Today marks the second part in a three part series on the journey to Jerusalem. Last week we spoke about being lost, then found on the journey, and developing a different way to see the path ahead.
This week – using the Lectionary reading again – we look at the need to stop, refresh and reflect on the journey.
When we do a First Aid course or equivalent program, one of the first things we learn to follow – when helping others in a medical emergency – is the mnemonic DR ABC – Danger, Response, Airways, Breathing and Circulation.
Checking the patient’s response, airways, breathing and circulation cannot occur until we have been cleared of ‘danger’ to ourselves.
That is, we need to be aware of the ‘environment’ or situation and as importantly we need to be aware of our self-limitations, strengths, and current state of being.
In disaster chaplaincy and emergency services we know that unless we are ‘able’ we can be a liability to the victims and our co-workers as well as to ourselves.
To be at the top of our game, we need to take time to rest, refresh and be renewed and reinvigorated.
Self-awareness of our physical, emotional and spiritual stores at any given time, is important if we are to perform at our best and thus honour God the most.
In today’s lectionary Gospel reading, we focus more on Jesus than Mary, Judas or the disciples. For in this passage, we see what we can sometimes forget that Jesus too needed some ‘down’ time, or ‘time out’.
We see this in passages related to his earlier ministry. In Mark 1:35-37 we hear that when Jesus left the disciples to ascend the mountain and pray early in the morning. Again in Luke 6:12 we see Jesus reclining at the table with the tax collectors or attending the wedding feast [in John 2].
But here now, in this story that Matthew and Mark also feel strongly enough to include in their gospels – Jesus is on the way to the end of his earthly journey.
One can only imagine how he must have wanted to tell and show them so much more – after all it had only been three years and the Roman Empire expanded to almost the extent of the known world and Jesus had probably travelled little more than 100 miles from Nazareth in his whole lifetime.
At a time of importance – it is counterintuitive to think that Jesus should have been ramping up his message, not slowing it down.
But, in preparation for the greatest event of love in human history – our redemption and forgiveness of sins. Jesus relaxes and lets someone else care for him.
That someone else comes in both human and divine form.
Mary massages Jesus’ feet with her hand and hair. She uses her pint [or 500-600 mls] of pure nard perfume, probably from India – costing 300 denarii [the equivalent wages of a labourer working 300 days].
Jesus understands that he will never on earth have this moment again. And although it symbolises the application of spices and myrrh oil on a dead person for burial – here Jesus is very much alive, and resting in the moment with Judas comes forth with his indignant and hypocritical statement about cost and waste – to which Jesus first says ‘leave her alone’ – in essence don’t stop her!
Resting and refreshing we know comes in many different forms. Prayer and fasting is an important way to slow down – a time to refocus, stop our normal activities. I am grateful for the prayer vigils we have had and the ongoing relaxation and Christian meditation groups run by Evelaine and Michelle that – in part – fulfil this need in this place.
But refreshment also comes in understanding who we are in God’s plan.
We are reminded of this in Isaiah when God says ‘See, I am doing a new thing’.
In fact, in this very short lectionary reading for this week – when God speaks – we hear the words ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘myself’.
Jesus relied on [or rested in] a trust of his father and then the people around him [like Mary and the disciples].
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians also in this week’s lectionary says we need to put our reliance upon Christ [not just when we have time to stop and rest and reflect, but all the time].
Real rest happens when we slow ourselves down, let others help and support us and continue to rely on God in all we do and not do.
How are you preparing for Easter? Take time to slow down rather than wind up – take time to reflect – to pray and fast more and to realise again – that it is true when God says, ‘See I am doing a new thing’.