Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian
#BuytheOil is the reflection for March 13, 2016. Why do we not always get what we want? What exactly is the purpose of having a relationship with God? How can we be deceived? Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Judas #Jesus #Lazarus #Mary #Martha #Evangelism #Consulting
Buy the Oil: A Reflection on John 12:1-8
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/13/2016 The 5th Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 12:1-8.
Who told you that being a Christian meant that the streets around your house would be paved with gold? Who told you that the Father is the great vending machine in the sky? What made us think that we would go to heaven through our journey in this life with no pain, no trial, no persecution? Who told us that life was finding the golden ticket in a Willy Wonka movie?
Look at the scene today from the Gospel of John. Jesus had just raised Lazarus. So, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were throwing a banquet to thank him. They invited Jesus with Lazarus present at the table. As usual, Martha served. Mary, on the other hand, was at her usual post of preparing Jesus for his mission. This time, Mary is anointing Jesus for his impending death. Right there, at the table with them is Judas, the thief, who wants to manipulate the good people of the Bethany church to sell church stuff to get money for the poor. He really just wants to steal from the pot. There it is, isn’t it? What Paul said is true, “when I want to do good, evil is close at hand.”
Look at this passage because Jesus has just done something wonderful. He raised Lazarus from the dead. What is the reaction of the church leaders? They want to kill Jesus because, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” They are operating in their own self interest. Where are the questions about what is and is not God’s will? Where is the joy that people are believing that God is great, people are healed, etc., etc.
Evil controls us through confusion and making us angry. The purpose of evil is to serve itself and distract others from serving God. This is why Paul is constantly wrestling with evil. I have been at church meetings and people have actually said, “Well, I am going to be the Devil’s advocate…” No, thank you. I don’t need the Devil in this meeting, thank you. What I need are people who are going to see the vision. What I need are people who are going to put aside their own self interest and look for what God’s people need. What I need is someone who sees that Jesus is to be glorified and his purpose is more important than even serving the poor.
So, when we are angry at God for not giving us what we wanted, when we don’t see why he isn’t waiting on us hand and foot, we should ask the question in whose interest are we working? What exactly is the plan?
One of the ways that we get off track is that we think that God’s primary and only interest is to provide us our daily bread. Yes, that is God’s purpose. He does want to take care of us. Indeed, he does count the hairs on our head, but that is not the primary mission. The primary mission is outside of our cares and concerns. The primary mission of the Church, and everyone in the Church, is the salvation of souls. When we become Christians or are baptized as Christians, when we have made God the first priority in our lives, then our primary goal is God’s mission. We did not become Christians so that God could sign on to our goals, our vision of what life should be, and our work to get there.
There is a Kingdom to be taken to the nations. There is a message of love that people all around you need to know. There is a mission that requires the preparation for our death, just like Jesus prepared for his death by accepting Mary’s gift of anointing at the banquet prepared to thank him for bringing her brother back from the dead. Martha’s role is to prepare the table. Mary’s role is to anoint him for burial. Lazarus’ role is to be a living testimony to the power of the Father through the Son.
The question is, what is our role? Are we not getting what we want from God because we have a mistaken vision of what God is about? Is God just about serving us? Is God just about giving us what we need? Satisfying our power trip, our wants, our goals to live in nice houses, nice communities, and have our children go to nice schools?
I have stopped being amazed when I do consultation for churches about evangelism and I ask two questions: First, what is your intentional program for teaching people how to invite others to come to church? Second, do you go knocking on doors in the neighborhood around the church to ask what the neighborhood needs?
The answers are always the same, “Well, we don’t have one,” and “We don’t feel comfortable knocking on doors.” OK, then, I guess I can tell you why your church is not growing. There is no program. There is no new activity. There is no new idea that is going to save your church when your church forgets that its main purpose is the salvation of souls and the worship of God.
When we stop using our abilities to achieve God’s purpose for the world, then we have stopped buying oil to anoint Jesus for his death. Instead, we let every Judas we have ever met dissuade us from doing what God wants.
We will always be able to serve the poor, but will we always have an opportunity to sing the song we should have sung for the Lord? Will we always have the opportunity to make the brochure we should have made for the church? Will we always have the opportunity knock on the doors around the church and ask how people are doing when the world doesn’t care? We need to stop listening to the evil close at hand and buy the oil. Buy the oil. Just buy the oil.
There will always be Judas’ in the world. There will always be evil close at hand. There will always be persecution and trials. The difference between us and the rest of the world is that we live in the time of trial, but we do not let it distract us from what is the truly needful thing.
We think of Lent as a time when we should give up bad spiritual habits, and that we should. Yet, it would be unwise for us to think that Lent is strictly about us and our personal relationship with God. Lent is about us becoming in touch with who we are as part of the body of Christ to accomplish the mission of God to save the world so that they will worship. Lent is a time when we should give up something so that we have the money to buy the oil to prepare Jesus for his next step in accomplishing the mission of the Father in Heaven.
We will always have bad habits that we need to work on. If we don’t do what we have the abilities to do, then what? If we don’t get with the program and work for God’s mission, then when? If we don’t buy the oil now, then will we ever? Amen.
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