READING: John 12:1-8
SERMON : "An Extravagant Love"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
CHILDREN'S TIME: "A Fragrant Offering"
Object: - Bread Baking, Sweet Anointing Oil, Scented Candle
Theme - Mary's Anointing of Love - a fragrant offering of Love
Source - Self and some concepts from Rev. Brett Blair: "Children's
Sermons: The Common Lectionary"
Please note that you should take the bread machine
into the church ready to bake bread in it - and set
timer on it so it will be almost finished baking the
bread near the beginning of the service - this will
scent the sanctuary perfectly....
Good morning. How many of you have ever been to a party?
(response). What did you do at the party? (response) Parties are a
lot of fun, aren't they? (response) Have you ever been to a party
where someone was being honoured? (response) Maybe it was there
party because they were 100 years old. Or, maybe they had just had
a baby. Or, maybe they had done something really great? Have you
ever been to a party because someone had done something really
great? (response) What did they do that was great? (response)
Jesus went to a party that was in his honour; he did something
fantastic. Do know what he did that was so great? He raised
somebody from the dead! His name was Lazarus–and he had been dead
for four days and he had already been buried. And Jesus went to
the place where he was buried and said Lazarus "Lazarus come out
of that grave!" And guess what happened? (response) That's right.
He came back to life.
Now WHO do you think was throwing this party for Lazarus?
(response) It was Lazarus' sister Martha. She was so happy that
Jesus had raised her brother from the dead that she threw a party
for Jesus. When Jesus was at this party a lady named Mary came up
to Jesus and she had a bottle of perfume in her hand. She knelt
down in front of Jesus. And when she kneeled down she put perfume
on his feet and rubs it around and then she began to dry his feet
with her long hair. What a beautiful thing to do. And the house
was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. It was her gift of
love to Jesus. Her special gift. Today I brought some fragrant
oil to remember Mary's gift of love to Jesus – it is not the same
oil, but it is the kind that the Bible talks about as anointing oil.
I want you to smell it and put some of it on.
Today there is another smell in the church – does anyone know what
it is? That smell reminds us of another gift - one that Jesus made
when he gave his life for us on the cross – so that we might live
forever with him. Just as Mary's gift of love filled the whole
house with a wonderful smell, as an offering to God – so the bread
of communion fills this house today - and reminds us that Jesus gave
himself for us.
PRAYER: loving God - we thank for the gifts you give - most
especially we thank you for Jesus - and for how he died for us -
and rose again from the dead. - Help us dear God - whenever we
smell bread bakeing - to remember your offering to us. Amen
SERMON: An Extravagant Love
A few years ago a Sunday School class in the church that I
was minister at decided to present to the congregation a
banner for use in the sanctuary. It was to be an Easter
banner - and therefore I expected it's predominate colour
would be white.
I expected that for two reasons -
- the first reason was that white is the colour of Easter -
and it has been the colour of Easter almost since the day
that the Church began.
- and the second reason was that I had just prior to the
decision of the class to make up a banner put on a workshop
for the Sunday School teachers and Bible Study class on the
church year - and carefully explained out the colours and
major symbols of each season.
You know how it goes
- Green for Epiphany and the Season of Pentecost
with symbols of growth and transformation
- Red for Pentecost Day and celebrations of ministry
with symbols of fire and of doves descending
- Purple for Advent and Lent
with symbols of crowns and trumpets for the first,
and of crosses and thorns and nails for the other,
- And of course for Easter - white with symbols
like butterflies and empty crosses and sunrises.
That is the way the tradition has come down to us,
and that is the way that I expected the Sunday School class
to work - the right way - the traditional way - the way
taught to us by our ancestors.
Anyway - to make a long story short, I found out a couple of
weeks before the presentation was scheduled that the new
Easter banner was going to be purple, and I was upset by it.
How, I fumed, will the people ever come to understand the
symbolism of the church, how will they ever celebrate the
richness of our traditions and learn from them what it is
important to know, if we don't present them in the correct
I really fretted about it until I remembered another banner
from another church -
it was a baptismal and confirmation hanging
presented by the ladies one sunny Pentecost Sunday.
On it there was a purple dove flying over a light blue
that dove was so purple it could have been easily
mistaken for a crow
and from that dove there dripped several drops of blood.
It too was something that didn't seem right to me - like the
purple Easter banner,
but do you know something,
out of all the banners that were hung in that church,
and there were twelve in all in the sanctuary
the one with the purple dove was the one that I looked at
I could not stop myself from wondering about the love of God
when I looked at;
about how Jesus bled for us,
about how, when we are baptized,
we are baptized into his death,
as well as into his resurrection,
about how the Spirit lets us fly like a bird,
and how that lifting up for us, that soaring, came at a
price to our Lord; a price that he willing paid because of
the incredible love that he had for us.
