Good morning, Friends!
Welcome to worship at Springfield Friends Meeting. Because of the virus, we aren’t holding worship here today at the meetinghouse. I’m still well, and I hope you are, too!
I’ve been talking on the phone all week with people in the meeting. It’s so important that we stay in touch with each other. People have told me how isolated and scared you feel about this thing. You said, “I just wish I could see somebody’s face again!”
I have just made a recording and put it on Facebook — you can access it at this link:
Or you can just read on:
Ever since New Year’s, we’ve been working on the Gospel of John. Last week, we met a family of three people – two sisters and a brother. The sister’s names were Martha and Mary. The brother’s name was Lazarus.
Last week in chapter 11 we read the incredible story of how Lazarus was desperately ill, and died. Jesus didn’t get there in time to save him.
Everyone was upset. Mary and Martha were weeping inconsolably. Martha came out to meet Jesus, and she said, “Lord, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. . .”
Those are such tragic words. If only Jesus had been there! Why hadn’t he come in time?
Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will rise again!”
Martha said, “I know that, but not until the last day.”
Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, even though they die, they will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
And then, we read about how Jesus went to the tomb, and wept for his friend. And then Jesus said in a loud voice, “Roll away the stone!”
They didn’t want to, but Jesus told them to do it anyway. Then he said, “Lazarus, come out!” And his friend came out, alive again, still wrapped in the grave clothes. And Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
That was last Sunday. Today we move up a week. Everybody’s recovered, and they’re all having supper at the family home in the village of Bethany.
Bethany is a couple of miles outside of Jerusalem. Jesus was on his way up to the city for Passover. Jesus knew what he was heading into, and he stopped and stayed with his friends right before the last days.
Here’s the story:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
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.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Jesus, objected. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” Judas didn’t 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.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.John 12:1-7
Martha was always the practical one in the family. She was working in the kitchen, bringing out food, setting it on the table. Mary was the more emotional sister. She always wanted to stay right close to Jesus, leaning up as near as she could get to him.
The whole family had been friends of Jesus for a long time. And of course, they were especially grateful for what Jesus had done for brother Lazarus the week before.
But Mary did something extraordinary. She took her whole savings, every penny she had, and she went out and bought a huge quantity of the most expensive ointment she could find. It smelled beautiful. The smell of it filled the whole house.
She took it, and she rubbed it on Jesus’ feet, and she let down her long hair and wiped his feet dry with it.
What was going on here? I don’t think she was just giving Jesus a foot massage cause his feet were sore.
Was she grateful for what Jesus had done for her beloved brother? Was she showing her love and gratitude for Jesus?
Or did Mary know somehow, that this wasn’t just an ordinary gathering? Did she know that this was going the be the last time they were going to be together?
Jesus knew what he was heading for in Jerusalem. He knew he was going to be arrested, and tried, and executed.
Jesus told people this, but they were in denial about it. Or they just didn’t understand what Jesus was saying to them.
Other people heard Jesus’ words, and didn’t understand him. Mary listened with her heart, and she knew this was her one chance to show Jesus how she felt.
I wish that we could have more families like this one here at Springfield. We need people like Lazarus, who can testify to the power and the difference that Jesus has made in their lives. Lazarus could witness to everyone he met, “Jesus saved me! He saved my life!”
There is nothing more powerful than a personal witness. And for the rest of his days, that was what Lazarus did.
We need a church full of people like Martha – people who are the workers, the teachers, the organizers. The practical people who put food on the table, and clean up after a meal.
But we also need a church full of people like Mary, who stay close to Jesus no matter what’s happening all around them. That was Mary’s gift – to stay as close to Jesus as she could, to listen to his every word, to know what Jesus was feeling and to share his grief and his joy.
We’re all different. And Jesus loves us all, just the way he loved Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Our church needs people like all of them. These are difficult times, but we need you, too!
What matters is that we love. What matters is that we have faith. What matters is that we don’t lose hope, and do what we can, because we feel the love of Jesus, and because we love him in return.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Go in peace, Friends.
God bless you this week, and keep you safe.
Pray for each other, and reach out to each other in any way you can.
We love you all.