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Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIsaiah 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel Lesson:  St. John 12:1–23

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  (John 12: 23b “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12: 43).

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars” ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.

  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson)

We think that man’s glory will last the ages, as the 1,000 Year Reich proclaimed, but even the vainglorious ancient Romans knew something of the transitory nature of earthly glory:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” (General George S. Patton)

“In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks  of time”. Not all glory is fleeting: The glory that comes from God glorifies His Son in love for us all, and His love is before the foundations of the world, ancient yet ever new (Ephesians 1: 4-5).  The Holy Monday Gospel is the severe contrast between the poverty of the glory that comes from man with the glory that comes from God. 

The evangelist John and many other eye witnesses of the Word testified, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1: 14). The glory coming from God is His extravagant and costly mercy, as seen “when Mary anointed the Lord’s feet”.  Judas was pinching pennies,not understanding such love, nor the Giver at the table.  Judas and the Pharisees magnifies the Adamic  lust after the glory of this world.  Judas could not understand Mary’s joy that her brother Lazarus was alive by the Word of Jesus.   Like Judas, the Old Adam is a thief, stealing to get ahead, attempting to rob God of the glory for one’s self.   As old as Eve (Genesis 3: 5). The glory coming from God is finally the costly blood of His Son for those who are poor in spirit to anoint our heads and feet with His forgiveness (Matthew 5: 3).Human reason, unaided by the revelation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, can not understand such love. As  Mary anointed the Lord’s Body for His burial, the Lord has anointed us with His blood so our sin, our self itself is buried with Him, and that as He is risen,we too may walk in the newness of life (Romans 6: 4).  As our Lord said after His anointing:

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

We do not proclaim any good news of the rich and famous, Caesars and presidents, for there is none. In the whole world we remember what Mary did.  After the dust collects on trophies and awards and diplomas, they are forgotten but we remember with joy those who loved us. The Lord’s  love and mercy is never in the black, but always in the red, that is, in His blood.  A slave stands behind our ears who is the Lord of heaven and earth and says, ‘The glory of this world is fleeting, but  behold, I am with you even unto the end of age’ (Matthew 28: 20). 

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

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Readings for the day:  Isaiah 61:7-11Galatians 4:4-7Luke 1:39-55

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen specific incidents in her life being recorded: her betrothal to Joseph; the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah; her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer; the nativity of our Lord; the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men; the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple; the flight into Egypt; the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee; her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John; and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A Reflection:  I think the Roman Catholic problem with Mary is that they make much too much of her which has no Scriptural warrant.  I think the Lutheran problem with Mary has been we make much too little of her importance which likewise has no Scriptural warrant.  We should not pray to her and neither should we think we have prayed her away.

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  What or who do we magnify in our lives?    Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and the temple of the  self:  my feelings, my goodness, my friends, etc. and ad nauseam, and I  have wanted it all. Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”. Her Son was not a choice but her Child. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours.

The other feast days, featuring the Mother of Our Lord, The Annunciation (St. Luke 1: 26-38), The Presentation (Luke 2: 22-38, and The Visitation (Luke 1: 39-56, are actually festivals of Jesus Christ.   And that’s the point! Mary is associated with them and she did magnify the Lord.  She never sought  attention for herself.   She knew she would be blessed (Luke 1: 48) but she did not seek adoration but adored Him born of her virgin womb. He was her Son and her Lord!  She knew humility.  This is not the stance of the neo-feminist woman of our day…or any man.   Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Orthodox professor (1921-1983) pointedly reflected, “In (Mary’s) humility and silence, she can hardly serve as patron for the noisy and arrogant feminism of our time.”

 A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She believed.  She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor. She pointed to her Son at the wedding at Cana:  Do whatever He tells you (John 2:1-11}. It was all the Lord’s good work toward her and the fruit of His good work, likewise the Lord’s and the greatest still is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And because of her Son, as Luther said, the greatest miracle was not the Virgin conceived, but she believed.  She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

Let us pray:  

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

 

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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel according to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Martha was busy with much serving.   Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of saving doctrine,  results in mere activism and busy-ness as evidenced in Martha, and with it resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her: “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world.

