Fifth Sunday of Lent 2016: The Gospel Passage – One of the Mary’s story [What we need is restoration]

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

Here again is the story of Mary. I have thought about, read, written, and performed this account of Mary many times. It is very dear to me. And very familiar. So familiar that I determined to track down where and how I have used it over the years. And in this searching, I came across something I thought I had lost year ago. Not a feeling, memory or experience – but something I wrote and performed many years ago. It was a dramatic presentation about Mary and how she was restored and redeemed by Jesus because of her anointing him.

I wrote it and performed it as a part of a chapel service during Lent or Easter – I cannot remember which. It was, in its essence, religious or spiritual performance art. My dialogue reflected what was most probably the circumstances and position that women had during the time that Jesus had his earthly ministry. The set design was three chairs; each chair represented an aspect of Mary’s life story. And next to the chairs was a representation of the cross. During the service there was some singing and a time of prayer, and a worship leader who guided the congregation through the service. My part was a presenting of the the scripture passage.

I still marvel that I had the courage and confidence to do something like that. I am not sure I could do it now. I think if I were to write it, or re-write it today, I might not have been so bold in what I said, and how I presented Mary’s life and the other women who lived at that time. I tool some definite license and liberties. However, I did present it to the group who was planning the services. It warmed my spirit to think that I was the woman who conceived of, wrote and performed this drama. And it warms my spirit again that you, beloved reader, might join the character of Mary in coming to and accepting the restoration that Jesus Christ offers. Selah!

DRAMATIC MEDITATION:What we need is restoration

First chair:
I am a Jewish woman of Galilee, living in the time of Herod the Great, or the not so great. My name is Mary. There are many women named Mary. I am the one who is a sister to Martha and Lazarus. Being a woman in Galilee is not easy; of course, it is not easy anywhere. We must keep our heads covered at all times. If we are seen in public we must be properly attired, and in society we must be chaperoned. In a court of law we are not to be believed. A woman’s word is given no credibility because we are thought not to have any intellect. In the synagogue we are not to speak. There are some who would say a woman does not have an eternal soul. Other than being wives and mothers, we have little value. Even then we can be easily replaced by a simple statement, “Out, out with you; you no longer please me!” So it was set down by Moses, that great patriarch! That we can be so easily forced from our home! I am glad my brother has never forced a marriage on me, as would be his right; also according to the Torah. Clearly, the Torah is not for us, but we are ruled by it, and by it our homes are ruled. In the home our duties are confined to the kitchen and the raising of small children . . . . . . Hmmm, that’s funny thinking about me raising children, being the sister of Lazarus. I am not unfamiliar with raising; you see, my brother was raised from the dead by Jesus.

Second chair:
Jesus was a frequent visitor in our house. There are many stories of Jesus visiting in our home. One story concerns my sister Martha and myself. Martha was well suited to life in Galilee, finding satisfaction in working in the home. That time when Jesus spoke to Martha, defending my right to listen to him became a widely told story. But there is another story, a story that sends tremors through my being. There are several different accounts of that evening. Some say it was in our own home; others say it was in Simon’s home, where my character was presented as somewhat less than respectable, and I was suspected of dishonorable actions. But every woman is suspect, especially when you have the nerve to appear in public with your head uncovered. And when you touch the body of a man who is not a relative. And when you have, and then squander, valuables. Perhaps I became known as a fallen woman because of what I did then; or perhaps I have always been seen as an unredeemed and fallen woman, simply because I am a woman.

However the story is told, and whoever tells it, I was denounced, humiliated, and then cast aside. My only intent was to honor the man who brought my brother back from the dead. I had known before, sitting at his feet, that he was a man of greatness. But after the miracle that restored my brother’s life, I knew Jesus had power over life and death. I was sure he was the Messiah! But not the kind they expected. And I knew from bitter experience how those who go against society are treated. I knew, even though he was a man, he would be denounced, humiliated, and then cast aside. But did they understand? Did any of them understand what was happening that night? No, they thought only of themselves, who they were and what they could do. Jesus is for those who are helpless, outcast.

Did I know what would happen to me when I anointed him this way? Yes! I knew. Touching him in such an intimate way, kissing his feet. It was shocking I am sure. And washing his feet. It spoke of servitude, washing his feet; but better to be his servant than to be ill-used by another. And using such expensive perfumed ointment. I had saved it for many years, against the time I might be forced from my home. It was to support me in desperate times. But at that moment, I was never more desperate! He said I anointed him for his burial! My heart was breaking for him, and for myself. But Jesus saw that and understood.

Third chair:
Just as he understood when I sat at his feet, listening to his teachings. I had chosen that day to set aside what had been my life and look for something better and greater. Jesus said I had chosen the better part of life.. He spoke for me against all of established society. He lifted me up and honored me. He said I would be remembered for this service, not as a woman who has fallen, not as a woman who is disgraced, but as a woman who has done a great service for her Lord. He told me I was forgiven. In that moment when he looked at me with compassion and mercy, I was redeemed and restored. Nay, I was transformed. Who would have thought a woman could see the true role of Jesus. Who would have thought a woman would be allowed to so honor him. I am no longer just a mere woman; I am a woman of God, cherished and honored as his beloved.

Perhaps I see in your faces a longing to be so cherished, and so loved by God. Perhaps you have suffered hurts and insults; perhaps you have hurt and wronged others. Let me tell you what I learned from my Lord. All who come to him are welcomed, forgiven and honored.
{move to where the cross is}
Come, join me at this symbol of declaration, confession and transformation. Come to the cross and know who your Redeemer is.