I was ever so grateful to the children and their teachers
for that banner just as I ended up being grateful for the
purple Easter Banner,
both of them were impressive,
and both of them represented the labour, the love,
and the devotion of some very special people.
I tell this story today for a simple reason -
I tell it to remind each of you how easy it is to allow our
sense of what is right and what is wrong to get in the way
of our seeing and doing what is good and beautiful and
Like Judas in the gospel reading today
it is so easy for us to criticize an act of love and of
dedication, because it doesn't fit with what we think
is the proper thing to do.
Leave aside for a minute the part of the gospel reading that
suggests that Judas criticized Mary's act of love in
anointing Jesus' feet with an expensive ointment because he
was a thief - and instead think of his criticism of Mary's
act for its own value.
"Why", he states, "Wasn't this perfume sold for
three hundred silver coins and the money given
to the poor?"
When you look at the story of Mary anointing the feet of
Jesus with an enormously expensive perfume and then wiping
his feet with her hair from the perspective of the needs of
others it seems incredibly wasteful, almost sinful..
Surely the best thing Mary could have done,
if she was a true follower of the man who claimed he came
to give sight to the blind,
to heal the lame,
and to set at liberty the oppressed,
would have been to honour Jesus by giving what she had to
the poor in the very way Judas suggests.
So it might seem - yet Jesus does not see it this way -
instead Jesus approves of her actions,
telling Judas that he should leave Mary alone,
and let her keep what she has done as a
precious memory, a memory of how she has in fact prepared
him for his day of burial.
"The poor, Jesus says, "You will always have
with you; but you will not always have me."
My friends how often do we miss the opportunity to show love
how often do we pass up the chance to care for someone
because we are either too busy doing,
or insisting that others do,
the right thing, the proper thing, first
- OR - because we are thinking instead, like Judas was, of
our own desires?
Love that is measured out, whether it be in time,
or in our own internal sense of our available energy,
is not really love at all.
Love always gives its best - and it does so at the moment of
it does so now, today,
with the people immediately around us,
and not at some future date, when the people we are to care
for may, in fact be dead and gone.
Love is an immediate thing, an extravagant thing, like that
love showed by Mary,
it is not dealt out a bit at a time and only to those who
seem to us to qualify for it.
How often do we stop ourselves or someone else, from showing
love to another person because we believe that someone else.
or some other cause, deserves attention more?
How many families have difficulties simply because everyone
is so busy trying to be fair and share everything equally
that absolutely no one ever has the feeling that they are
loved fully - that they are special and unique and truly
We as the church are called to love God, and to love each
We are called in that love, to serve God, and to serve the
We cannot do this if we are so intent on helping everyone
that we forget to love the person next to us fully and
deeply with all that we have.
We cannot love God and our neighbour as we are meant to if
we end up cheating those closest to us of the love that they
need in the name of trying to be sure that someone else gets
what they need as well.
In Deuteronomy 15:, verses 10 and 11, it is written:
"Give generously to your brother, and do so
without a grudging heart.,then because of
this the Lord your God will bless you in all
your work and in everything you put your hand
to. The poor you will always hav among you,
therefore I command you to be openhanded
toward your brothers and towards the poor
and needy in your land."
Marvellous words with a marvellous promise,
the promise that when we are not grudging,
that when we are in fact open handed,
or extravagant towards our brothers and sisters
that God will in turn bless us - and not
just in some things, but in everything.
This is the passage of scripture and the promise that Jesus
alludes to when he says to Judas:
"The poor you will always have with you,
but you will not always have me."
My friends everyone needs to be loved.
Everyone needs to be treated as special..
This cannot happen if we are glued to our measuring sticks
of who should be cared for and of who deserves just how much
of our giving;
nor can it happen, if we feel that we personally, are
called to take care of everyone equally - because this too
involves measuring and judging.
We can only love in the way we are called to love, in the
way that Mary loved, if we throw away our rule books and our
measuring sticks, and love each person as fully as we
possibly can, trusting, as we do so, in the righteousness
of Christ, the saving grace of Jesus, to make it all come
out right at end.
As long as we cling to the idea that saving the world is all
up to us,
that salvation comes because of what we do or what
we will be worried about our actions and our resources and
and we will end up failing to do as much as we are in
fact able to do.
But when we begin to forget these things,
when we stop counting the costs and considering the
and look only to the love that God has for us,
and to the incredible record of his faithfulness,
then we will be free to love as extravagantly, as
completely, and as humbly as did Mary.
Extravagant love like that of Mary,
is the kind of love to which we are called to.
Indeed it is the kind of love that Jesus himself showed us,
when he, on the day after Mary anointed his feet and dried
them with her hair,
he rode into Jerusalem and gave himself up to death on a
cross so that we, utterly undeserving that we are,
might live forever with him and with the Father above. AMEN
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1998, 2001, revised 2004
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.