April 3, 2022, Good Enough: We Are Fragile, by Pastor David

John 12:1-8 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 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. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (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.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Meditation: I invite you to listen in the silence for the echo in your heart of God’s word from the music and the reading this morning. 

April 3, 2022 Good Enough: We are Fragile

What possessed me to sign up for a class in modern dance in my senior year of college, I cannot tell you. I was not a dancer or an athlete. I was scared of moving or being seen moving my body in front of people. In fact, I was going to tell you this story during our series on dealing with fear, but I didn’t fit it in. It occurs to me that it fits just as well in this Good Enough series.
Whatever caused me to do it - having an elective free somehow I found myself in a modern dance class with a bunch of women and one male basketball player, and I was trying my best. Liberal arts education was working it’s magic and I was finding courage to try some new things. 
Despite my fears and awkwardness, I found that I had more strength and coordination than I had known. I discovered my body worked better than I thought. I found, in other words, that my fear had been robbing me of activities that were fun and liberating. Luckily there were enough other people, including that star of the basketball team, that in the modern dance performance at the end of the class in the gymnasium, I didn’t stand out too much - because I was not good at this. What I was doing was not beautiful, inspired dance. It was movement of a sort, but a far piece from perfection or basic proficiency. 
I have always been glad I took that class though, because I discovered my body. I appreciated the way I could move. And much more, I appreciated the way other people can move and actually be beautiful. Ever since, I’ve had a great appreciation for dancers - and I married one, who really did know what she was doing. I also learned that I didn’t have to be great at something to enjoy it. 
I was blown away when I saw a dance troupe called “Dancers of the Third Age” perform with professional and amateur dancers of a wide range of ages and abilities & disabilities, dance together beautifully. They were far from perfect, but each one was dancing to the best of their ability and it was gorgeous. 

After Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead, he has a meal at Mary and Martha’s home with their brother. Martha cooks - as she is always taking care of things. Mary, as usual, is in tune with something deeper and she recognizes the poignancy of the moment. She takes the opportunity to anoint Jesus - before his burial. It is a beautiful gesture with a kind of grim undertone. Judas objects at the extravagance of the gesture - this expensive oil could be sold and given to the poor. 
I suspect many of us would have the same objection - if church funds were used for an extravagant, unnecessary gesture. We all know people who always have an objection - and we all have that part in ourselves - self-righteous, entitled, always knowing what is best, useful, practical, cost effective. 
The thing about art and the beautiful gesture is that it is extravagant, and not necessarily useful, practical or cost effective. I tend to think that really great art also has a message. This beautiful gesture that Mary makes has a deeper meaning and purpose of blessing Jesus at a time when he is facing death, but it is easy for Judas to object, because it is hardly practical or useful.
Jesus answer that ‘you will always have poor people with you whom you can help’ has been used by some who take it out of context to say that Jesus told us we need not help the poor. This is a terrible reading of the passage. Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 15:11 which says “For the poor will never cease our of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand… to the needy and to the poor, in the land.” 
Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian, says, “The poor that we always have with us is Jesus. It is to the poor that all extravagance is to be given” The true church always has the poor in its midst, always treasures the life of the poor. 

Let me tell you another story I just heard about a beautiful gesture - in the war in Ukraine. A Russian soldier had been captured and was taken to the center of a small town. A crowd gathered and it was looking grim for the captured soldier. He could hardly hope for mercy.  Then a single woman walked through the crowd and offered the soldier a cup of soup. He looked at her with wonder and confusion. The crowd was quieted and another woman moved through the crowd and offered the young man a cell phone and encouraged him to call his family, they would be worried and needed to know he was alright. The young soldier broke down and wept into his hands. He could not be sent back to the war, but he would not be harmed by the people of this town.

The beautiful gesture is a dance that celebrates life, even in the face of death. The beautiful gesture is one that recognizes difficulty and somehow transcends it. The Spirit creates and inspires this beauty in the world - beauty and love which is more powerful than death. 
We live our lives in the shadow of the cross. We also live in the presence of the risen Christ. As we come to the table today, may we recognize the beauty in the moment, and the power of the gesture, without worrying whether it is perfect or not.