Faithlife Sermons


Pastor Lee Roy Pittard III
Lent 2021: Questions of Reflection  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings

This week we are asking, "Why?" Why do we value what we value?

 A very successful lawyer parked his brand-new BMW in front of his office, ready to show it off to his colleagues. As he started to get out, a truck passed too close and completely tore off the door on the driver's side. He immediately grabbed his cell phone, dialed 911, and within minutes a policeman pulled up. Before the officer had a chance to ask any questions, the lawyer started screaming hysterically. His BMW, which he had just picked up the day before, was now completely ruined and would never be the same, no matter what the body shop did to it. When the man finally wound down from his ranting and raving, the officer shook his head in disgust and disbelief. "I can't believe how materialistic you are," he said. "You are so focused on your possessions that you don't notice anything else." "How can you say such a thing?" asked the lawyer. The cop replied, "Don't you know that your left arm is missing from the elbow down? It must have been torn off when the truck hit you." "My Gosh!" screamed the young man. "Where's my Rolex?" We are over halfway through the season of Lent now. We have been progressing through this season of self-reflection asking questions. Today, we come to our fifth question. Before I ask it, let us look at where we have been. We have asked: 1) "Who" are we?; 2) "Where" do we live?; 3) "Which" will we choose?; and then last this past Wednesday: 4) "How" do we see things? As we learned that we are to regard no one from a human point of view, but to strive to see everyone through the eyes of Jesus. The fifth question of our series is, "Why" as in "why do we value what we value"? Our society teaches us to be a lot like that successful young lawyer. We are conditioned through the media and other places that what is most important are the material things we can accumulate, how high we can climb in our careers, or what kind of accomplishments we can reach. I remember a series of Ford commercials some years back which suggested that a person's whole image reflected around the car that he or she drove-they depicted a lot of folks who were poor, unsuccessful outcasts who got rid of their clunker of a car and got a new Mustang or Ranger and were all of a sudden wealthy, successful, and/or popular. We see that kind of value judgment going on a lot in our society as a person is judged on what kind of car they drive, what kind of boat they own, how well they dress, or what kind of house they live in. It pushes us to value material things above anything else. Sometimes material items are not the thing that we value. Maybe it is a career, some sort of accomplishment, or a special recognition that is valued above everything else. How many times have we seen it played out where someone starts putting off starting a family, or maybe, even worse, sacrifices the family they have, because it interferes with their career or the goal they are trying to reach? Possibly even worse are those times where we encounter friends or family members who will stab one another in the back just to get ahead... My brothers and sisters, why do we value those things? It seems as if we have lost all sense of what is really important. However, it is an old struggle. Our Scripture reading today show us just that. In our reading, we find Jesus having another meal at Mary and Martha's house and another controversy erupting (actually since the meal where we find Martha complaining that Mary is listening to Jesus while Martha is doing all the work is found in Luke and this is the only account of a meal at their house in John, it might be the same meal-since we know that the author of the Gospel of John tends to emphasize different aspects of the same scenes). In this dining scene, the focus is on Mary, Jesus, and Judas Iscariot. Jesus and the Disciples have come in from traveling and have sat down to dine with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It was tradition, during the time of Jesus, for the host to have his or her servants use water and a towel to clean the dusty feet of their guests. Here, though, we see Mary, one of the hosts, getting down on her knees and washing Jesus feet, not with water, but with perfume. And while we worry about getting our clothes dirty when cleaning, she doesn't use a towel, an apron, or even her clothes to wipe of Jesus dirty feet, but uses her hair. Judas was quick to jump up and criticize Mary for doing this and Jesus for allowing it to happen. "Jesus," Judas says, "how can you let her get away with this? That perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii, a year's worth of labor, and the money then given to the poor." Knowing Jesus the way we do, having heard his teaching and watching him interact with those whom society has pushed aside, we might expect Jesus to have an "aha-moment" and side with Judas, and turn to Mary and ask her why she was committing all this waste when she could be using it to take care of those less fortunate. After all, wouldn't Jesus say taking care of the poor is the most important thing that a person could be doing? Haven't God's people always been commanded to take