Reflection for Friday 10th September 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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DAILY REFLECTION 10 September 2021
Today’s reflection is by our Team Rector, Rev’d Derek Arnold and can be heard on the Website http://tcmc.church

READING Luke 6.39-42
He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

REFLECTION
We all know the saying, those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and in the reading from Luke’s gospel, Christ instructs his disciples to pay more attention to their own faults than the faults of others.
Unfortunately, what Jesus is saying is all too common in society today. Many of us, without knowing all the facts, often make the wrong judgments about people. Jesus was constantly pointing his finger at the established church for being too judgemental, and many people do the same to the church today.
I’ve had too many conversations with people who have been hurt by the church because of what they believe to be an unfair judgment of who they are, what they have done and where they come from. And this is the tragedy that Jesus speaks about in reading.
But is it appropriate to make a comment or be judgemental about someone? I believe that the Christian’s “default” stance toward others is to be one of forgiveness and mercy, and not judge. Jesus clearly said forgive and offer the same mercy that God offers us, and not to pass judgement on people when they fail. It is not our role in life to judge people for their opinions and often matters of conscience.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (1 Corinthians 4.5). There is no way any of us can know exactly what someone intentions are.
Even Jesus did not come to condemn the world, and the Bible is clear about our role as Christians, and that is to love, accept, and forgive. We must remember that God’s way of dealing with disobedience is with patience, kindness, and tolerance, with the hope that one day all will come to repentance before it is too late. And as his representatives in this world, we are called to do the same.
But when someone falls short of what is required to live lives worthy of being called children of God; then surely it is our loving responsibility to say something, but only with encouragement and love as our motives, and not punishment. That is God’s way and therefore it should surely be our way as well.

THE COLLECT
Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Reflection for Thursday 9th September 2021

Nigel Price

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Luke 6:2738 (NIV)

Love for Enemies
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Judging Others
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  

Reflection

What a powerful passage we have here! If you thought that being a Christian was going to be easy, think again. If you thought our religion and our God was essentially the same as all other religions with just a few variations, then you are mistaken.

The crowds gathered around Jesus because he had so much energy; he was saying things that were so different; and he was healing people. His whole life displayed an exuberant generosity with nothing spared.

Just one short line says it all ‘Even sinners love those who love them.’ This shows what a sea change Jesus was advocating. And it all stems from the unlimited generosity of God. He provides good things for all to enjoy, whether they deserve it or not. That is what He is like.

And if we wish to follow Jesus and become more like the image of God in which we are made, to demonstrate an attitude of heart and brightness of spirit whatever the world throws at us, then we have to turn our view of the world on its head. Think of the best thing that you could do for the worst person you know. Think of those to whom you wish to be nasty and instead lavish generosity upon them.

But how many people do you know who practise this? How many communities have you seen where these guidelines are the rule of life? We have had 2,000 years to get this right, so why are we stilln getting it so wrong. What can we do about it? What can you do about it?

I said it wasn’t easy; it seems to be against all human nature and instinct, but this is where we need to go if we are going to transform society and above all where we need to start is within our own churches. With Grace it is possible.

So we pray:

The Collect

Merciful God,
your Son came to save us
and bore our sins on the cross:
may we trust in your mercy and know your love,
rejoicing in the righteousness that is ours
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 8th September 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Well, the school holidays are nearly over. And when I’m on holiday, when I go away, I rather enjoy it because there’s a simplicity about it. I have not taken all my clothes, I have not taken all the things that I could do at home and there’s less choice and I’m enjoying it. I like the ‘poverty’ of having less; travelling light. Jesus says in the passage of Luke 6, that the poor could be blessed.

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor,

    for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 Blessed are you who hunger now,

    for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now,

    for you will laugh.

22 Blessed are you when people hate you,

    when they exclude you and insult you

    and reject your name as evil,

        because of the Son of Man.

23 ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,

    for you have already received your comfort.

25 Woe to you who are well fed now,

    for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now,

    for you will mourn and weep.

