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Sermon and Children's Story for The Fifth Sunday in Lent - Year C
John 12:1-8
"An Extravagant Love"


READING:   John 12:1-8
SERMON :   "An Extravagant Love"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le05se 420774


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"  bcblair@aya.yale.edu

    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 
way?

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 
background,
     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 
the most.

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 
loving.

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?"

Why indeed?

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 
to someone
	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 
opportunity,
	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 
cared for?

We as the church are called to love God, and to love each 
other,
We are called in that love, to serve God, and to serve the 
world.

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
others do,
we will be worried about our actions and our resources and 
our abilities,
  	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 
consequences, 
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.



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