In memory of her
Theme Our commitment to discipleship is challenged by fear, ambivalence, apathy, and the status quo.
*Hymn of Praise # 134 Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
Call to Worship
Leader: I can tell: Word has gotten out! Today is a good day! Today we tell an ancient story of a parade, palms and possibilities.
People: And we wear palms and crosses, reminding ourselves that both ecstasy and agony, joy and disappointment are part of our living.
Leader: Today we say: Blessed is the One who comes in God’s name! Hosanna!
People: This One is Jesus of Nazareth — teacher, builder, cornerstone, Christ.
Leader: In ancient Jerusalem, people gave Jesus a wonderful welcome the week before Passover rituals.
People: Today, we celebrate the presence of the living Christ!
All: Holy One, thank you for your unmistakable presence! With our senses and our minds, we delight in the gift of life! We honor you with attentive listening and we eagerly wait for your voice. Amen.
*Invocation (the Lord’s Prayer) As we pray for the gift of your presence, Lord, we know that to stay close to human life is a commitment that cost a high p rice for you. However, in humble faith, we do pray that we will know you here today
Anthem The Holy City
Our Offering to God (same as last week)
*Prayer of Dedication God, who pours out the abundance in which we live, receive these offerings, brought together from that abundance. Bless us, as you blessed the unknown woman who ministered to Jesus, with the generosity of heart to pour out our greatest treasures in your honor. Amen.
Scripture Reading Mark 14: 12 – 31
12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
17When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
22While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Peter’s Denial Foretold
26When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” 30Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.
*Hymn of Prayer insert Heal Me, Hand of Jesus
Pastoral Prayer Humble God of majesty, in the life of Jesus, in the life of the unnamed woman with the ointment, you showed us again and again that both majesty bending to service and humility rising to glory are part of our vocation as disciples. Grant us the humble pride that bends to serve the most needy because there – amid the oppressed, beside the suffering, enfolding the unwanted – we know the honor of serving Christ himself. Grant us the obedient majesty that uses your power in us to raise a sister or a brother to glory. Grant us the mind and the heart of Christ, that we may carry on his work until he comes again in triumph. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
All-loving God, we confess that sometimes we offer you only half our heart. We confess that we too often hold back, willing to commit only a limited portion of our time, our energy, our resources, our vision, and our gifts to witnessing your goodness and your good news in the world. We confess that the example of the woman who ministered to Jesus often makes us uncomfortable because it is so abundant, so abandoned, so excessive. Remind us, all-loving God, that you gave everything. Remind us that you created us in your image and filled us with your spirit so that we, too, can give everything. Grant us the courage to be people whole–heartedly yours! Amen.
Scripture Mark 14: 32-72
32They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
43Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” 50All of them deserted him and fled.
51A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
53They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 61But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
63Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.
Peter Denies Jesus
66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
*Hymn of Praise # 136 “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
The passion account lies at the heart of the Christian message and is capable of bringing the strongest and most callous among us to tears. Only a handful of hymns are both worthy and capable of being programmed alongside today’s scripture.
Foremost among these is Paul Gerhardt’s immortal “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” set to Hans Leo Hassler’s PASSION CHORALE, a melody the composer originally wrote for a love song and J. S. Bach later harmonized in his St Matthew Passion.
Scripture Reading Mark 14:1 – 11
1Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2“But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
3While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
10Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Message In memory of her
The unnamed woman with the ointment dared to act on her belief, even when it upset the status quo and made others uncomfortable. As disciples, we are invited to act on our belief, on behalf of Jesus, in remembrance of her.
Today is one of the hardest days of the entire church year on which to affirm the faith we claim as our own. We are invited to consider the ambivalence Christians have always shown, an ambivalence that welcomes the One who is Radiant Truth Incarnate with shouts and songs of praise one moment...and that nails him to the cross the next moment. We are asked to wrestle deeply with our own discomfort at the challenging mandate of Jesus, and with our own broken response to our discipleship.
The story of this day and this week is not about some other people in some other time. It is about us. It reveals the full reality of our own spiritual journey, which encompasses moments of abiding commitment to holiness and, at the same time, a faint-heartedness that leads us to deny our principles in the time of trial, leaving us colluding with the powers and principalities. Indeed, leaving us to deny the one we call Messiah, not once, not twice, not three times, but again and again and again. ///Daily.
In the midst of the story of Jesus’ passion, we find a most challenging text, a snapshot of an encounter between Jesus and an unnamed woman with a jar of precious ointment. Because we are entering Holy Week, it is tempting to read quickly past these verses, seeing them as nothing more than background for the important stuff. But I would suggest to you that this may be the most important part of the story, and I invite us to linger here this year to consider it with prayerful hearts.
Let us remember that all four of the gospels include stories of pivotal meetings that Jesus has with women, events that change Jesus and his ministry profoundly. Think, for instance, about the wedding in Cana and the request from his mother for Jesus to help the host out of an awkward situation. Although Jesus initially rebuffs Mary, he goes on to transform the water into wine. // Think of the meeting with the persistent Canaanite woman who begs him to heal her child. // Think of the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well through whom Jesus reaches out to the villagers of Samaria, the rejected sisters and brothers of the Chosen People. // Each describes a moment in which Jesus himself was transformed, or changed direction, or altered or expanded his teaching.
