Brazen Acts of Beauty
April 3rd 2022 Lent 5 John 12: 1-8
"Brazen Beauty" by Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity inspired by John 12: 1-8
Since time immemorial this land has been the meeting point of different languages, faiths and cultures. From the original peoples and first stewards of this land: the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Ojibway, Mississaugas, and Anishinabek, to those who journeyed to this land from Europe, Asia and Africa. May our church be a meeting point among different peoples where we build relationships of mutual respect and love.
Lighting The Christ Candle
Hymn: VU 642 “Be Thou My Vision”
Call to Worship
One: May we find courage here—
All: courage to follow our call,
courage to live out our faith.
One: May we find hope here—
All: hope for a better world,
hope that refuses to let us go.
One: May we find truth here—
All: truth that lives in sacred community,
truth that lives in ancient stories.
One: May we find all that we seek.
All: And in our seeking, may we know God. Amen.
Good Friday walk: The churches of the Scugog are once again sponsoring the traditional Good Friday walk, on Friday morning, April 15th, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Palmer Park gazebo. Following the cross, the walk proceeds to seven stations through downtown Port Perry. The entire walk takes about an hour. We hope to see you there!
Farewell Service: Rev. Ned’s final service with Scugog Island United Church will be on June 5th.
Annual Meeting on April 24th
Copyright: Prayers by Rev. Sarah (Are) Speed | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org.Bulletin Cover art by Hannah Garrity.
Artist Statement for Cover “Brazen Beauty”
This image began as a painting on raw canvas. With fluid strokes of paint, I allowed the colors to run and bleed into each other. As I drew Mary kneeling, I omitted the other details in the scene, removing Jesus’ feet, the other guests, the table full of food. I wanted to focus on Mary’s brazen act of pouring out the expensive perfume, a commodity valued at a year’s worth of wages. The luxurious liquid is expansive, flowing out toward us as the viewer. It bleeds into the red, foreshadowing the blood Jesus will soon shed. The vessel she holds is lined with gold, a reference to the ancient Japanese practice of Kintsugi, of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer. The art of Kintsugi embellishes the cracks and transforms a shattered vessel into a new object of beauty. In this embodied act of worship, Mary is practicing Kintsugi—boldly celebrating the beauty of life even as death approaches.
Jean Law, Elsie Nicholson, Terry Petroff, John and Diane Findlay, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, John Black, Lynne and Ian McLeod, Nellie Van Dyke, Tim Pelyk, Bob Currie, Derrek Linton, Sharen Bobbie, Ed and Jane Williams, Bill Statton, Cheryl Helm, Tracy Harper, and Joanne.
Hymn- VU 147 “What Wondrous Love is This”
Prayer of Confession
Jesus of Nazareth, we admit that often we tuck our faith into our pockets, hiding in a place of comfort rather than proudly declaring: yes we are Christian, yes we believe, yes this faith has changed me. We are so afraid of offending others or embarrassing ourselves that we have established rules: no faith at the dinner table, no faith in politics, no faith with strangers. Forgive us for whispering when we could be singing. Forgive us for staying quiet when we could be part of rewriting the narrative. We want to be brave. We want to pour out perfume over your feet. These things we pray, amen.
Words of Forgiveness
Family of faith, hear this good news:
Even in our silence, God loves us.
Even in our fear or shame, God chooses us.
Even when we sin, God wraps us in grace.
You are free—to be bold, to be brazen,
to be exactly who God called you to be.
Thanks be to God, amen.
Prayer of Illumination
sometimes my waking is a prayer.
Sometimes the song I have stuck in my head,
rumbling around on repeat, is a prayer.
Sometimes the way I talk to the children
and the way I hug the dog is a prayer.
Sometimes the way I take my phone out to get a picture of the sunset or of the people
I love—that is a prayer.
Other times, prayer is moments like this—
heads bowed, eyes closed, hearts quiet for just a moment.
And in all of it, I trust you to hear me.
Help me to hear you in return.
Gratefully we pray, amen.
Scripture: John 12: 1-8
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
In her commentary of John 12:1-8, Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia shared a story of a Sunday morning when her young son was rolling around on the ground at the entrance of the church sanctuary. She was embarrassed as members of the congregation entered and had to awkwardly make their way around her son. Then one person said to her, “Isn’t it wonderful that your son feels so comfortable here that he can move his body around to get ready for worship?” That person had been able to see beauty in the situation, where she could not. Rev. Abazi said this comment was a beautiful gift for her that proclaimed love for who her son is and what the church is for him.
The gospel passage invites us to think about gifts. When do we give gifts? Who do we give them to and why? There are several gifts shared in this passage. Jesus is hosted at the home of Lazarus (who he rose from the dead) and his sisters Martha and Mary. The three offer Jesus gifts in gratitude for the gift he has given them in restoring Lazarus’ life; a gift they know they could never repay.
