Mark 14: 3-9
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question we ask children and teenagers all the time. Some adults are still asking this question. Think for a moment what your answer to that question was when you were 10, 11, or 12 years old? Did your dream come true? Were you encouraged by your parents and teachers to reach for the stars? Did you have cheerleaders along the way who pushed you to try harder, study, do your homework, or accept that first job to learn a work ethic?
If you had asked me that question as a child, I would have told you I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I didn’t really know what that meant but I loved the beach and thought dolphins were pretty cool! Needless to say this was not my cup of tea in reality. I don’t even like cleaning out fish tanks now and science was not my best subject in school. As I got older I thought maybe I would go into counseling. I liked listening to people talk and all my friends said I gave good advice and Psychology was pretty interesting- Not very useful in and of itself, but I enjoyed it. All along the way I was told I could be anything, as long as I worked hard, studied and made responsible decisions.
Not everyone is as lucky as I was though. Some people seem to hit a road block and get knocked down every time they dared to dream. We don’t have the money for you to go to college and you’re not smart enough to get a scholarship, what makes you think you would ever be successful anyway. School is a waste of time, just get a job; but not that job it’s not for boys or girls can’t do that kind of work. Are you stupid, why would you ever think you could do that, know your place, no one will ever accept you…… seeds of doubt and a desire to maintain the status quo are too strong for many to escape or even explore what God is calling and gifting them to be.
The woman in this story may have felt that way. She is first and foremost a woman. Marginalized by the society she lived in with no authority, no rights and little to no say in how her life would turn out to be. She is in the margins again as she walks into the room and interrupts a meal between Jesus and his male companions. She shouldn’t be there; all the men stare at her, irritated by the interruption. I can hear her thinking—ah man, what am I doing here. What if Jesus gets mad or won’t accept my gift? But she gathers up all her courage and takes out a small jar of sweet smelling oil. She breaks it and pours it on the head of Jesus.
This gets a reaction alright- the men at the table begin to murmur, criticize, scold, rebuke- what an idiot, stupid woman, such a waste, we could have fed a lot of people with that money, how dare you waste all that money!
Jesus stops them though. Jesus knows the importance and significance of her actions even if she and the disciples didn’t. The verses prior to this story are of the Pharisees and chief priests plotting to kill Jesus and the verses after are of Judas deciding to volunteer to betray Jesus. Jesus knew his days on earth were numbered. One of the translations called the anointment “a beautiful thing”. Her gift was accepted after all, even praised. Even though the other men at the table didn’t appreciate what she had done; Jesus did and that was the only person who mattered.
Anointment in Biblical times served several purposes. Kings and prophets were anointed to set them apart for God, make them sacred, give them power and ability to do what they were called to do, people were anointed for healing, celebrations and yes, for burial.
Jesus was anointed for his work on earth at his baptism and here, just days before his crucifixion, he is being anointed again for the next task- his death, resurrection and eternal place as King of all creation. The Legacy of Jesus will forever be remembered and the legacy of this unnamed woman will forever be a part of that story.
The complaints of the disciples may have felt like legitimate ones. We are called to care for the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the spiritually and physically needy and Jesus never tells them it is not important but they were blind to the big picture. Jesus wants them to understand that worship and service go hand in hand. The two are never separate. We serve because of Jesus; not because we want to “win souls” or get kudos from our fellow church members and community. We serve because we love and we love because we are loved. That is worship. That is what this woman’s act of worship meant. Her worship was service.
We are called through the love of Christ to risk taking mission and service. The jar of nard cost a year’s wages- costly to anyone but she was willing to risk her wealth for Jesus even before she knew he was willing to sacrifice his life for hers. How much more should we be willing to risk- knowing the abundance of his love? She was willing to risk ridicule to worship Christ- but the act of worship wasn’t for the bystanders and the naysayers- it was for Christ. And Christ knew the true meaning of her worship and praised her for it- putting the rest to shame and forever cementing a place for her in this story. Her legacy would remain forever.
Like Jesus, we have each been anointed through our baptisms to serve God in this life. Our call is to serve Christ- each of us will do that in our own unique way. The legacy of the woman in the story today is not only what she did for Jesus but by her willingness to be bold, vulnerable and to risk offering everything she had for Christ. It took courage to walk into someone’s home uninvited. It took a willingness to be vulnerable- not knowing if her gift would be accepted or if she would be criticized for it. It took fearlessness to offer an item of such great value.
What do you want to be when you grow up is the question we ask children. They look to their heroes, their skills, and their life situation to dream big. As we age the question changes to the one addressed by our scripture today…focus shifts from the future through the eyes of a child to the present. Not what do you want to be- rather what do you want your legacy to be?
This is entirely dependent on how you live in the present. We see the legacy of this woman, of the disciples, of the others who followed Jesus. The woman in our scripture had no idea the impact this sacrifice would make but she acted out of love.
What will your legacy be? Will you be remembered as the scoundrel who turned your life around when you entered into a relationship with God? Will you be remembered as the person who always showed compassion to others? Will it be one of someone always willing to go the extra mile for others? One who was never ashamed of their faith willing to share it boldly with others? Will it be of someone willing to welcome others into a life with Christ and his community of believers?
What will your legacy be? What will the legacy of this church community be? What will Christ remember about us? What will the people we leave behind remember?
Now is the time to decide. There is no time like the present. If you have thought about this question and you aren’t sure you like what the answer is- now is the time to fix it. If you have wandered away or maybe never felt your heart warm with passion and love for Christ- now is the time to return to Christ, repent, start over.
Our past does not determine our future. Jesus likes spending time with people who make mistakes. Jesus loves people who are honest in their faith and in their doubt. We little information about what the disciples were like before they met Christ. We have no idea what this woman’s history was before this moment of worship and service. What we do know is how they were changed by their relationship with Christ. This is the legacy they leave behind.