“Measure in Love”

April 7, 2019                                                                             

John 12:1-8, Psalm 126

“Measure in Love”

 

What is the most extravagant gift you have ever received? Extravagant might be measured by the cost or it might be measured by the love that went into it. I suppose I would define extravagant by the love you felt upon receiving the gift. 

 

When I turned 50, I set a goal to see 50 fabulous places in my 50’s. For my birthday, Anne Marie contacted people and asked them to send pictures of beautiful places they had been. She turned those pictures into a book. I love to open that book and see all the beauty in it. I love seeing people who have been part of my life and connecting them to these beautiful places. I am so humbled by the love that went into making the book. 

 

Gifts are tricky. Some of us spend lots of energy trying to come up with the perfect gift. Some of us just grab something without much thought. Some of us don’t really do gifts. Over the years, many of our gifts at home have morphed into experiences – choosing to spend time doing something that we would love doing rather than one more thing to keep track of in our busy days. Our fundraising auction last fall featured some experiences – balloon rides, a fine meal lovingly prepared by our members, a hike, a day in the Jemez with members who live there.

 

Both readings this morning describe extravagance in different forms. The Psalm was written after the exile and reflects a God who has done “great things for us” and the joy they feel coming through a time of destruction and despair. The reading from John is the scene that follows Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. He comes to the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. At some point while they are at the table, Mary comes and breaks open the jar holding costly nard, a perfume that was used for burial. She pours it on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. It is hard for us to imagine a scene like this today.

 

We don’t know what Mary was thinking. We don’t know if the nard was purchased for Lazarus and no longer needed. We don’t know why she would do something like this. And yet, we can almost feel the love pouring out of her. The fragrance of the nard was strong and very specific. Those who smelled it as it filled the house would recognize this as the smell of death. Yes, Jesus has mentioned that he will die, but no one wanted to believe him. In some ways, that makes this whole story more remarkable. Maybe Mary was paying attention while others ignored Jesus when he told them he would die. She clearly wanted to honor this man and she found the most lavish way to do that.

 

Judas immediately protests the waste saying the money could have been given to the poor. Perhaps it could have, but would it? Was someone going to sell the perfume and give the proceeds to the poor? How easy it is to proclaim judgment in moments like that. The scripture says that Judas was a thief who didn’t really care about the poor. I don’t know what to do with that kind of commentary on Judas’ character. 

The place we often get stuck is Jesus’ response to Judas “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:8) If we wanted to take this out of context, we could use it as an excuse to do nothing for the poor. That of course, would be ignoring many other calls to care for the poor in scripture. So, why would Jesus say that? What did he mean?

 

Jesus knows his death is coming. He must be tuned into the sacred gift of each moment. Perhaps he was swept up in the beauty of Mary’s act of love and found Judas’ judgment jarring. Whatever was going on inside him, Jesus was likely calling us to be so present to the moment we find ourselves and the gifts we find there. That sounds easy enough.  But is it?

 

We didn’t read the text from Isaiah this morning, but in it God says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) God is asking the people to let the past release its hold on them so that they can see what is happening in this very moment. How is God in our midst right now?

 

One of the things we heard in text study this week was that we don’t all measure things the same way. Some measure in financial value (like Judas). How much is this worth? Does that make it worth my time? Several years ago, Bill Gates said, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” (TIME Magazine, 1/13/97)

 

It seems that Jesus offers us a way to measure that is not reducible to money or time. Jesus seems to be asking us to measure our lives in love. There is a beautiful song in the Broadway Musical Rent that asks us to measure our lives in love. It suggests that we measure in loving moments each day. The musical is the story of a group of friends in New York during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. They were dying quickly and wanted a different measurement for their life.

 

         Play “Seasons of Love”

 

“Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Moments so dear
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure - Measure A Year?
In Daylights - In Sunsets
In Midnights - In Cups Of Coffee
In Inches - In Miles
In Laughter - In Strife

In - Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure
A Year In The Life?

How About Love?
How About Love?
How About Love?
Measure In Love

Seasons of Love.
Seasons of Love.

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Journeys To Plan

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure The Life
Of A Woman Or A Man

In Truth That She Learned
Or In Times That He Cried
In Bridges He Burned
Or The Way That She Died

It's Time Now - To Sing Out
Though The Story Never Ends
Let's Celebrate
Remember A Year In The Life Of Friends
Remember the Love
Remember the Love
Remember the Love
Measure In Love
Oh you got to you got to remember the love,
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love, spread love
Measure, measure your life in love.
Seasons Of Love(2x)
Measure your life, measure your life in love”

 

Today we come to feast at a table. The one we remember at this table is the one who called us to love with our whole being. I know there are many ways to measure a life. We can talk about accomplishments or goals achieved. We can talk about lasting impact. How do you want to be remembered? I can’t think of anything more important than being remembered for the way we loved. May we love extravagantly and generously so that in the end, our lives will be measured in love.