26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,

    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

The sermon on the Mount is this collection of Jesus’ teachings and this is part of the Beatitudes; a list of things about which people are blessed. There seems to be an inversion in the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s that things are upside down; not very comfortable for we who are already very blessed in this world.

Jesus says, blessed are the poor. I’m not sure that Jesus is talking about the destitute. It’s not very blessed when you don’t have the very basics of life. But there is something good in here about being poor. It’s hard for us to understand in our material wealth. We have all that we need , not all that we want but we certainly everything we need.

If there’s something good about poverty, there’s something bad about wealth, says Jesus in Mark 10, “It’s hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God”. It’s hard for us to understand the things of the kingdom when we are so well-off, we just can’t see them. We become blind. So how are we to be helped to understand this?

Well, let’s try poverty for a bit. How do you do that? Well, perhaps a simple holiday might help us to reflect on all the things that we have at home that we don’t really need. Maybe going on a retreat – a Christian holiday if you like – but one where we take fewer things and do fewer things; time to do less and to withdraw from the busyness of life. Maybe it’s a personal discipline of fasting, as you might do in lent, an opportunity to just do without and to miss those things, to be poor about them. Maybe it is about making space in our own lives. It’s quite hard to do when there’s so much around to invade our peace. Hard to do without when we are tempted by seeing so much that’s around.

It could be by making space emotionally from people. We don’t have to be with people all the time and loneliness and being on our own some of the time can give space for us to discover things of God, space from the noise and busyness, space from doing. We all like to do things don’t we; maybe stopping ‘doing’ for a day would be a good idea? Missing the rewards that we get from achieving things might help us to discover something of God.

Matthew’s version of the beatitudes says “Blessed are the  poor in spirit”. It doesn’t ask us to be poor in spirit permanently. Perhaps there is a blessing in allowing ourselves to be a little lower than we feel at the moment, just setting ourselves away from those things that lift us up, so that we can taste what being poor is like and trusting God.

There is the course that principle called the KISS principle that often I think about when I’m planning services or projects: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. I’m very good at making things very complex. This passage reminds me that simplicity, and poverty of wealth, and poverty of not doing to much, can be a place where God can teach me.

God says to the people of Israel,

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation,

    in quietness and trust is your strength,

but you would have none of it.

Isaiah 30v 15

The Collect.

Almighty God, whose only Son, has opened up a new and living way into your presence; give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth, through Jesus Christ, your Son who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now I’m forever. Amen

Reflection for Monday 6th September 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 6th September 2021

The Gospel – Luke 6.6-11

6 On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 8Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ He got up and stood there. 9Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’ 10After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored. 11But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Reflection

The Scribes and Pharisees had been looking for an excuse to accuse Jesus – to catch him out – so they were watching to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.

There is a man present with a withered hand. When one of your hands doesn’t work as it should so many things in daily life become really difficult, if not impossible. Just getting dressed in the morning can be a challenge – and cooking, eating, anything that involves holding or manipulating an object. It might sound like a small part of the body – but the hand is a pretty important one. The man’s working options and his ability to care for his family if he had one – or find a wife if he hadn’t – would have been limited. He may even have been shunned in society because of his disability – his whole life would have been severely impacted.

Jesus knew what the Pharisees and Scribes were thinking and he asked the man to stand before him. I think it would have taken quite a bit of courage for the man to stand in front of everyone as Jesus called him.

Then Jesus asked the question “Is it lawful to do good or harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it” – and after looking around at them, he asked the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored.

The Sabbath was made for man – not man for the Sabbath we read. The Sabbath is a gift to us from God, who himself rested on the seventh day. A gift of a day to restore our senses and rest our bodies. To enable life to flourish.

Restoring the man’s hand to health was in so many ways restoring the man to fullness of life. Leaving the man in his condition would have condemned him to his continuing hard existence. And that was the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes – Jesus came to heal and bring life – the teachers of the law were seeking to destroy – both Jesus – and by strict application of their law – the man’s life. As Jesus said in our gospel reading a week or so ago in another discussion about the law, quoting from the prophet Isaiah “They honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”.

