Fertile Lutheran Church
March 13, 2016
Text: Isaiah 43:16-21
It was one day before Jesus would make His triumphant ride into Jerusalem on a donkey where he would be welcomed by crowds of people shouting Hosannas and waving palm branches. In less than a week, Jesus would be nailed to a cross and laid in a tomb and rise triumphantly and change everything.
But for now-Jesus was enjoying a quiet afternoon respite with friends. Jesus and the disciples were at the home of Lazarus and Mary and Martha. Martha was busy working in the kitchen while everyone else was hanging out in another room. At some point, Mary left and came back with some expensive perfume she had bought. She then began to anoint Jesus feet with it- not sparingly, not holding anything back- but lavishly giving it all- pouring it all out- and wiping His feet with her hair. The scent we are told, would have been strong – so strong that it would have filled the whole house with it’s fragrance and spill out into the street.
Judas reacted with disgust- saying how wasteful it was- should have been used to feed the poor. I’m sure he expected everyone to agree with him. But to his surprise- Jesus came to Mary’s defense and told him to leave her alone and let her do what she was doing- implying it was important not only to Mary, but to Jesus.
My mind goes back to a similar situation when Mary had been reprimanded by Martha for not helping her in the kitchen, but sitting at the feet of Jesus. I’m sure she too expected Jesus to take her side-but instead, Jesus came to Mary’s defense saying that Mary was doing what was needful- important- in fact most important. We can have our own opinions of what is important- but what is most important is what Jesus thinks. Pray.
Every day we are faced with a myriad of things to do- many of which we consider important things to do- things we think need to be done. Then there are the things that we would like to do- and things we know we should do but don’t seem to get done. In an effort to help us make sense of it all, we set priorities and learn to do first things first- and so on. As we gain more experience in life- we learn to recognize what we think is most important- and yet, our judgment is often swayed by our wants and desires.
First responders are trained to prioritize treatment when arriving at an accident with multiple victims based on certain protocols that can be easily measured by the book- but can still be hard to accept emotionally.
But there are times when individuals, families, communities, nations, are faced with a crisis- when what is most important comes into sharp focus. I think of my brother Jim and family- sitting next to his wife, Jody in an ICU unit in Duluth- watching her breath on a respirator- her neck broken and body paralyzed from the shoulders down after a horrible car accident saying: “I’m just thankful she is alive.” Everything else is just details to deal with.
There are countless people- many of you sitting here this morning- who have experienced life threatening disease or accident of a loved one or themselves- whose understanding of what’s most important came into sharp focus. What was important a few hours earlier suddenly pales in importance.
You hear people interviewed on the news who have lost everything because of a devastating fire or tornado and say- albeit through tears: “houses can be rebuilt- just thankful no one was hurt or killed.” What happened to change their priority when only a few hours before they had been stressed out over something they thought was important but now can’t even recall? A deeper understanding of eternal things.
We who trust Jesus- cannot comprehend how anyone can go through something like that without Jesus. Truth is, they cannot. Without Jesus, our strength fails- without Jesus, our confidence crumbles- without Jesus- we are alone and without hope.
But for us who believe and trust in Jesus-when we are faced with trials and turn to Him- there we find a living hope- there we find His strength- there we find confidence in His word- and there we find the peace and rest that only can come from the love of God through Jesus His son.
The apostle Paul was once convinced that living under the law and persecuting Christians was the most important thing to do. He had become good at it (at least in human terms). He had gained the respect and honor of like-minded people and boasted about it. He had gained confidence in his abilities and his perceived right to persecute anyone who thought differently than because of his families history and through discipline.
But one day Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus and changed all that. Because of that personal encounter with Jesus- Paul learned what was really true and what was really a lie. What he was once was convinced was important- was in reality garbage- something of no value- something to be thrown away and discarded. He now considered everything he once regarded as important, now a loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as his lord. And now lived to share God’s salvation by grace through faith-a gift- and nothing we do- lest we should boast.
People put their confidence in different things- past successes, knowledge of a subject- respect of others- but it is not confidence that matters – it is what you put your confidence in. For instance, a mafia leader may be confident in his corrupt power to do what he wants- but eventually he will be overcome by someone more powerful and corrupt.
As Christians, we may put our confidence in our God given abilities but not surrender them to God. A congregation may put their confidence in a large bank account- but not be good stewards of it. A country can put their confidence in the past heritage but lose their liberties by not taking an active role in their civic freedoms.
We as Christians can only humbly put our confidence in God and God alone. It is there on the cross that we see what is most important to God- His love for us-a love that moved him to do whatever needed to be done to save us. It is at the foot of the cross that we see Jesus take upon himself our sins who knew no sin. God sent Jesus to us- and forsaking all- Jesus humbled himself – even death on the cross- and why? To make it possible for us to once again live in His presence and approach his throne of grace with confidence and a clear conscious.
In the parable of the prodigal son that Jesus told- it wasn’t the money that was squandered and lost-what was most important to the father was that his son had returned. What is riches apart from his son?
And then there was Mary- she spent a lot of money on the perfume that she lavishly gave to Jesus-who some thought was a waste-but it was not the perfume that touched Jesus heart- it was her love for Jesus that was expressed in the giving. God doesn’t measure our love by what we give- but how we live- in honor and praise to God from a heart of thanksgiving and lo
Are we confident that God will do what he says he will do? Able to do what he says He will do
Of all the things we consider important- there is nothing more important than knowing Jesus and serving Him. There is no greater purpose in life than to live in the presence of God Himself- to know Him- to live with Him- His desire becomes our desire- what excites Him excites us- His hurt becomes our hurt- His passion becomes our passion.
May we confess with the apostle Paul when he said: “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.