3-9-16 - What a Waste

A confession: yesterday’s reflection notwithstanding, I am not a fan of the hugely generous gesture, someone sacrificing everything to help someone else or to serve God. I don’t have the impulses of a Mother Teresa; I probably would have told St. Francis of Assisi, “Why don’t you leave most of it behind? Why all of it? Don’t you want a little insurance?” Everything in moderation, right? Even sacrificial giving.

So I’m not in particularly nice company this week – for the person in our story who articulates this more pragmatic way of thinking about resources is none other than Judas:

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’

In an aside, John tells us that Judas didn’t actually care about the poor, but wanted to steal the offering for himself. How about we give him the benefit of the doubt? Let’s say he actually did care about the poor. He actually did care about the radical equality that Jesus was preaching. He actually did want to see the revolution come to pass. To someone with economic justice on his mind, Mary’s extravagant gesture could seem an unconscionable waste of resources. Three hundred denarii’s worth of high-priced perfumed oil on one person’s feet? Stinking up the whole house?

It is outrageous, when you think about it as stewardship. It makes no sense. About as much sense as it made for God to offer up that One who was most precious to him, his only begotten Son. About as much sense as it made for that Son to take upon himself the consequence of catastrophic estrangement which was our due as those who rebelled against God; to give up his position, his dignity, his life.

One grey and rainy Good Friday I found myself in Union Square after the three-hour preaching of the Cross at Grace Church. Everything was dingy and dirty; everybody looked harried and downcast, me included. And I thought, “For this? You gave it all for this miserable lot? What a waste.”

Yes, what a waste; what ridiculous extravagance, to kill the Son of God so that we might be free to love God for eternity. As that beautiful hymn, My Song is Love Unknown, says, “Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be. Oh, who am I, that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die?”

Becoming a person who can offer it all starts with our willingness to accept that Christ has given it all for us. To accept that we are that precious to God, that God finds us worthy because God said so, not because of anything we think or do or say. Perhaps today we might meditate on that extravagant, profligate, wasteful, over-the-top love lavished upon us, try to let it soak into our bones, into our spirits, into all the dents the world’s “no’s” have left in us.

You are beloved, beyond measure, beyond sense. Deal with it!

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