God’s law of love is always about life. It is about encouraging, building up, growing together, healing, freedom, flourishing and so much more – and by its fruit we will know it. Amen.

The Collect for the 14th Sunday after Trinity

Almighty God,

whose only Son has opened for us

a new and living way into your presence:

give us pure hearts and steadfast wills

to worship you in spirit and in truth;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Friday 3rd September 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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DAILY REFLECTION 3 September 2021

Today’s reflection is by our Team Rector, Rev’d Derek Arnold and can be heard on the Website http://tcmc.church

READING Luke 5.33-39

Then they said to him, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”’

REFLECTION

Jesus knew his days were numbers and that his death would happen quite soon. But it wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would be a day for time off, a celebration, a day when we would put on our best clothes and the atmosphere of life would be altogether change. And this change he describes for us a few little pictures.

There will be those who will be prepared to take bits and pieces of his new message and sew them into the fabric of their own old ideas where they had become worn away. However what sensible person takes pieces of a new dress they have just cut up to patch something which has had its day. Jesus says, my message is meant as a total replacement, not something which is a useful patch.

Then there will be those who want all of the new, provided they can keep hold of the old, which simple won’t work and that is when Jesus talks about the wineskins, which were in fact goatskins sewed together at the edges to form watertight bags.

New wine expands as it ages, therefore it needs to be put into new pliable wineskins and not an old one, which after use becomes more rigid and would burst. Jesus is saying that the brittle wineskins of our old beliefs will not be able to hold it, therefore you must discard them altogether.

The Pharsees and the leaders of the day, were like the old wineskins, too rigid to accept Jesus, who could not be contained in their tradition or rules. The new Christianity required new approaches, new traditions, and new structures.

And today, we need to be careful that our church worship, meetings, and ministries don’t become too rigid and structured that they become so closed and miss a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit, a new way, or a new idea of how to do things.

We too must be careful not to allow our hearts to become to rigid to the new things that Christ brings. Our hearts must remain pliable and open to Jesus’ life-changing message.

THE COLLECT

Almighty God,

who called your Church to bear witness

that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:

help us to proclaim the good news of your love,

that all who hear it may be drawn to you;

through him who was lifted up on the cross,

and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Thursday 2nd September 2021

Nigel Price

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Today we remember the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea.  At the end of the 19th century missionaries were sent out by the London Missionary Society and in 1901 they met their deaths.  Forty years later, during the Japanese occupation two English priests, among many others, also met their deaths.  Those of you who remember John Ewington may know that Papua New Guinea was very dear to his heart, having a connection out there.  And there is another Devon connection with Vanuatu, an island just to the east, where John Patteson was Bishop of Melanesia and came to an untimely end in the Solomon Islands.  In a few weeks’ time the Archbishop of Canterbury is coming to Fenition where Patteson was brought up and there will be a service in Exeter Cathedral. Find out more on the Diocesan website.  And now we have a reading from Luke.

Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Reflection

Well, it’s nice to be back with you again, and here we have a familiar story.  It’s all about the marvellous catch, but actually I want to concentrate on a small detail from the start of this story.  The people are crowding round Jesus and he spots two boats on the shore and gets into one from where he carries on his teaching.  Sometimes, even for the best of us, the crush of people around us becomes too much to bear and we need a little space to ourselves.

Sometimes, the choice to be apart from people is not our own.  Last week, despite exercising caution over many months I tested positive for Covid.  So then starts an enforced isolation which finishes after this Sunday.  Two things occur to me.  First, it shows how pernicious this virus is; even when being cautious to the extent of being wary when out and about, and knowing that friends and family are doing the same, but there is still this risk from friends of friends and contacts of friends never always knowing who might have been in contact with whom along the chain.  Even those who are regularly testing negative can slip through the net.

But that is not to say that we should be paranoic and trust no one, hiding ourselves away in perfect isolation.  That is in no way good for the soul.  So we are cautious but realistic. There are always risks in life. The bonus is that while it has been draining and not a little uncomfortable – and very frustrating at having to cancel stuff – the effects, having been vaccinated, are not life threateningly serious.

