2018-19 RCL-C Fifth Sunday in Lent
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Lent 05: April 7, 2019 • Gospel Text: John 12:1-8
Perfume Counters Of The World, Unite
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. The world was filled with the fragrance of our love. Love God, and love your neighbor. Here, although those around him try to make it more complicated, Jesus sees love of God in his anointing, and encourages everyone to love the poor around them continually. This is the Christian life.
It’s always a bit abrupt for preachers making the shift from the synoptic gospel for a given year (A, B, or C) to the gospel of John. If preachers are doing their work, they’ve got in mind a kind of narrative context, themes and motifs that, by mid-spring, come to mind with sufficient familiarity that constant referral backwards and forwards into the gospel is less necessary. But since John finds its way into the lectionary only sporadically, in fits and starts, the appearance of a brief reading from the 12th chapter can leave preachers adrift. How much should the congregation be caught up on the context of this text? Are there dangers that they’ll simply think this is a passage from Luke? Does that matter?
Well, in this case it really does. For one, the poignancy of this moment taking place at the home of Lazarus just after Jesus had raised him from the dead only comes close if hearers are clued into that previous defining moment (John 11:1-44). And remember, Martha was worried Lazarus would stink if the tomb were opened. Here we have Mary awakening everyone’s olfactory senses in a manifestly startling fashion. It’s like walking into Dillard’s and the perfume counter greets you with a whiff of overwhelming.
But let’s be honest. When’s the last time you stopped in and talked to a clerk at a perfume counter at the mall? The folks who work there? They’re nice. They want to help. Often, they really love their job and love what they’re selling. So imagine their surprise if, like those in the house of Martha and Mary, when they offer a free spritz of some perfume named after a fancy actor, the response is, “You should give that perfume to the poor.” You know, sometimes we just get caught up in the sensation of a thing, and sometimes those things can be overwhelming, maybe even flamboyant, gauche, overly grand. We all do this sometimes when we lose ourselves in love. Or in prayer.
I work in refugee resettlement. When we talk about resettlement with some people, they say, “You should house the homeless first, or veterans.” Now, I believe it’s important to house the homeless, and provide resources for veterans, as much as anyone else. But they’re not saying that because they’re pouring their heart and soul into homeless ministries. The line is a Judas Iscariot line. It’s a distraction. In this world, there’s enough and more than enough, enough for extravagant love for Jesus poured out in costly nard, and enough to support the poor in their need. Love is always over-flowing like that.
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by RCL Worship Resources or Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. Click here for more free RCL worship resources & planning materials.
Historical Exegetical Resources
· The Five Gospels Parallels, John W. Marshall, University of Toronto.
· From Augustine's Tractates on John: Tractate 50 (12:1-12).
· From the Geneva Notes.
· From Matthew Henry's Commentary.
Pulpit Fiction, podcast. Reflections of lectionary text, pop culture, current events, etc. Robb Mc Coy and Eric Fistler, 2013.
"Anointing," Robert Stuhlmann, Stories from a Priestly Life, 2013.
Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.
Lectionary Blogging, John Petty, Progressive Involvement, 2010.
"A Lingering Fragrance," Blair Monie, Day1, 2016.
"The Prophet Mary," the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, Day 1, 2010.
"Expensive Oil for His Feet," Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington.
A Good Read
The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary the Magdalene
The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gnostic writings and now The Lost Gospel, a newly decoded manuscript that uncovers groundbreaking revelations about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth - a startling follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Jesus Family Tomb.
Waiting to be rediscovered in the British Library is an ancient manuscript of the early Church, copied by an anonymous monk. The manuscript is at least 1,450 years old, possibly dating to the first century i.e., Jesus’ lifetime. And now, The Lost Gospel provides the first ever translation from Syriac into English of this unique document that tells the inside story of Jesus’ social, family and political life.
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Judas, Jesus
Narrator: Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,
Judas: “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”
Narrator: (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said,
Jesus: “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.”