Scripture - John 12:1-8
John 12:1-8 (The Message)
12 1-3 Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.
4-6 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.
7-8 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”
I don’t know what it is about babies and toddlers and kids - but they sure do love to stick their feet in other people’s faces.
I experience this a lot with Genevieve where we’re having to lay down some boundaries around this behavior - where I’ll be rocking her to sleep or nursing before bed and all of a sudden she’s pressing her foot right up against my nose and her feet don’t smell like baby feet anymore - they are starting to smell like little kid feet which makes me sad because she’s growing up so fast...and makes me be like, please, kid, get your feet out of my face...but you know that these moments are fast and fleeting and so I secretly kind of think it’s adorable that she finds mischievous delight in thrusting her heels into my eyes or worming her toes into my mouth or me to nibble on.
There’s something beautiful and vulnerable about our feet - the way they ground us, the way they support us and move us, the way they are connected to the other parts of our bodies. There are over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot. The bones in our feet make up a quarter of the bones in our bodies. If one bone in our foot is out of alignment, our whole body is out of alignment. We receive so much passive information and energy about our environment from going barefoot.
So this passage of scripture that we have here about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet brings us into this shockingly human space -- I mean, feet are a very, very human thing and we don’t really spend a lot of time talking about Jesus’s body parts, and yet there is this tender scene of love and devotion, poured out right at the feet of Jesus.
Artist Lauren Wright Pittman painted this image of the encounter. And she has this to write about it. [Share statement]
This face to face posture...the smell and taste of Christ’s journey...I want to be that close to Jesus.
We’re going to have a bit of discussion around this passage, particularly around what it means to cultivate devotion and letting go of shame.
We’re going to start a bit with the shame idea and move from there - because I think many of us are Good Respectable Christians, right - and this action and its implications are Profoundly Weird and Awkward and aren’t part of what Good Churchgoing Folks Do.
As you think about the story and as you heard the artist’s statement - where is the discomfort in this for you? What would it take to not be bound by that?
What does cultivating this devotion to Jesus look like in your life?
I love the last line of what Lauren Wright Pittman shares: “This is the posture that Jesus calls all of us into; a profoundly uncomfortable, shockingly reverent position; coming face to face, intimately engaging with the residue of Christ’s footsteps to smell and almost taste the journey of Christ.”
May we, too, be so engaged with the world around us, so in tune and aligned with Christ’s heart, that we cannot help but be overflowing with devotion to the one who comes to us again and again, offering mercy and grace. May we not be constrained in our willingness to follow him by how awkward it looks or how strange we are in our unreserved love of Christ. May we see and taste and smell...and touch and hear...Christ drawing us onward on the journey of discipleship, in the witnessing of God’s kingdom, in the wholehearted way that leads toward life...death...and resurrection. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and three year old son and 6 month old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.