Here, again, in this encounter, there is a transformation. Jesus is sitting at dinner in Bethany. The text suggests that he is in the home of friends. Nothing about the dinner seems particularly fraught until an unnamed woman enters the room, opens a jar of ointment, and pours it on his head. The translations read, “She poured the ointment on his head.” It does not read, “She dabbed a little ointment on his hair” or “She patted some ointment on his forehead.” The text reads, “She poured the ointment on his head” (Mk 14:3).
Imagine, if you will, having a jar of highly scented ointment (we learn this is ointment for burial, so it is probably nard or myrrh) dumped over your head as you’re eating a meal. I believe I would have been more than a little startled. Imagine the rest of the dinner party responding to this event. Notice that the story does not say that people rushed to wipe away the ointment or to clean up the mess or to express concern for Jesus. What it says is that some of the people were angry about the interruption and that others scolded the woman. Jesus, meanwhile, is sitting there with ointment spreading through his hair and down the sides of his head.
Into the noise and the babble, he says, “Stop.” // Then, in the silence, he makes a statement about the action of the woman, “She has performed a good service for me...She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial” (vv. 6, 8).
Because of the context of this story, I suspect the majority of us have never bothered to stop and think about the powerful witness of this woman. She is the first person who believes what Jesus has been saying about what is going to happen when Jesus meets the authorities. She is the first person who publicly and visibly acknowledges his imminent death. She does what she can. She cannot stop him or save him, but she can show him that she has listened to him and really, truly heard him. She can honor him and grieve him, and she can do it in such a way that Jesus knows someone cares. Jesus knows that someone is not wasting time denying what he is saying because it is too hard to hear, or it makes her anxious, or because it is uncomfortable. She dares to pay attention and she risks believing. And then she acts on what she believes.
If Jesus had any doubts; if he perhaps thought this cup might pass his lips, this unnamed woman disabuses him. In her response, she offers her own strength to match his resolve, to support him in his coming passion. And in Mark’s gospel, her action and Jesus’ recognition of it set in motion the final events that lead to the crucifixion.
As we enter into the story of this many-layered week again, I would invite us to pause with this unnamed woman and ask what she can offer us as a model of discipleship. It is so easy, 2,000 years after these events, to be lulled by the narcotic of superficial faithfulness. In truth, the shock of Jesus’ crucifixion has become pretty dull. And hastily turning our mind to his divinity or to the resurrection when we become uncomfortable allows us to avoid any deep awareness of his pain.
But this unnamed woman didn’t give in to any of that. She didn’t sit around talking about what Jesus might mean; she didn’t get deflected by plans or possibilities. She entered straight into the heart of the matter and prepared Jesus for his death.
Not only did this woman transform that day and that place for Jesus, she challenges us to remember that Jesus told us he died – and will die – every time one of the least of us is sacrificed on the cross of power. She challenges us to remember that Jesus, therefore, is dying every minute of every day...often because of our inaction, ignorance, or greed. She challenges us to believe that Jesus is dying and to dare to do what we can.
She challenges us to claim our power to make a difference this year...as she made the only difference she could all those years ago. This year, I invite us to take up her challenge in remembrance of her. Amen.
– Andrea La Sonde Anastos
*Hymn of Response # 145 Were You There?
Leader: Let the mind of Christ be our mind.
Right Side: Let the humility of Christ humble us.
Left Side: Let the obedience of Christ teach us to obey.
Right Side: Let the service of Christ inspire our service.
Left Side: Let the humanity of Christ shape our humanity.
All: Let the glory of Christ lead us to glory.
Thought for the Day To believe in something not yet proved and to underwrite it with our lives: it is the only way we can leave the future open.
Mark 15 The Message
Standing Before Pilate
At dawn’s first light, the high priests, with the religious leaders and scholars, arranged a conference with the entire Jewish Council. After tying Jesus securely, they took him out and presented him to Pilate.
Pilate asked him, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”
He answered, “If you say so.” The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations.
Pilate asked again, “Aren’t you going to answer anything? That’s quite a list of accusations.” Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed.
It was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner, anyone the people asked for. There was one prisoner called Barabbas, locked up with the insurrectionists who had committed murder during the uprising against Rome. As the crowd came up and began to present its petition for him to release a prisoner, Pilate anticipated them: “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews to you?” Pilate knew by this time that it was through sheer spite that the high priests had turned Jesus over to him.
But the high priests by then had worked up the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas. Pilate came back, “So what do I do with this man you call King of the Jews?”
They yelled, “Nail him to a cross!”
Pilate objected, “But for what crime?”
But they yelled all the louder, “Nail him to a cross!”
Pilate gave the crowd what it wanted, set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over for whipping and crucifixion.
The soldiers took Jesus into the palace (called Praetorium) and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thorn bush on his head. Then they began their mockery: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross.
There was a man walking by, coming from work, Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.
The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning “Skull Hill.” They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn’t take it. And they nailed him to the cross. They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them.
They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”
The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—but he can’t save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then!” Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery.
At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard him said, “Listen, he’s calling for Elijah.” Someone ran off, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”
But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!”
Taken to a Tomb
There were women watching from a distance, among them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women followed and served him, and had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Late in the afternoon, since it was the Day of Preparation (that is, Sabbath eve), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly respected member of the Jewish Council, came. He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God. Working up his courage, he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate questioned whether he could be dead that soon and called for the captain to verify that he was really dead. Assured by the captain, he gave Joseph the corpse.
Having already purchased a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, wrapped him in the shroud, placed him in a tomb that had been cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the opening. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Joses, watched the burial.