In the Collect (Prayer) of the Day above, we pray that the might serve Jesus, “…faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus“.  Serving, learning, and hoping in Jesus Christ is our life in Him.  Lazarus represents everyone’s life without the Lord:  dead, spiritually and physically.  In the tomb, Lazarus could not really want to be alive or make “his decision for Christ”, only the Lord’s Word makes alivet and does for us.  As it is clear in the Bible, “…we were dead in our trespasses” and only Christ in His Word to Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, makes us alive, faith holding tight to Christ, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).

The Apostle Paul continued in his letter to Ephesians,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us the immeasurable riches of Christ Jesus’ grace.  A saint is a role model, not of mere moral goodness but of the Lord’s goodness, His grace toward sinful man and woman. Amen.

 

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Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIsaiah 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel Lesson:  St. John 12:1–23

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  (John 12: 23b “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12: 43).

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars” ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.

  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson)

We think that man’s glory will last the ages, as the 1,000 Year Reich proclaimed, but even the vainglorious ancient Romans knew something of the transitory nature of earthly glory:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” (General George S. Patton)

“In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks  of time”. Not all glory is fleeting: The glory that comes from God glorifies His Son in love for us all, and His love is before the foundations of the world, ancient yet ever new (Ephesians 1: 4-5).  The Holy Monday Gospel is the severe contrast between the poverty of the glory that comes from man with the glory that comes from God. 

The evangelist John and many other eye witnesses of the Word testified, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1: 14). The glory coming from God is His extravagant and costly mercy, as seen “when Mary anointed the Lord’s feet”.  Judas was pinching pennies,not understanding such love, nor the Giver at the table.  Judas and the Pharisees magnifies the Adamic  lust after the glory of this world.  Judas could not understand Mary’s joy that her brother Lazarus was alive by the Word of Jesus.   Like Judas, the Old Adam is a thief, stealing to get ahead, attempting to rob God of the glory for one’s self.   As old as Eve (Genesis 3: 5). The glory coming from God is finally the costly blood of His Son for those who are poor in spirit to anoint our heads and feet with His forgiveness (Matthew 5: 3).Human reason, unaided by the revelation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, can not understand such love. As  Mary anointed the Lord’s Body for His burial, the Lord has anointed us with His blood so our sin, our self itself is buried with Him, and that as He is risen,we too may walk in the newness of life (Romans 6: 4).  As our Lord said after His anointing:

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

We do not proclaim any good news of the rich and famous, Caesars and presidents, for there is none. In the whole world we remember what Mary did.  After the dust collects on trophies and awards and diplomas, they are forgotten but we remember with joy those who loved us. The Lord’s  love and mercy is never in the black, but always in the red, that is, in His blood.  A slave stands behind our ears who is the Lord of heaven and earth and says, ‘The glory of this world is fleeting, but  behold, I am with you even unto the end of age’ (Matthew 28: 20). 

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

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Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum

My soul magnifies the Lord

by Johann Sebastian Bach

Readings for the day:  Isaiah 61:7-11Galatians 4:4-7Luke 1:39-55

Let us pray:  

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Mother of Our Lord: St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen specific incidents in her life being recorded: her betrothal to Joseph; the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah; her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer; the nativity of our Lord; the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men; the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple; the flight into Egypt; the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee; her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John; and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  

I think the Roman Catholic problem with Mary is that they make much too much of her which has no Scriptural warrant.  I think the Lutheran problem with Mary has been we make much too little of her importance which likewise has no Scriptural warrant.  We should not pray to her and neither should we think we have prayed her away.

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  What or who do we magnify in our lives?  I find my own question embarrassing to answer.  Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and in our day and time, the temple of the  self, that is , my feelings, my goodness, my friends,  ad nauseam, and I  have wanted it all.  Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”.  Her Son was not a choice but her Child. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours.

A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She believed.  She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor.  It was all the Lord’s work toward her and the fruit of her good work, likewise the Lord’s and the greatest still is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

The other feast days, featuring the Mother of Our Lord, The Annunciation (St. Luke 1: 26-38), The Presentation (Luke 2: 22-38, and The Visitation (Luke 1: 39-56, are actually festivals of Jesus Christ.”  And that’s the point! Mary is associated with them and she did magnify the Lord.  She never sought  attention for herself.   She knew she would be blessed (Luke 1: 48) but she did not seek adoration but adored Him born of her virgin womb. He was her Son and her Lord!  She knew humility.  This is not the stance of the neo-feminist woman of our day…or any man.   Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Orthodox professor (1921-1983) pointedly reflected, “In (Mary’s) humility and silence, she can hardly serve as patron for the noisy and arrogant feminism of our time.”