care of the poor? Yes, God's people have always been charged with taking care of the poor, from the commandments for the people of Israel to ensure that they provided for the orphan, the widow, and the alien living amongst them to Jesus' command to the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor to His statements about, "just as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me." However, Jesus shocks us by not agreeing with Judas, who, ironically would soon betray Jesus for only a fraction of the amount he was criticizing Mary for wasting. However, Jesus sides with Mary. Jesus turns to Judas and says, "Leave her alone. She bought it to anoint me for the day of my burial. You will always have poor folks around you, but you will not always have me." We want to say, "Wait a minute, Jesus, are you advocating wasting our resources. Are you suggesting that since the poor are going to always be around, we might as well not tend to them?" No, Jesus isn't advocating waste, and Jesus is most definitely not suggesting that we ignore the poor. However, what Jesus is saying in these few words, actually the picture that the Gospel of John paints in this scene says so much, we could incorporate it into a series of sermons, but let's summarize it here. Jesus is pointing out that anything done to honor and glorify him is never a waste. There are many who would criticize the giving of any money to the church. Why give your money to the church, they say, when it could be used for many other things? The author of the Gospel of John suggests that Judas did not really care about the poor, but that if they money had been given to the disciples' treasury he would have had access on it to spend on himself. We encounter many in the world whose attitudes are like that, maybe our own attitudes have been that way from time to time. We are hesitant to give too much to the church thinking we could make better use of it ourselves. We could make our own lives a little more comfortable-a newer car, a nicer house, a secure retirement plan, then, if there is anything left we can give it to the church. However, even if Judas was not thinking of himself...and plenty of scholars will argue that side of things as well, and was truly concerned that Mary was wasting what could be given to help those in need, Jesus still tells Judas that anything done to honor him is not a waste. Another way to look at what Jesus is pointing out is that Jesus may be saying that Mary has the bigger picture in mind. There were still many among those who followed Jesus who though hearing Jesus talk about the fact that He would be soon be heading toward His death were determined that Jesus would be the kind of Messiah that they had expected, a warrior king who would lift them out of Roman rule. If that was the case, then yes, the poor needed to be looked after because Jesus was going to take care of the real problem. Mary, though, may have truly heeded what Jesus had been saying and was preparing Jesus for his impending burial. Jesus could have been saying, "You will always have the poor with you...they will always need to be fed, but what I am about to do will satisfy a far greater hunger...I will be freeing the poor and the hungry and all of you from the sentence of death...Mary has recognized that and is attending to a greater need." Mary gives all that she has out of sheer gratitude and love for what Jesus has done for her. Mary's actions call us to consider why we value what we do out of regard with what it has done for us. Mary pours out a year's wages upon Jesus feet after Jesus called her brother out of the tomb and gave him back to her. Jesus has given our very souls back to us. He has given us the promise of eternal life. When we consider what we are offering Jesus through our giving, when we look at what we give value to because it is where we place the majority of our time and money, are we truly giving value to what He has done for us? Mary's act of service is a prelude for what Jesus will soon do with his disciples reminding them that how they serve one another truly reflects their commitment in following Him. It will be only days later that Jesus and the disciples will be gathered for another meal and Jesus will take on Mary's role, washing each of the disciples' feet. In this washing, Jesus sets for them once again the example He expects us all to follow. Jesus explains it to them, if you want folks to know that you are my disciples, you will do just what I have done, you will serve one another, you will serve the world, not out of a commitment because it is your role, but out of love. You will see the other who is in need, and value them more than anything else, and out of love give all that you have to meet their need. My brothers and sisters, as we continue this self-reflective season of Lent, we need to ask what is it that we are valuing and why are we valuing that? Is there anything that we value that is keeping us from giving, as Mary did, all that we have and all that we are to serving Christ? Is there anything that we are trying to accomplish or trying to achieve-money, accomplishments, careers, or security-that is keeping up from valuing Christ above all else? In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 2 Why? John 12:1-8
Related Media
Related Sermons