Two weeks ago I spoke of the extravagant love of the father for his wayward son in the story of the Prodigal Son.
And how that love was an indication of God’s love for us, immeasurable love, poured out for us.
Today we have another story of immeasurable love… a love displayed by a woman…
A love that poured out rich oil on Jesus without counting the cost. How many of you thought that Judas had a point when he said why didn’t you sell this ointment and give it to the poor? I confess that I certainly have some of those thoughts when I see charitable organizations, including churches spend money on things for themselves at the expense of being a place of welcome and healing love for the world. And that love and welcome might entail pouring out all we have….
How many of you had trouble with the lines that Jesus said, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Does this sound rather callous to your ears? It did to me. So, as I did some reading and research, I found out that those lines come from the book of Deuteronomy, one of the books of law in the Hebrew scriptures, and one that Jesus would have been well acquainted with.
Let me read you the passage:
It is from Deuteronomy 15: 7-11
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbour with hostility and give nothing; your neighbour might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.”
Open your hand… give liberally and ungrudgingly…
And if pick up a piece of scripture from Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Jesus says that whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome those who are not like us, visit the sick and imprisoned, we are feeding, clothing and welcoming Jesus.
Mary did that when she anointed Jesus… she knew there was a bigger picture… she didn’t hoard the oil for her own use… she used it to offer healing and comfort to Jesus.
She poured it out… abundantly.
This week’s theme is longing for abundance.
And I am longing to tap into the abundance of your wisdom.
I could come here, as your Interim Minister, and tell you what you need to do, and some of you would go along with it, and yes, there are some things we need to do, those goals were set before I arrived. But really, if I came in and told you what to do, and how to do it, I bet many of you would have a great deal of resentment towards me. And probably resist and block every idea I had, even if it were a good one!
What I am really longing for is your wisdom. That’s what the Listening Circles are designed to do. To tap into your wisdom about what the direction of the Pastoral Charge in the coming years.
The Listening Circles were developed by Karen Hilfman Millson, a United Church minister in her work with congregations.
This is what she writes,
Listening Circles include:
• deep listening,
• freedom from blame and judgment,
• honouring the light in all,
• trusting that we have the wisdom we need amongst us,
• following the flow of energy that guides us to creative possibilities,
• staying connected to our core while allowing space for others to speak their wisdom
Circle Culture derives from an intentional process where we: listen deeply; speak from our heart, mind and experience; create space to connect to Wisdom within us and amongst us; honour our own and each other’s gifts; commit to action to move toward change; encourage, support and be accountable to one another as we seek to live a vision of wholeness; discover clarity and creativity emerging in our midst; align with the intuitive flow of life.
For us, as we move through this interim ministry period, we have the opportunity to look at ourselves and our past, ponder the things we need to leave behind and imagine the an abundant future. A future rooted in the abundance of gifts and possibilities that are present here.
The service is deliberately ending a few minutes early today so that the Transition Team and I have some time afterwards to answer any questions you might have about signing up. None of us has all of the wisdom, but together we have everything we need to pour out our abundant gifts on the world. Let us, like Mary, offer the balm of healing love to the world and know that we have offered it to Jesus.
Thanks be to God, amen.