John 12: 1-8 – Sunday 22 November – 8am Sermon.
What does it mean to worship Jesus and humble ourselves before him? What are the appropriate limits on our worship? Where do life’s Good Causes fit into our picture of God and our picture of caring for his creation? I have sympathy for Judas Iscariot. Whatever we think of him and his motivations, he raises a really important question for us; one which is still actively played out across churches today, arguably even in Ilkley. It is a question which is really relevant to us as we administer church budgets and especially as we embark on a development project. How do we weigh up the social aspects of participating in God’s care for creation and each other, against the ultimate task of glorifying and worshiping God? There are some really typical stock answers peddled about on this and I’m not interested in just rehearsing them, but it is shocking that a year’s salary was poured out on Jesus’ feet in this story. The average salary in the UK at the moment is £26,500. Imagine what difference that amount of money could make to someone in poverty? Imagine what you could do with that money to make a real difference? Or imagine what could happen if All Saints raised the £1.3 million for the development and instead gave it to Good Causes? Judas Iscariot has a really strong case. If he was in the church meeting, it would be hard to argue against him! What did Mary think she was doing? And more importantly, why didn’t Jesus who was big on giving to the poor, try to stop her, or at least use her as an example for the church NOT to follow? It seems that there is more at play in Jesus ethical considerations than pure utilitarianism. For Mary, she is pictured as someone whose love is so extravagant for Jesus; possibly because he has just raised Lazarus from the dead, that she had no thought for the cost or what others might think. We all make decisions that there is more at play than giving to Good Causes every day of our lives – when I buy an overpriced coffee, when I buy a Christmas present, when I go out for dinner, when I drive instead of walking. The list is endless. In each penny I spend when I don’t absolutely have to, I make a decision that my priority is that item rather than giving away that penny to the poor. Thinking about it, at least Mary’s spending her money glorifying Jesus, compared to buying a daily paper I don’t even read! We all make decisions. But Jesus reaction is important. There is something about Mary unknowingly preparing him for his death in this story, but there is more about the place of God in relation to the needs of the poor. It seems that there are times when worship of Jesus can trump giving to Good Causes. The poor will always be there, and Jesus knows that his disciples will continue to give alms well after he is gone, since this is the practice he has taught them. However there are times where our gratefulness to Jesus for what he has done for us should over spill into extravagant worship. Yes, event at the expense of less money to the poor. But at least it is for a good cause, rather than frittered on an extra glass of wine at dinner, or a new garden gnome. So when it comes to reading this story, let’s all remember, we all receive an annual income. It is just too easy to be like Judas and target the money donated to the glory of God for our scorn. Let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are being consistent when we think in those terms – for instance, I wrote this bot of this sermon having paid just over £2 for a coffee! We all manage an annual budget. Do we give to to the glory of God or to the poor? Or do we actually spend more of it on ourselves, like Judas Iscariot did! I pray that God would give us the wisdom to know how to manage all of our annual incomes to his glory and in line with his concerns too. Amen. Revd Steve Proudlove.