5th Sunday of Lent


Brazen Acts of Beauty

Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia


When my son was younger, he decided the worship prelude was the perfect time to start rolling on the ground in the narthex of the sanctuary. Worshipers dressed in their Sunday best awkwardly stepped over him or winced as his speeding body hit their heels.


“Isn’t it wonderful that your son feels so comfortable here that he can move his body around to get ready for worship?!” Nothing about that moment felt wonderful. To be honest, I was mortified that he was greeting church members as an embodied obstacle course before worship. But this person’s ability to see beauty where I could not, to proclaim abundant love for who my son is and who the congregation was to be for him, was a gift ripped open for us.


The story of Mary breaking open a jar of expensive perfume is surrounded by death. Only one chapter earlier, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead at the risk of his own life. Returning to Judea and resurrecting the dead became the final actions necessary for the religious and political leaders to conspire against him. Yet here is this faithful family, welcoming and celebrating Christ as the outside world seeks to write a different story.


As people of faith, we are called to crack ourselves open, pouring out the richness of what is within to more fully worship God. We cannot hide pieces of ourselves or grasp onto expectations that distract from what God created and creates within us. We are free to bring our whole selves as a living testimony to who God has made and makes us to be, both what we label as good and that which we hide from the world.


God doesn’t need our “good” behavior. God needs our being/be-ing. Remember all of you is beautiful. Live as though you are an expensive gift from God to Creation, because surely you are.

 

Upcoming Events

Sunday, 4/3:

9:00 a.m.: Children's Sunday School for Lent

9:00 a.m.: Witness at the Cross Lenten Study

9:00 a.m.: Chancel Choir

10:30 a.m.: Worship Service


Sunday, 4/10:

9:00 a.m.: Children's Sunday School for Lent

9:00 a.m.: Witness at the Cross Lenten Study

9:00 a.m.: Chancel Choir

10:30 a.m.: Worship Service


Monday, 4/11:

11:00 a.m.: Witness at the Cross Lenten Study via Zoom

 

Lessons from a Winter Rose

by Rev. Sarah Speed


I am dumbfounded

by the sheer persistence

of a winter rose

that blooms

on the coldest of days—

when the rest of the world

has turned dim and gray,

when the rest of the world is sleeping.

The audacity

to stand so tall,

to decorate the world with color,

to be the only one

brave enough

to bloom.

I wonder what that’s like.

Maybe it’s similar

to pouring perfume

on the feet of Jesus—

shocking and beautiful

at the same time.

On winter morning walks

I pass a bed of roses.

I dare not pick one.

Instead I say thank you.

Thank you for the beauty.

Thank you for the reminder.

Thank you for the bloom.

And I walk home and pray—

God, if you can,

make me that brave.

 

Brazen Beauty

by Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity |Inspired by John 12:1-8


In the chapter just before this, Lazarus dies and Jesus weeps. But after being laid in the tomb, Lazarus is raised and made well. This act solidifies for the chief priests and Pharisees that Jesus is a dangerous threat. In response, they order for his arrest and plot how they will kill him. Jesus retreats from public ministry, hiding out in the wilderness in Ephraim. As the passover nears, people begin to wonder: “Will Jesus be here?”

Despite the threats mounting, Jesus does return. On his way to Jerusalem, he stops in Bethany, seeking refuge and comfort in the home of his friends. Martha cooks a feast, and Lazarus—healthy and alive—joins him at the table. In resistance to death, as an act of extravagant love, Mary anoints Jesus with a fragrance that fills the whole room. Her actions could appear impulsive, but if you were saying your last goodbye to someone you loved, how would you act?

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.