This morning I read in Mark 14 the story of the woman who poured expensive perfume over the head of Jesus while he was a guest at Simon’s house for dinner. So often when I re-read a story like this one, I come away from it with a fresh perspective on it.
The woman who came to that dinner – uninvited and subsequently soundly criticized for her action – came to worship the one who had given her something of more value than all the money she spent on that perfume. The story and the criticism she received reminded me that we all need ways in which to express our deepest feelings in worship of Jesus. Jesus recognized her action as worship and told his frugal followers (concerned for the waste) that her act of anointing was in preparation for his death. Of course they didn’t understand that his death was close at hand. And of course they had never seen anyone worship God in this way, spontaneously with an action coming from her heart, perhaps from her recent experience of love being poured out onto her hurts and sorrows as only God can. It wasn’t that the disciples and other followers were unused to expressions of worship, but worship had its prescribed forms that were to be followed and this just wasn’t the norm. This was lavish and messy and maybe embarrassing sensual.
I have been suffering from the effects of change lately. I think. The effects of living in changing times are not always glaringly obvious but I think that is what I am experiencing as we settle into anew rhythm of church life that comes with new staff. Things we used to do have no great significance to the newcomers but suddenly the change takes on new significance for me. There are things I miss; their absence makes me suddenly homesick for the old ways. Old habits suddenly take on meaning way beyond what they are worth. New patterns of worship are waiting for me to explore if I can embrace them; if I’m not too afraid to recognize that they too are ways of worship.
New ways of worship. They are going to happen. They need to happen. A new generation needs to find its own expression of faith and worship. Maybe it will look more like expensive perfume being poured out extravagantly to bless God in ways I never would have dared.
And then again, it could be that I am a bit like that woman, and the stuff I am longing for is the experience, sensual as it is, of pouring out my love to God in ways that others don’t always understand.
A short paragraph in Mark; the story of a woman that will be remembered – as Jesus promised. The words are stirring some kind of soul work in me.