The sundry revolutions of the ’60s brought new vocabulary  and one of the vocables was counterculture, and from it, counter-cultural.  The ’60s counter-culture was an excuse of condoning immorality. Mary, Mother of our Lord, stands today as a true counter-cultural icon. Fr. Schmemann points out that Mary is understood in her instrumentality  (“Let it be according to Your Word…”) in the Lord’s plan of salvation that the Word became flesh for her, you and I. She was obedient in true faith.  But Fr. Schmemann tellingly points out that her obedience as a woman, 

“…is one of the main reasons for Mary’s “rejection” by many “modern” Christians:  she can hardly be construed as the symbol of that ‘liberation’ which stresses the absolute ‘right’ of man to dispose of his life and of his body in a manner which he himself chooses, to a ‘self-fulfillment’ which he himself determines.”  

This self-determination has culminated in licit  abortion on demand as deadly self-fulfillment.  And Mary brought the Life of the world into the world.  Truly, she is counter-cultural.  Mary is the model of the godly life in Christ Jesus for women…and men!  Just as she told the servants at the Cana wedding, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2: 5), goes for us servants as well.  Lord, still our hearts and minds in the Sabbath of Your forgiveness by which You have redeemed us from the old way of death to live and breath in Your life, Your life which You first gave to Your Mother, so that this dark world may know You have come into our world for us and for our salvation and believing be saved.  As Mary. Amen.

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Suggested Lection:

Psalm 45:1-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 23:54-24:11 or Mark 16:1-8

Joanna, Mary, and Salome:  Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of Matthew (28:1), Mark (16:1), and Luke (24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Lk. 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Mt. 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.

Writing

Why was Christ’s resurrection revealed to these women first? There are several answers.

  • First, God was keeping His ancient custom of choosing what is foolish, undistinguished, and despised in the eyes of the world in order to put the strong and lofty to shame. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28) These women were despised not only due to the weakness of their gender but also because of Galilee, their homeland. (see John 1:46But God exalts them by revealing to them the resurrection of His Son, which is an excellent article of our faith.
  • Indeed, He even sends them to the apostles to share the message of Christ’s resurrection with them, so that they become, as the ancients say, like “apostles to the apostles” …
  • Third, in this way God wanted to prevent the accusations of the Jews. The high priests lied, saying that Christ’s disciples had stolen the body of their master. In order to provethe shamelessness and absurdity of this lie, it happened by God’s marvelous providence that these women came to the grave before the apostles. Now, it is highly unlikely that these few women could have stolen the body from a grave guarded by soldiers and closed by a large stone.
  • Fourth, through the woman Eve, death came to all human beings. On account of this, Christ wanted His resurrection, which brings us righteousness and life, to be told to others by women. At the fall of the first human being, these three worked together: the devil, who deceived; the woman, who proclaimed his talk further; the man, who ate and corrupted human nature. So also,Christ’s resurrection, these three worked together: Christ, who rose and redeemed human nature; the angel, who proclaimed the resurrection; and the women, who carried the joyful message further.

Now if Christ was pleased with the zeal of these women, which was yet bound together with significant weaknesses of faith, and did not let them come away from the tomb empty, how much less will He let those go away empty who in true faith seek Him who rules at the right hand of the Father!

Martin Chemnitz (He has been called the “second Martin”, the first being Martin Luther;  all of the above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  They brought myrrh.  We remember myrrh every Christmas as in the  magi brought”gold, frankincense and myrrh”.  Myrrh was a costly ointment used for fragrance. Someone has suggested that the gift of frankincense and myrrh were used by the Holy Family to cover the stench of the stable! This is not far off! Before daily showers, barnyard animals nearby, etc. they were used as room deodorizers. In the Song of Solomon in the Bible myrrh is used to scent the marital bed.  It was also used for burial of the dead, maybe to cover the smell of death.  Christ Jesus is the sweet fragrance of His Resurrection by which He has conquered death.  Along with Joanna, Mary and Salome, we are joined with Paul and all the Church to be the “aroma of Christ”:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2)

