Monday, March 22, 2010

God is Making All Things New

I gathered with the leaders of a church named Bethany. As a conversation starter I asked them about their name. No one in the group was present at the naming. No one recalled giving much thought to it. We explored the scripture together, looking for Bethany. In time, someone commented, "Bethany appears to be the place where Jesus felt at home.

"Then, someone else mused, "It would be wonderful if our church were a place where Jesus feels at home?"

Jesus' love for this family -- Mary and Martha and Lazarus -- is obvious. Their home in Bethany is a place of retreat, of companionship, of refreshment. In this place, we see how God acts to make all things new.

Tears flow and perfume is poured out. Both are acts of love and devotion. Jesus weeps by Lazarus' tomb. Mary pours out costly perfume and anoints the feet of Jesus. As Jesus weeps, death and grief is palpable. The smell of the perfume fills the air and Jesus' own death is foreshadowed.

The stories are woven together artfully. Mary is identified in the second verse of the preceding chapter (John 11:2) as "the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair." By intent, the stories intertwine and enrich one another: the stories explore love and grief, devotion and resistance, death and resurrection.

Some of the religious leaders are distressed by the raising of Lazarus. They resist, afraid of losing their own power and influence: "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him..." (John 11:48). Those who see Mary's extravagant act of devotion are immediately critical: "Why did she not sell the perfume and give it to the poor?"

The foreboding of the suffering and death of Jesus are vividly present. The sense of danger heightens. Mary is treated as Jesus is treated. Those who love Jesus will share in his suffering. New life will not come easily.

As we approach this Fifth Sunday in Lent, let us own with Paul our greatest desire: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings..." In any place of your own suffering, may Christ be with you in your place at the foot of the Cross.

With gratitude for your ministry,

--Bishop Hope Morgan Ward

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

No comments: