First Lesson: Isaiah 43: 16-21
Responsive Reading: Psalm 126
Second Lesson: Philippians 3: 4b-14
Gospel Lesson: John 12: 1-8
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you the story this morning of the most dramatic events that I have ever witnessed. I was at a Basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks at Target Center. I couldn’t tell you who won this game. But I will always remember what I saw on that night. During one of the timeouts, the Timberwolves mascot Crunch was standing in the middle of the court staring at a giant, wrapped box. What was inside the box? I had no idea at the time. When out of nowhere came running in Bango the Buck the Milwaukee Bucks mascot. Bango grabs the box and runs off with it in the process being chased by the Timberwolves mascot Crunch. Pretty soon, Bango and Crunch are out of sight. Half a quarter or nearly fifteen minutes of time passes without a resolution. All of sudden, flashing lights come strolling down upon Crunch chasing Bango throughout the arena still carrying a giant box. Bango soon stops and pushes Crunch down a flight of steps. Bango stops in front of a young woman. Bango gets down on one knee. Bango takes off his head. You can all guess what type of ring was in the box. Now people could ask all sorts of questions about this event. Was it necessary proposing this way necessary? Probably not. Was it practical or cheap? No. Are Bango and Mrs.Bango still happily married? I have no idea. All I know is that Bango the Buck was going to stop at nothing to take a bride.
Today’s Gospel lesson is another tale of someone acting exuberant or a little bit nutty in the wake of the moment. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. All sorts of people were excited about this as the news began to spread. Many came to believe in Jesus because of it, whereas others started to plot his death. So shortly after Lazarus’ raising, Lazarus, his two sisters (Martha and Mary) and Jesus sit down for dinner. What happened at this dinner would set the stage for Jesus’ ministry in the days ahead.
There are two key characters in this interaction. The first character is Mary. We know a little bit about Mary from another prominent story in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus had dinner at Mary and Martha’s house previously. What can we say about Mary is that she was a free-spirit, whereas sister Martha was a task-oriented doer. Mary was sensitive, a thoughtful listener, and a crier who people knew for her sheer emotion. When I picture Mary, I picture a hippie, real long hair, maybe some visible piercings, all sorts of tattoos, and someone who wasn’t going to live life by anyone’s rules. Mary especially didn’t care about the progress of her financial portfolio. Mary decides to do something kind of crazy as they gathered for dinner that night. Mary takes a pound of Nard ointment dumps it on Jesus’ feet and starts wiping his feet with her hair. Few things to know about Nard: Nard came from a plant way up in the Himalayan Mountains, Nard had to travel across Asia via camel, and Nard cost an average worker one year's wages to buy. Since women didn’t have much in the way of economic opportunity, Mary was probably pouring her life savings over Jesus’ feet. Now I understand Mary wanting to do something special for Jesus since he had raised her brother from the dead. There just had to be better ways though then to waste a pound of Nard on his feet?
The thing about Mary is she dared to be different. Mary understood the Kingdom of God not to abide by worldly standards. Mary had every right to be excited beyond all rational thought. We know people like Mary. Mary’s non-sensible actions remind me of my favorite story about my grandma.
One day Grandma was bored. Grandma looks out into the yard and sees a deer in the yard. Grandma thought the deer looked friendly enough. Grandma thought the deer looked like it might make a pretty good pet. So Grandma decides to lure with food the deer inside the house. In case you were wondering, deer don’t do really well inside houses for the deer soon grows hysterical in such tight confines. Grandma has to call the Game Warden to help get the deer back outside.
Now I imagine the Game Warden leaving Grandma’s house that day thinking “What is this woman’s deal?” The Game Warden knew how a person was supposed to behave around animals. The Game Warden couldn’t make sense I imagine of Grandma’s behavior. I imagine the Game Warden was kind of like Judas Iscariot on this day.
The other key character at the dinner party with Mary is Judas. Judas didn’t know quite what to make of Mary’s scene. I picture Judas as having the complete opposite personality as Mary. Judas was probably wearing a fine robe, well-groomed, and Judas appeared to be sensible in his decision making. Judas’ talent was in finance. Even Judas’ friends thought he was Mr. Uptight, who would never tell a joke. Judas’ reaction to Mary makes me think of my best friend from college named Cody.
