

in which you cannot love any other way!
If you are to love
then you are to love passionately
if you love passionately 

then there will be pain.
This pain, this suffering
will in itself be redemptive
and open up our lives 

to a new way of being human.

This is risky and powerful stuff.

We need to scrutinise our own lives and relationships:
Are they passionate? Do we want them to be?
Where do we spend more energy protecting ourselves, 

holding back
so that we might not be hurt?
Are we afraid to share our thoughts, 

to discuss and admit our failures?
Can we admit weakness, 

say sorry, 
risk rejection?
If passion means suffering then it will mean all these things.
We are not here talking about the passing relationships 

with acquaintances and people we don't really know
this is about the relationships 

we want and need to work.
Do we wonder why things have gone cold, 

have we lost the means of being passionate,
the courage to risk being hurt 

or to be criticised
to be courageous
or loving.

This week
Where is God calling us to confront our own meanness in our human relationships? 

Can we open ourselves to being more passionate?

Pray for confidence to trust God's promises through the Passion and Death of our Lord and Saviour, even though this means suffering, there is also redemption and a new way of living

JESUS, you love us passionately
as you are anointed with an extravagant gift of love
so you also anoint us with the passionate gift of your life

Grant me the courage to live passionately
give me the desire to live life as you show us how to live
let me live expansively in your Spirit
rather than narrowly in my smallness
for you are my Lover
you are my Passion
you are my Hope

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