The Commemoration of The Anointing of Our Lord
2013.3.23 (Saturday before Palm Sunday)
Preached at Trinity LC, Millersburg, IA
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Quite a contrast. On the one hand, a generous act of love, of self-giving. That was Mary. On the other hand a selfish act of betrayal, of hate. That was Judas.
An act of love; an act of hate. Both acts done to our Lord. Our Lord receiving both. Our Lord suffering both.
Which one will win out? Acts of hate are powerful; they are intentional, deliberate, premeditated. / Acts of hate are well organized. And it takes a true enemy to accomplish, for acts of hate require the whole person. The heart must nurture enmity toward the victim, the soul and conscience must grow cold toward the victim and before God our Judge, / likewise, the mind must make the plans, and the body must carry out the actions.
Such was the awful state of Judas Iscariot: a cold heart and soul, a deceptive mind, evil hands, lips, and feet. His whole being was “into it”. Do not think that it was just an unfortunate instance of weakness and greed. Evil trees bear evil fruit. Cold hearts don't chill easily or quickly; Satan had worked on him, little by little, perhaps even from childhood. Apparently, he was so callous, so distracted and scornful, that the warm glow of Christ's Light didn't affect him like it did the others.
Beware, O man, O Christian, you who have been warmed by the Light of Christ. Scripture warns that evil is crouching at the door. Repent. You are not so strong or wise that you can escape the seduction of evil by yourself. It begins in your heart, where prejudices, enmity, greed and lust are created. Repent. Don't let these things get out of your heart. / But how often they do, and so they move on to your mind, where evil thoughts start to collect and organize. I say more emphatically, Repent. Stop those thoughts and intentions right there in their tracks. Don't let them continue on in you. For the next step, is that they begin to come out of you. You speak or write evil now, you gossip and lie, you act on the evil plans you have drawn up in your now evil mind, / you murder, commit adultery, and steal. // Red lights flashing now, Repent, Repent, Repent. // You know what comes next. Our Lord knew. Judas knew.
Knowing all things, our Lord said to Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” He was handed over to Satan, his father, whom he had listened to and obeyed. He knew not the will of God, He knew not the love of God. Death / is the end, the result of evil. / Judas hanged himself. / Hate lost.
But then, in stark contrast, there was the act of love. How sweet, how perfect, how self-humiliating it was. Acts of love are also powerful, they are also intentional, deliberate, premeditated. They are also well organized. And it takes a true friend to accomplish, for acts of love require the whole person. The heart must nurture compassion toward the beloved, the soul and conscience must grow warm and familiar, both with man and God, / likewise, the mind must make plans, and the body must carry out the actions of self-giving.
Such was the humble state of the great and holy myrrh-bearer St Mary of Bethany. She loved much, and generously, for she had been loved much, and generously. She is the connecting link between last night's “Lazarus Friday” service / and tonight's “Anointing Saturday” service, for it was her brother, Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Do not think that Mary just happened to pass by the cabinet in the cellar with the expensive ointment and think, “Hey, wouldn't it be neat to pour this on Jesus tonight?” / Every good tree bears good fruit. The warmth of the heart isn't fleeting or transient; our Lord's presence and proclamation had worked on this Mary, little by little, even from childhood. Before she acted out in self-giving love for her Lord, she had first come to believe in Him. She had a grounded and well-established faith.
He was the Christ, after all, the “Anointed One”. How appropriate it would be, then, to anoint Him with the oil of gladness beyond his companions; to make His robes all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia, so that, the next day, He might ride out of Bethany and into Jerusalem victoriously for the cause of Truth and Meekness and Righteousness, for He loves Righteousness and hates wickedness. Love / was going to defeat hate / once and for all.
Mary planned this. And so, knowing all things, our Lord said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me...Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
As we remember our Lord in these holiest of weeks, we also remember our Lord's beloved friends. As you heard last night, “whoever is a friend of Jesus, is also a friend of yours.” / “Remembering”; / that's what friends do. Jesus, the friend of sinners and lover of mankind has remembered you, a sinner. Even while you were enemies of God, God remembered you, and loved you, by sending His Son, Christ Jesus to perform that greatest act of love of all time: the death of God on the cross.
You see, love always wins, for God always wins, and God is love. Even in anger, / God is love. Even when you are confused about God, God is love. Even when you are stressed out and bothered by evil and distracted by the world, God is loving you. Love always wins.
The reason Judas lost (and lost everything, perhaps even his eternal salvation) the cause of his failure was a deficiency in love. And if you are deficient in love, you must also be deficient / in faith, for faith and love always come together, always work together. And both are from God.
Next week, we will all weep on account of the suffering and death of Jesus. Good Friday always comes as a shock, especially to those of us who have prepared the most for it. But the point of Lent is not only to prepare for our Lord's suffering and death, it is most especially to prepare for our own suffering and death. When faced with severe suffering and death, we are tempted to think that God has abandoned us, that He has not remembered us, that He has stopped being our Friend.
Keep your eyes and hearts and minds fixed on Jesus, beloved. His own death and brutal suffering show us the Truth: that against all odds, the love of faith triumphs. The odds were not in Jesus' favor. Once, the whole world was going after him for good. But the world will always show it's true colors in the end: hate, selfishness, murder, deception, evil. Jesus died. Judas got paid. The leaders of Israel were relieved.
Your enemies will always have their little times of triumph, / for in the world, the cards are always stacked in their favor. But their rejoicing is only temporary, for their master, and his usurped reign, is only temporary.
For you, O Beloved, O Friends of God, you who have been anointed in the waters of Holy Baptism and whose garments are fragrant with the oil of gladness, you who are most handsome of the sons of men, over whose lips the Means of Grace have been poured in the Holy Supper, your rejoicing is eternal, / for the arrows of love and prayer are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies; the enemies are destroyed, for evil is always destructive. Only love remains. And God loves you. And soon, He will bring you into His eternal Kingdom of love, you will see the Victorious One seated on His throne forever and ever. And what's more, He will bring you into His banqueting house, and place His victory banner over you, and that banner / over you / is love. You see, love always wins, now / and unto the ages of ages.
In the name of +Jesus. Amen.