One of the gifts they give is a rare opportunity for Jesus to rest. Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” In this passage Lazarus, Martha and Mary give him as much a home as he could have. They host him in their home, Martha serves the meal, Lazarus sits at the table with him, and then Mary gives the gift of anointing his feet with a very costly perfume. It is an extravagant act of hospitality, not because of the financial cost attached to it, but because of the significance. Christ is Greek for Messiah, which means the anointed one. In the Hebrew Scriptures when it talks of the anointed one, it is referring to the king God has chosen. So in this act Mary has taken on the role of prophet anointing Jesus as God’s chosen king. The other time using perfume like this would be used is at a funeral to prepare the body. Perhaps Mary has understood what the disciples have not been able to, or choose not to understand; she understands that Jesus will die for others. She gives Jesus a remarkable gift and the significance would not have been lost on him. Mary gives this gift that would have cost her a lot, but it lasts for only a short moment in time. This doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
In the church many of the gifts we offer are present only for a moment before they disappear. The music we sing is a unique gift that we offer to God. It takes the combined time and efforts of everyone singing together including the skills of music leaders, but after only a few minutes the song is complete. Or you might look at a classroom and see that a teacher spends hours preparing each lesson, then they deliver it and before too long the class is adjourned. When we have weddings or funerals in the church there might be large displays of flowers that are put together just to be used for that service. The fact that these gifts are temporary does not detract from their significance or beauty. In many ways the fact that these are temporary gifts highlights the importance of why they are offered and why so much time and energy is put into them.
· The choir offers their song as a gift of worship to God; it is a gift that uses the creative gifts they have received from God and it is something that can never be exactly duplicated. Each time they sing it is a unique gift to God.
· The teacher puts the time into each lesson knowing the value of education to transform lives as young people learn about the world around them
· And when people gather for the significant moments of change that bring people closer together, whether in the joy of a wedding, or the sorrow of a funeral, the flowers are used to mark the occasion
Gifts like these and others, are extravagant in their own way. Just as Mary’s gift was extravagant for more than just the price of it. But Judas is only able to see the price. He calculates how much money could have been raised. To him this symbolic gesture is a brazen waste of money. He doesn’t see it as a bold act prophetically anointing Jesus as God’s chosen.
Jesus’ response is to defend her. He says, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”
This response reveals the sacrifice Jesus was prepared to make. He knew that his death was near. The other part of his response is often misunderstood. The comment that you will always have the poor with you has been used at times to justify not giving to the poor. Suggesting that Jesus was saying the poor will always be here so we shouldn’t try to get rid of poverty or help those who are struggling is completely counter to bold and expansive love that he proclaimed for all.
There is something interesting with the Greek words. It is translated “You will always have the poor among you” but the Greek words could also be translated as a command. So it would be “Keep the poor among you always.”
What does it change if Jesus is saying keep the poor among you.
· Highlights the purpose of the Christian community, to support the poor
· Keeping the poor present ensures they will always be at the forefront of our thoughts and actions
There is a connection to Deuteronomy 15:11
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”
There is also a connection to the gospel of Matthew 25:34-40
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
When we give our gifts to support those in need we follow this command to keep the poor among you always. By keeping the poor with us both physically and in our hearts and our prayers, we are keeping Jesus present with us. When we respond to an appeal to feed the hungry we are responding to an appeal to feed Jesus. So while Jesus knew he would not physically be with his disciples forever, he gave them a way to maintain that presence in community with instructions to love and care for one another. So may we love others in a way that is beautiful and bold, perhaps even brazenly in the eyes of those like Judas. If we carry out Jesus’ commandment to love others, Jesus will be with us always. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Affirmation of Faith
I believe in beauty—
beauty pulled into being by our Creator,
beauty that catches our breath,
beauty that turns us toward awe.
I believe in courage—
courage to believe,
courage to stand up for the people we love,
courage to love without hesitation.
I believe in the Holy Spirit
who prays for us when we cannot,
who is brave for us when we are not.
I believe in Jesus Christ
who stood up for Mary,
who quieted the voice of critique,
who welcomed every bid for relationship.
I believe in God.
I believe in God who believes in us.
Hymn VU 226: “For the Beauty of the Earth”
Prayers of the People (words from Celebrate God’s Presence: a Book of Services for the United Church of Canada © 2000)
O Jesus who wept over the death of Lazarus, be with all who grieve. O Jesus who wept over the state of Jerusalem. Be with our cities, our villages, and our centers of worship. O Jesus who wept alone in Gethsemane, be with all who feel alone, all who face difficult decisions. O Jesus who wept, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” be with all who are tortured, all who are victims. O Jesus who offered up prayers with loud cries and tears, hear our prayers… our requests… O Jesus who wept in sympathy and frustration, O Living God who knows all our pain and joy, be with us in our lives. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Gracious God, bless and transform all that we offer: our faltering steps, our brokenness, our hope, our risking, our hearts, that your covenant may be written on our hearts and we may be a blessed and transformed covenant people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
As you leave this place, may you be awestruck by the beauty of this world. May you laugh, and may it be contagious. May you overflow with love for those around you. May you be effusive with hope and quick to point out joy. And in all of your living, and breathing, and being, may you find yourself full to the brim with God’s Holy Spirit, and may it change your life. In the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love itself— go in peace, full to the brim. Amen.
Go Now in Peace