Cody was serious about his studies. They were always priority number #1. Cody in his junior year would ramble on and on about how one professor structured a test in his freshman year so that Cody only ended up with an “A-“. Cody would insist on wearing ties to college on tests day because he was the “money-player” who would not fail. Cody, as you can imagine, didn’t have a whole lot of tolerance for the Mary’s at Concordia College in Moorhead. Cody made snide remarks a time or two. So picturing people you know like Cody, imagine their reaction to a scene such as this one with all sorts of expensive perfume being casually dumped on Jesus’ feet by a young woman rolling around on the ground.
Here was Mary acting tacky like Bango the Buck was acting tacky. So Judas figures it’s his obligation to speak up witnessing the scene: “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”. Now we know Judas had ulterior motives when asking this question. No one can say that Judas’ question was not the right question to ask. Certainly there were more practical uses of money than what Mary was displaying. Judas wasn’t wrong to point this out.
Last week, we looked at the most famous of Jesus’ parables in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Older Brother was like Judas being reasonable. The Father was being unreasonable. The thing that Judas was not grasping at this moment in time about Jesus ministry is Grace is never reasonable. Grace is not about being right. Grace is not about being practical. Grace is not about abiding by any book whatsoever.
Phillip McLarty recalls the story of the Crim Family, who lived in the town of Kilgore during the Great Depression. Times were tough for everyone in Kilgore and any money was tough to find. The Crim’s owned the General Store in Kilgore, where everyone shopped and decided the only way to eventually save the business was to start extending credit for goods. The credit was good news for the folks in Kilgore, but everyone, including the Crim’s, kept going deeper and deeper into debt.
Finally, one day the Crim’s receive life-changing news no different then Mary finding her brother alive, or Bango the Buck getting a “yes’ to his marriage proposal. The Crim’s received word that oil had been discovered on their property. The Crim Family was never going to have to worry about money ever again. The Crim’s were every Sunday in church Presbyterians. The Crim’s decide that this event was going to serve as an opportunity to proclaim their faith to the people of Kilgore. The Crim’s decide to call a meeting for all of their customers to meet at the general store at 8 AM on Saturday morning. Word spread throughout Kilgore. People were nervous thinking that the Crim’s were going to seize now everyone’s property in town. Just like Jesus was merely expected to mourn at Lazarus’ grave. So Saturday morning, the meeting starts. The older brother, Malcolm Crim begins to speak. In Malcolm’s hands was a box containing everyone’s charges. Malcolm begins by announcing the good news of discovering oil. The Crim’s had more money than they were ever going to need, so everyone’s debts were now canceled, and prosperity would soon come back to Kilgore thanks to the Crim’s oil. Everyone’s was ecstatic on this day. In fact, they were so ecstatic that they would have dumped Nard on Malcolm Crim’s feet in celebration. You see Mary had just received the best news that she would ever hear. Lazarus was alive! Mary was now a believer in the Resurrection. Mary was no longer going to view the world in practical terms; Mary had been given a new hope as she embraced her previously departed brother.
Judas saw this event at dinner differently. Judas was angry that Jesus was celebrating alongside Mary. Certainly Jesus could have associated with a better crowd then this reckless, borderline hysterical named Mary. I imagine Jesus’ smiling the whole time upon seeing Mary’s joy after having seen the power of Resurrection within her life. You see the next week was going to change everyone’s lives for Jesus, Judas’ and Mary. Jesus was preparing for his burial. Judas was beginning to see Jesus’ reckless generosity as foolishness, so he would soon betray him. Mary would soon witness a Resurrection once again! Amen
 Luke 10:38-42
 McLarty, Phillip. “Holy Extravengence”. Lectionary.org. 2004. Web. Mar.7.2016.
 McLarty, Phillip. “Holy Extravengence
 McLarty, Phillip. “Holy Extravengence.”
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.