April 3rd 2022

The readings for this week were John 12, 1-8 and Philippians 3, 4b-14

April 3rd 2022. Sermon

As you may  know, I was blessed to spend a few days with colleagues in Salisbury two weeks back, meeting our new Bishop Stephen, worshipping and studying together, sharing the joys and problems of ministry with some new found friends in my colleagues and also, of course, visiting Salisbury Cathedral.


It is hard to visit such a magnificent building and not marvel at the ingenuity and skill of the architects and workers 800 years ago who constructed such a building with, by modern standards, rudimentary scaffolding and tools, no machinery and no knowledge of modern physics and engineering to calculate stresses and loading etc. Though most will marvel at its beauty and size, there are those who will scoff and say the money and effort would be best spent on the poor or something useful.


Of course, this ignores the thousands of Christians who have be drawn to worship there, to create Christian community from which they have been inspired to work our God’s mission for those poor, and all other parts of society.


In some respects, this reflects our gospel reading today-Mary pouring out her expensive perfume and love at Jesus feet, whilst Judas complains the money should be spent on the poor, or John surmises, kept for himself. It is Mary we remember and wonder about, because her actions are full of love and recognition of who and what Jesus is, whereas Judas reflects the selfish human in all of us.

And let’s not pretend that Jesus’ words about the poor were not a dismissal of their need, but rather a reflection that the poor should always be cared for, as a matter of course,  but his time, the time of his death at which God would change the world, was imminent and this was the only time for Mary to anoint him. I can hear Judas in the voice of some people, as we raise money or offer our homes for the beleaguered suffering of Ukraine and they complain what about our homeless, our poor?


 They have always been with us and we should have always been helping them, Ukraine is being Crucified on the cross of power and greed, and the time is now.


Mary’s deep love and devotion, her insight into Jesus’ upcoming death are reflected in Paul’s passionate words to the Philippians.


Don’t misread the passage here, it’s too easy to read Paul’s words as arrogance or self-righteousness if you do not hear him say that all he has had, all that is past, all his achievements he considers loss for the sake of Christ. His passion, his repeated desire to know Christ, to become like him, to even participate in his suffering, to forget what is behind and strain for what is to come is a cry of deep love and devotion that is expressed not through anointing, like Mary, but through his preaching and evangelising the good news of Christ to all.



As we approach Christ’s passion, would that we all experience that passion, that deep, deep love for Christ that yearns for us to know him, that causes us to pour out the very essence of our lives at hie feet in devotion, that calls us to go out and tell of the good news with a passion that calls others to Christ, that speaks of our own love for him, that has the courage to say all we have is loss for the sake of Christ and be bold enough to let Christ choose our future and not cling to the successes of our past as if never again we might know the passion we once had.


When I married Alison, I never thought I could know a deeper human love, even though I had been blessed to know great love from my parents and sisters before. When John was born, I discovered another love I never knew before, an enrichment of the love Alison and I shared, yet a love in its own right. And again, I couldn’t imagine anything better, anything more.


And yet, we were blessed with Morag, Rowan and Molly and somehow love grew even more, and , as they grew up, it was enriched and deeply coloured by the people they became and further deepened all that Alison and I share. And as my imperfect love for them grew, so, incredibly, their love for me and for Alison did too


Such is God’s gift of love to us, it is not finite, because God is infinite and, if we are open to love, of every sort, then God will multiply that in ways we can never imagine.


With those closest to us and with friends, of course, but also with everyone around us, even those who choose not to love us, yes, even with our enemies. Such is the gift of true love, God’s love, and the ultimate love, of course, is in our love for Christ and so much more so, his love for us which we shall remember at this table in a few moments.


But if we harden our hearts, if we protectively cradle that which we have known, what has been in the past and assume that it was the best, the ultimate, then we deny ourselves the deeper, richer love God  has yet to show us. We become the Judas who finds excuses not to give love away, who focuses on material things, who finds excuse for his own selfishness, and ultimately betrays Christ.


Of course, none of us can achieve, or begin to achieve the perfection Christ yearns for us, few have been, or will be as self-giving and insightful as Mary.

Even Paul admits he is far from having reached that which Christ holds out for him, and, like my initial love for Alison on our wedding day, I know I have so much more to know and discover of Christ’s love, and so much more to learn of how to share that love with the world in my imperfect way.


But we can all reach out, as Paul says,  we can all put what is past behind us and press toward the goal for which God has called us, and whilst we pour the essence of our lives at Christ’s feet, we will still remember, as Christ reminds us, those who are with and around us, the poor not just materially, but the poor in spirit, those who have yet to know that same love for Christ.

 Those who cannot understand the richness and meaning of a Mary who appears to be wasteful, because she understands the much greater abundance of the love of Christ.


Come to his table. Pour out the perfume of your love at his feet and know again his sacrifice of love for you.