Second, it is good to step back and reflect.  To step away from the world, into that little boat, and decide what is really necessary for a good life and what can be cast aside.  Sometimes we spend far too much time chasing around after something we cannot quite reach and not noticing all that is around us within easy reach.  Think of that cartoon character of a dog chasing its tail getting ever faster.

So I have relished having some time to myself, but I am itching to get back into the world!  But in the meantime, the shorter collect for today has a very timely message for us all.

So we pray:

The Collect

Almighty God,
you search us and know us;
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 1st September 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Are you good at goodbyes? Some people never seem to go quickly and take forever to say goodbye. And some people say goodbye much too quickly and disappear even before we’ve had a real opportunity to let them take their leave. Jesus had to say goodbye to people who wanted to keep him with them. Our readings from Luke chapter four, beginning at verse 38. (NIV)

Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of illness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’ 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

The people had found something wonderful. Here was a healer who healed those whom they brought to him. And of course, when you find a resource like that, a person like that who can make such a difference in a world where there was no modern health care, you want more. We would want to hold on to someone who was able to change people’s lives like this. And so it says in verse 42, “they tried to keep him from leaving”.

We are always limited in our human view, aren’t we? We’re trying to expand our minds and our faith and our understanding. But we are limited. And in order to understand the world, we tend to shrink it, to fit it into what we already know, things that we can understand, things that we can control so that we can feel safe. And of course, we try to do this to God. We try to shrink him, to trap him, to make him more like us so that we can understand him and then perhaps control him. The people in this passage try to keep Jesus from leaving them so that they could control him. And, of course, they were disappointed that he had to go to the other towns and his mission was greater than just this particular town.

God disappoints us sometimes as well when he doesn’t fit into what we want. It’s not that he doesn’t care, but that he sees a bigger picture. He sees much more than we can see in our own little worlds. So today, let’s ask Jesus to help us to be more like him and to help us to stop trying to make Jesus small-minded like us.

Heavenly Father, open our eyes that we may see Jesus and see his work in the wide world that he loves. Amen.

Our Collect. Almighty God, who called your church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself; help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through Him who was lifted up on the cross and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Reflection for Friday 30th July 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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Before we begin, I would like to say that it has been a real joy and pleasure for all of us to do these Daily Reflections for you since March of last year. With that in mind we will have a rest in August and begin again on the 1 September. I hope the rest of the summer will be wonderful and we look forward to speaking with you once again.

READING Mathew 13.54-58 (NIV)
Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

REFLECTION
We can read about Great faith, we also read about faith that saves and moves mountains, but have you ever heard of a lack faith that stops miracle? Well this is what we encounter here in Nazareth when Jesus returns to his hometown and his own people.
Jesus had come to them as a prophet, one who challenged them to respond to some unpopular spiritual truth, but they didn’t listen, because couldn’t see beyond the boy and man that they knew. They knew his family and couldn’t bring themselves to believe in his timeless message.
But Jesus wasn’t the only prophet to be rejected in his own country. Jeremiah also experienced rejection, even by his own family members. And yet, in Capernaum Jesus healed a great multitude, he also healed the Leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and it says that many were healed in Matthew 8.16
The wind and waves obeyed him. He raised a girl from the dead, and he made the blind see, and the mute speak. These were all mighty works! But they were all performed
outside their city walls! Why? Because of one reason and it is the last line of the reading today. And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
You would think that these very people would have more faith than anyone. This was the very place where Jesus grew up and was known. But their lack of faith blinded them to see what was before their very eyes.
So how is our faith today? Do we really believe that Jesus can save the lost, heal the sick, make the blind to see and set the captives free? What amazes me is the fact that they knew about what he had done. Verse 54 says that they were amazed and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’
They knew all this and yet they still refused to believe. Why? Because they couldn’t believe that the carpenter’s son, could do all this, it can’t be true. Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t these his brothers, James, and Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? And then they took offence.
Isn’t this the same reason why it is sometimes so difficult for us to testify to our families, because they knew some of us before we became Christians? But like Jesus we have nothing to be ashamed of because his blood washes us clean and makes us blameless in his sight.

