Sermons on “Lent”
Roger Bullard and Della+ were classmates in seminary. He completes his study and formation at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale in May. He is a ‘second career’ seminarian, following a commercial career in advertising, consumer products, and, finally, executive recruitment. Roger’s path to his Master of Divinity at Yale engaged him in hospital chaplaincy, pastoral care, and parish life. He serves on the vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, and has an extensive background in parish governance at his former parish in Greenwich. Following graduation he will pursue ministry of lay leadership, pastoral care, and adult Christian education.View Sermon
In today’s Gospel this fifth Sunday in Lent, Jesus tells Judas that Mary bought the perfume to keep for the day of his burial. But rather than save it for that day, she uses it when he’s still alive and well.
What exactly is the rush? Mary needs to wait only a few more days to fulfill her original intention. But something in her can’t wait. She anoints Jesus’ feet–not for burial, but for his short, walk toward death. As one writer asked, “What do we do when time grows short?”
Mary offers us an answer. Her response embodies the advice given by writer, Annie Dillard. “Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place . . . give it, give it all, give it now.” It’s advice for life as much as for writing. This seems to be the reason for Jesus’ blunt response about the poor always being with us. The point is not to be resigned and complacent; it is to be present to what each moment requires. What this moment requires of Mary is an act of reckless anointing. What does this moment require of you?
Today’s Gospel contains a parable, a story with a meaning behind it, and we find it only in Luke’s Gospel. Most often known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son,” it follows on two other parables, those of the lost sheep and the lost coin. They follow a short introduction where it is pointed out that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them (which pleases the tax collectors and sinners but which annoys and insults the Pharisees and the scribes).
The parables are meant to be about how God rejoices when what is lost is found. The progression is from the sheep to the coin to the son. And all Jesus’ listeners could relate to the joy described when each is “found.” Who can’t relate to being lost and then found? We can all recall the fear of being lost and the unbounded joy in being found — or finding something or someone who was lost.
Where do you find yourself in the story? It is a complex and beautiful one. As a parable it does not give us only one moral except that God’s love is always unconditional and God’s mercy knows no limits.