i've always like the story of Jesus reclining at the house of Lazarus. he is there with his disciples are enjoying a nice meal served by Martha. Lazarus, still in awe after his recent death and all, has invited them over... i imagine this meal was a small token of gratitude to the one who restored his life. This story (found in John 12:1-8) really gets interesting when Mary anoints and massages her Master Jesus' feet. Judas realizes the cost of the expensive perfume that Mary used and plays a trump card of sorts. "we could have sold that perfume and fed the poor!." who knows what Judas Iscariot's real intentions were. after all, he was the guy holding the money bag for the disciples anyway. maybe he just couldn't stand to see such value go to 'waste'.
But Jesus doesn't view it as waste at all. He views it as sacrifice... as honoring. as a sign of her great love for her Messiah. "you will always have the poor but you will not always have me." Jesus says.
What? serve the poor? yeah... put that on the back burner for now, he says.
Later on, a few days later, actually, the disciples get in to a bit of a dispute. I can hear Peter saying "Shirley, i would never abandon Jesus." "Nor would I!" said the others. "I am the greatest." No, it's me." i can imagine the guys puffing themselves up, gloating about all of the good deeds they have done... thinking the Jesus was surely impressed by them.
Jesus corrects them. "But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." (Luke 22:26)
Check out what else he says: "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones..." (Luke 22:27-29)
Quite a dichotomy here. a servant king? a kingdom based on service... based on childlike faith... based on humility and awareness.
Mary was aware of her Master's need to be served and thus set the tone. She served Him and honored him even when it seemed like it would have been better to sell that fine fragrance and give the money to the poor. Here's the thing, it is that willingness to be with Jesus and to tend to that relationship that then empowers us as disciples and followers of Christ to go out and serve the poor and the oppressed and the needy and the weary.
Attending to our relationship with Christ is #1, above all. experiencing that love from Him compels us to do great and mighty things in the most humble of ways.
Mary's love compelled her to sacrifice.
Jesus' love compelled him to sacrifice.
that love is exemplified through service.
You can't separate sacrifice and service.
If your relationship with Jesus isn't right, how can we possibly truly encompass what it means to serve? Let's be honest... that is a difficult value system to live in the midst of. But Jesus seems to be telling his disciples - both then and now - that there is no other way.
"The church then, both washes the feet of Christ and wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with oil, and pours ointment upon them, because not only does she care for the wounded and cherish the weary, but also sprinkles them with the sweet odor of grace; and pours forth the same grace not only on the rich and powerful, but also on men of lowly estate. She weighs all with equal balance, gathers all in the same bosom, and cherishes them in the same lap.
Christ died once and was buried once, and nevertheless He wills that ointment should daily be poured on His feet. What then are those feet of Christ on which we pour ointment? The feet of Christ are they of whom He himself says; 'What ye have done to one of the least of these, ye have done to me.'" ~ from Letter 41; Saint Ambrose (as quoted in The Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God)
posted @ Starbucks @ Washington Square while listening to the Appleseed Cast