Let us pray…

Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  

Martha invited Jesus into her and her sister’s Mary house.  She welcomed Him.  She was hospitable.  Then there was a division in the house.  Martha went about serving.  Mary sat learning.  Martha did not like it that she had all the dinner chores. Martha sounded resentful.  She said to Jesus, Tell my sister to help me.  She commanded Jesus.  She commanded the Lord for Mary to help.  But Jesus loves the welcoming Martha as well as Mary, as He did their brother Lazarus, and chides Martha and she can not hide.  Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things   Many things is as vast a territory as in Luther’s explanation of the 1st commandment, we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things.  We live in age of anxiety and trouble. We live in a Martha world.  We are all Martha some time or another.  Things come crashing in us.  We are overwhelmed by all the demands of the day.  We wonder will there be enough?  Can we pay the mortgage?  Or if things are everything okay, the “what if’s” attack, What if I lose my job, What if I don’t go the college I want, What if I don’t do FILL-IN-THE BLANK, I’ll just die. I’ve left so many things undone, and done so many things I should not have.  IN the media age of increasing amounts of information,  feeds the Old Adam in his anxiety and trouble from the health scare of the week to terrorists all over and what if someone were to break into your home. Anxiety and trouble has already killed you. Jesus came not to kill but give life in His Word to the anxious and troubled. He came not to kill but be killed by the trouble and anxiety of the world in His sinless body to forgive and renew us by His death and His indestructible life.

 When I see a picture of a great cathedral, the feeling is I could serve there.  But how cold and bare that house would be if Jesus Christ was not all in all there.  In the probably humble home of the 2 sisters and Lazarus, was the greatest Church building ever constructed because Jesus and His Word was there.  And before that?  A stable in Bethlehem and the magi were wise to worship there and receive more than all their gold, frankincense and myrrh could ever give.  And before that?  The womb of the Virgin Mary.  Before that?  A tent pitched outside of Mamre, in the portable home of Abraham and Sarah came the Lord. IN all those cathedrals, not the word and advice of men and women, no promotion of yet another self-help book with Scripture wrongly quoted to sanctify busy-ness to save oneself. 10 steps to a better you.  No, the Savior was there and Martha was missing out. As Mr. Spock might say, ‘It is illogical to do more things to right the many debilitating things’.  Many things and Jesus said there is the one thing needful: The many and the one: Sabbath rest in His Word. This lesson illustrates the 3rd commandment, remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  We are to fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the teaching of it. If the Sabbath rest in His Word is not there, then the heart cold and bare, frightened and scared runs to and fro for every wind of doctrine and spiritual ‘experience’.  Mary despised it not, she and Martha both needed the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away. Martha welcomed Jesus.    The need for the one outweighs the needs of the many if the One is Jesus Christ.   If God’s Word of Law and Promise, the Law and the Prophets fulfilled in Jesus Christ and preached in all doctrinal purity and the Sacraments not administered according to Christ’s command, who cares?   All is darkness of busy-ness, shouting and screaming, look at all our good deeds, good feelings, good times. Not, look, behold:  the good Lord.

Many people think as Martha, It is what we offer to Jesus that matters.  Mary knew better:  it was what  Jesus offered her that mattered and changed her and Martha, and you and I.  For instance:  in the ELCA it was said many times, “The word liturgy means “work of the people”.  I heard this many times in 20 plus years, ad nauseam.  Then I reread The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the word liturgy is given it’s right meaning.  Yes, ourgia, as in ergonomics, work, and the first syllable public, the public works of God in His Sacraments for us all.

“Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to worshiped, namely, that we receive from Him what He promises and offers.”

Our “ourgia” does not save us. Mary knew that.  Martha did not…just not at that time.  Martha would.  In John’s Gospel, Martha is the first person to confess Jesus is the Christ, chapter 11, after the death of her brother.   This is the good portion, one thing that is needed, they both heard.  Mary meets Jesus on the road and again falls at His feet and cries out that my brother would not have died if you had been here.  She knew whom to turn to as did Martha.  At the whole tangled mess of anxiety and trouble, the sisters  turned not to themselves but Him, His Word. Our spirituality is God’s Word, every Word in the Bible, every Word sung and prayed, every Word faithfully taught and preached, the one thing needful, daily repentance turning toward Him our Sabbath Lord.  Sabbath teaches we can not save ourselves.  So we are not to be pure and loving?  Yes.  The one thing needful is His Word of grace, mercy and peace to do the one thing needed:  help and serve our neighbor in our various vocation. We so serve not to be saved but because we are saved by grace, grace alone.

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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