Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Word for the Worship Leaders: impractical, extravagant worship

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages. " 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."  John 12:1-8

Each fall our congregation does a series focusing on stewardship. Often when I think about stewardship, I perceive it conservatively. I immediately ask myself “where can I trim the fat and be more frugal so I that I can give more?”  There's always room for simplification and to really think carefully about how we are spending what God has blessed us with.  This story from John beats the concept of frugality to a pulp and throws it out in the street with its brother practicality.  There is nothing conservative, or stingy about Mary here.  The disciples are appalled at her wastefulness with using a bottle of expensive perfume to worship and honor Jesus.  They don’t understand.  Jesus was so simple in living.  Mary was being extravagant.  When they gave her a hard time about it, expecting that what Jesus would do, He defends her actions.  I’m sure they were confused and frustrated, but Jesus was delighted.  The power of love and forgiveness has transformed Mary’s broken life and story.  It had over taken her to the point of extravagant, over-the-top, impractical worship.  When we are called and claimed as Christ’s, we are set apart and transformed.  Life looks different when we see that no expense was spared for our salvation.  Without realizing it, we’re moved to spare no expense, not even our pride, to bring honor and praise to a relentless, loving Father.  In the Old Testament, when Solomon's temple was being built, there was no expense spared to honor God in that place.  There was no budget on the beauty, time, or expense given to honor the King of kings.  It pushes us to think about that seriously.  How can I worship and honor God extravagantly with what He has given me?  Am I so changed and in awe of God’s love for me to give up much for his honor?  How do we be good stewards of our resources and still worship extravagantly as a body?  This week and in the weeks to come, what does it look like to give up something valuable -- time, money, attention, looking cool -- to fall at the feet of Jesus in worship for how great His grace is toward us?

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