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Over-the-top Gestures of Love, vs Superficial Religiosity

In this upcoming Sunday's gospel, we hear the story of "the anointing at Bethany," when Jesus was at a dinner party with Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

Mary opens a large jar of expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus' feet, then wipes his feet with her hair.

What's striking about the story is how over-the-top each of those gestures are:
  • It's a large jar, containing a pound or a pint of perfume: picture a pint of strawberries, or Guinness...that's a lot of perfume.
  • It's "costly" or expensive perfume: later we'll hear that it was worth "300 denarii" and a denarius was a day's it's nearly a year's salary worth of perfume.
  • It's exquisite perfume: having been "made from pure nard" doesn't have a modern equivalence, but it's definitely a rare, precious possession
  • Mary pours it on - she doesn't just lightly drip a few drops. She pours it on Jesus' feet.
  • Then she wipes his feet with her hair: letting one's hair down in public would have been unusual, and maybe even scandalous. "Letting one's hair down" still means to act in a free, uninhibited manner, to relax, let loose.
Here's where I'm going - or hope to go in my sermon - with all this:

When these anointing actions (by Mary in the Gospel of John, by an unnamed woman in Mark, by "a woman, who was a sinner" in Luke) are criticized (by a corrupt Judas in John, by the superficial religiosity of the other dinner guests in Mark and Luke) the actions are not only defended by Jesus, but are held up by Jesus as model discipleship.

Last week, in the story of the forgiving father, we saw an "everything over the top, nothing by halves" attitude modeled by God.

This week, we see that same "everything over the top, nothing by halves" behavior praised by Jesus.

Someone's tryin' to tell us something here, don't you think?


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