3/29/98, L5C

“The Fragrance of Perfume”
John 12: 1-8

ne of the joys of having daughters is that they have kept me in style. Just this week Lyn came home with a pair of Tommy Hilfiger slacks for me. Candi insists that I wear Polo cologne, and I have made the switch from Old Spice, and they buy the Polo for me. They tell me I am worth it!

My Dad made the same jump from that no name ‘green lizard after shave, that skid row bums are accused of drinking, to Old Spice cologne. He definitely was worth it! In fact, if I had know that we were going to lose him so soon, I would have bought the most expensive Ralph Lauren Safari, at seventy bucks a bottle.

This memory has helped me understand something of little sister Mary’s extravagant outpouring of expensive sweet smelling perfume onto Jesus’ feet. If I had realized that I would not have Dad with me much longer, I would have done the same. I did clip his toe nails, after he could not do it anymore--- and I am so glad I did.

Our text is a record of one of the last days Jesus spend in this world. When he left the home of his best friends he walked a few miles up a dusty path to a hill called The Mount of Olives, and from that pinnacle in his life, he marched through palm branches to his death. So, this scene is almost like a death bed event.

One of the privileges of pastoral ministry is being able to share in intimate family times when trouble comes to families. The doctor "calls in the family" when it seems certain that death is near--- and usually the Pastor is called too. Many times I have stood by, attempting to be a stalwart of strength, with a cloistered family and best friends during that most precious moment. The strength is not so much in what is said, but in simply being

One tradition tells us that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, were Jesus’ sisters and brother, there is no scriptural record of that, but it’s a clarifying thought. We do know that they were the most intimate friends Jesus had. They had previously been let in on what seems like a "Messianic Secret," which Jesus had to conceal from others for fear of being killed before he could accomplish all his tasks on earth. Those around this table knew how precious this last visit was.

During Jesus’ previous visit to Bethany, when he brought Lazarus back from death, he had explained to them that, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." And then Jesus asked Martha directly, "Do you believe this? She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." (John 11: 25-27, NRSV). John is the only gospel author to include this encounter because he was the only one that had been included in this small circle. I like to think that John was a part of the supper that last night in Bethany. These are the kinds of friends a dying man seeks out for support.

Don’t you know that later, when the other Apostles realized how much they had missed, they felt terrible. They could have been included in the inner circle right from the start, but somehow they did not catch on. Peter’s grief is recorded after he had denied even knowing Jesus three times. Judas, the penny pincher in our text, had such remorse over the death of Jesus and of his own secret stealing from the treasury, that he committed suicide. Jesus was right there for them for three years along the back roads of Palestine, and they somehow missed out on really knowing him.

However, the Good News of the New Testament is that all of us can become a part of the inner circle, which has been drawn wide. We, through believing and through living a new life, are drawn into the household of faith as co-heirs with our brother, Jesus. We can become sons and daughters of the family of the Father. All of the family secrets are ours to know. All of the rewards of Jesus’ Spirit are ours to experience.

And still some somehow miss the point. Like the mystified "clueless" majority of the Apostles, many still hang around church for years and never get it. Sitting in church doesn't automatically make you a true believer, anymore than sitting in an automobile showroom makes you into a new car. It takes humility, and vulnerability, and simple faith. Casting all of our cares, and doubts, aside--- we come to know that he is the one that cared enough to give his life for us. What a brother!

Out of this week’s tragedy of this week’s children killing children massacre in a school yard in Jonesboro, Arkansas, has come the heroic story of how star teacher Shannon Wright gave her life to save her pupil Emma Pitman. Likewise, Jesus stepped in front of a bullet with our name on it.

I remember my Mother telling me, "Bobby, if you were the only little boy in the world, Jesus would have died for you!" I still believe that, and believing that has brought me this far down the roadway of life. I have no idea what pits I would have stumbled into without him; but, I’m so glad that he stopped by my home, and ate supper at our table, and left a fragrance of sweet smelling perfume in my life.

And then, almost better than getting drawn inside the family, is the joy of opening up the ranks to others. Total strangers, friends, relatives, associates, neighbors--- all begin to see the reflection of your new family in you. Just as we bear the environmental influences, the accent, the attitudes, and the power of our birth families; so, we can not help but bear the fragrance of this new spiritual family.

I am enjoying that fragrance in this sanctuary at this moment. Or, is it the Polo, and Safari?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

3/29/98, L5C