Saturday, March 29, 2014

The fragrance of worship

The hyacinths are blooming in our garden now. I love hyacinths. They're fragrant and gorgeously colored; it's just a bonus that their barrel shape reminds me of myself. We had a bumper crop of them this year, too, so I cut three, put them in a vase in the center of our dining table. I don't cut very many flowers from our garden. Let me rephrase that--I almost NEVER cut flowers from our garden. It isn't that I don't like flowers. I do. I like them very much. I just like them living and growing and want to see them out in the yard where they will continue to do both as long the growing season lasts.

But sometimes I can't help myself. When it's been particularly dreary and, according to the forecast, there's no sign of let-up in that dreariness anytime soon, the only possibility is to bring some of those flowers inside.
So I cut three hyacinths.

And they are making our whole house smell like wonderful. 'Like the costliest perfume,' I thought as I walked down the hall a couple of hours ago. Yes, that's what they smell like. Of course that made me think of Mary's encounter with Jesus. You remember Mary, of Mary and Martha fame. Sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead?  I was going to write about this encounter tonight, but began thinking that my words were sounding slightly familiar, so I've deleted them and looked up old blog posts. Guess what? I wrote about this 4 years ago.

Rather than re-invent the wheel (or re-write the words!), since it is 10 'til midnight, I think I'll repost that post. It says what I'm thinking. After all...I did write it.

Without further ado:
John 12 says that a dinner has been given in Jesus' honor.  All the disciples presumably reclining around the table with Jesus a few days before they'd eat together in the city.  Lately-dead Lazarus was lying there too, alive and well.  It was a party of Jesus' closest friends, people who really knew and loved him.

Then in comes Mary.  Mary, the attentive.  In one motion, she pulls out a pint of nard, which is a fragrant oil made from a flower of northern India (the spikenard flower) [ed note from 4/29/14: maybe it's like hyacinths only more expensive?], and was both rare and expensive--the year's wages that Judas suggests it is worth is no exaggeration. She pulls out the bottle, uncovers her long hair, pours it over Jesus' feet--his road-weary feet--and wipes it off with her hair.  Her uncovered, unbound hair.

"And the house was filled with fragrance."
And immediately there's an objection.  Judas claims it should be sold and the money given to the poor.  John tells us that Judas didn't really care about the poor, but was actually dipping his hand into the pot, so this perfume could have lined his pocket.  Pretty audacious of Judas, however, isn't it?  Right to Jesus' face.  It's like he didn't even know who Jesus was.  A person makes a comment like this and you can tell--you can just tell--that he didn't know who he was dealing with. Because Jesus knows his heart, and Jesus knows his actions.  Just like all those folks at church who get up right during a worship service to complain about something. It's just common sense that HE knows what their motive is, isn't it?  And if it isn't pure...well, that's on them.

Anyway, that was yesterday's story.  Today I'm talking about the fragrance of worship.  The pureness of it, when it comes streaming out of a person.  Here's what I see in Mary's amazing picture of worship:
1. She's completely smitten with Jesus.  A.W. Tozer uses a phrased called, "God-smitten."  And I love this phrase, which rings true of Mary.  In every picture we have of her, she's gazing with love at Him, hanging on His every word.  She just plain loves Him.  His words, His being, and His incredible, life-altering gift of giving back her brother to her.  Can you imagine how she feels?  Ephesians 3:18-19 speaks of us being able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and of being able to KNOW THIS LOVE that surpasses knowledge.  Mary has gotten it.
2.  She's bold.  Hebrews 4: 16 tells us to approach the throne of grace with confidence--with boldness.  Mary doesn't give a rip who else is in the room, or what anyone in the world might think of her action.  She doesn't even see anyone but Jesus.
3.She's willing to make a fool of herself.  1 Corinthians 4:10. "We are fools for Christ." Not thinking about what's going on beside us, not thinking about what's to be gained, but simply, utterly giving.  She doesn't even want anything from Jesus--she just wants to give to Him.
4. It's prophetic.  Jesus says that the perfume has been 'saved for this day.'  Mary was participating in what Jesus had come to earth to do.  Her worship was part of His master plan. That's what worship does--it participates in His master plan.  It declares that He is who He says He is.  That He is Lord.
5.  It cost her something.  The expensive perfume, her hair, her modesty.  Worship that costs.  There's something about Jesus that matters so much that she doesn't care what it cost her.
6.  "The house was filled with fragrance."  Worship sweetens everything around it.  In fact, it invades everything around it. Imagine it:  Mary's hair was obviously flooded with that expensive perfume.  It clouded her face--the smell of that worship.  And that smell brought out a response in Judas:  Worship does that as well--it divides true worshippers from false ones.  Imagine how not only Jesus, but Mary stunk up the place wherever she went after that.  Everyone smelled her coming!  So she did get something from it--but it was from her own act, her own surrendered action of loving Jesus.

We should be Mary in worship.  All of us.  This is my point. Jesus, the very reality of Him, the very undeniable, not-because-He's-done-anything-or-will-do-anything-for-me reality of Him--THIS is what she was adoring.  She wasn't asking anything.  She only adored.  Willing to  lay a costly sacrifice at His feet because, after all, He is Jesus.

Are you willing to be Mary?

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