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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 14:3–9

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (NRSV)

Reflection
When thinking of the word extravagance, what comes to mind? For those of us who live near Fourth Church, we see people leaving Chanel and Louis Vuitton storefronts with full shopping bags, all while being surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago.

At the same time, we see people on almost every street corner who are experiencing homelessness. All day people are coming into our church to rest, receive a bagged lunch, or to get help at the Elam Davies Social Service Center. It’s a peculiar concurrence that many of us experience every day.

As I read today’s passage, I think about how incredibly awkward that dinner gathering would have been. A woman brings an incredibly expensive bottle of perfume and uses it to anoint Jesus. This perfume would have probably been worth an entire year’s wages. She shows her extravagant love and devotion to Jesus by using her most precious belonging to worship him. The other dinner guests then criticize her decision, arguing that her action was a waste—the perfume should have been sold and used to help the poor.

Jesus jumps in and shuts their argument down, saying, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.” I really struggle with this part of the passage. I understand and admire the woman for the love and dedication she shows to Jesus. I want to show the same type of love and devotion that she does. But I have a really hard time thinking of Jesus’ response regarding the poor. It goes against what I have learned from the teachings of Jesus. I have no good answers on how to deal with this inner conflict. What do you think?

Prayer
Gracious God, help me to strengthen my faithfulness to you. Give me the courage to love and worship you with extravagance, even when the world tells me otherwise. Thank you also for tough moments in scripture. Give me an open mind and an open heart when reading and learning about your Word. Amen.

Written by Briana Belding-Peck, Family Ministry Coordinator


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