Sadly his own people didn’t have a vision of what Jesus can do. How he can save their friends and our friends as well, there families and our families as well. Heal the sick and so on. They also didn’t understand what they could do through Jesus. How he could give them the strength, the courage, and the means to do all things. Are we sure, we do?

THE COLLECT (alternative)
Lord God,
your Son left the riches of heaven
and became poor for our sake:
when we prosper save us from pride,
when we are needy save us from despair,
that we may trust in you alone.
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Thursday 29th July 2021

Nigel Price

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Today we celebrate Mary, Martha and Lazarus, so our reading is an episode from John’ Gospel.

John 12:1-8 (The Source)

Six days before the Passover started, Jesus arrived at Bethany. This is where Lazarus lived – the one Jesus raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for Jesus. Martha served, while Lazarus was one of the people sitting down to dinner with Jesus. So Mary picked up perfumed ointment, three-quarters of a pound in weight, and made from pure spikenard. She smeared Jesus’ feet with it, and wiped his feet dry with her hair. The fragrance of the oil went right through the whole house. But Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son – one of Jesus’ disciples and the one who would later betray him – said, “Why is it that this perfumed ointment wasn’t sold for a year’s wages and given to the poor?”

He couldn’t have cared less about the poor – this wasn’t why he said it. He said it because he was a thief: as he was in charge of the money case, he used to help himself to the contents.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone! She’s keeping it for the preparation for my burial! You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me with you!”

Reflection

Again we have a short familiar passage but with so much packed into it that it would take a whole day to unravel, not just the five minutes I have here.  Jesus seems to have a very special and close relationship with these three, brother and sisters; he was extremely fond of them. But here we have a rather dysfunctional episode. For Mary to have used her hair on the feet of Jesus would have meant she would have let it down, something that would have been truly shocking in such mixed company.  John takes the opportunity to portray Judas as both a thief and a betrayer-in-waiting.  And for good measure, the plight of the poor is thrown into the equation.

But I want you to reflect on the main characters for yourself.  Imagine yourself in that room watching the events unfold. Martha has been slaving away in the kitchen preparing the meal and now she is serving.  I wonder when she will get to eat herself.  Did anyone at the table notice her? Did they compliment her on the cooking? Was she proud of her efforts, or was her stomach in turmoil, wondering if the guests would enjoy the meal?

What about Mary.  Was her action just on the spur of the moment, or had she planned it? Where had the oil come from – was it just there or had she brought it specially?  How had they been able to afford to acquire it – or had it been a gift?

Then there is Judas.  No one, save one assumes Jesus, suspected that he was going to betray them all. He was still a trusted disciple – and in charge of the money purse, so clearly no-one had spotted that he was taking money for himself.

And what about Lazarus? Has Mary embarrassed him?  Has he thought of helping Martha in the kitchen?  Does he worry about what his dear friend Jesus is thinking of it all?

John gives us a reaction from Jesus, but it doesn’t really make complete sense.  Maybe that is deliberate on John’s part to add to the mystery.  By anointing Jesus, is Mary saying more than she really knows, predicting that it is all too soon when Jesus will be buried?  Jesus also makes it clear that he views keeping the oil as more important than selling it to give to the poor.  So does he believe that his death will be the action that saves the world, including the problem of poverty?  And what does that say about our world and our church today when crippling debt and evil still abound?

Who do you stand with – shameless Mary, industrious Martha, onlooker Lazarus or (seemingly) prudent and cautious Judas?

So much to think about – but with the reflection team taking a break for August you have plenty of time to ponder before we meet again!

So we pray:

The Collect

God our Father,
whose Son enjoyed the love of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus,
in learning, argument and hospitality:
may we so rejoice in your love
that the world may come to know the depths of your wisdom,
the wonder of your compassion,
and your power to bring life out of death;
through the merits of Jesus Christ, our friend and brother,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen