Sunday, April 21, 2019

A walk past an empty tomb.

Frederick Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner) is an American writer and theologian. He is the author of more than thirty published books and has been an important source of inspiration and learning for many readers. He has a perspective on Easter I find unique and a great way to start.

The Gospels are far from clear as to just what happened. It began in the dark. The stone had been rolled aside. Matthew alone speaks of an earthquake. In the tomb there were two white-clad figures or possibly just one. Mary Magdalen seems to have gotten there before anybody else. There was a man she thought at first was the gardener. Perhaps Mary the mother of James was with her and another woman named Joanna. One account says Peter came too with one of the other disciples. Elsewhere the suggestion is that there were only the women and that the disciples, who were somewhere else, didn't believe the women's story when they heard it. There was the sound of people running, of voices. Matthew speaks of "fear and great joy." Confusion was everywhere. There is no agreement even as to the role of Jesus himself. Did he appear at the tomb or only later? Where? To whom did he appear? What did he say? What did he do?

The symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can't depict or domesticate emptiness. You can't make it into pageants and string it with lights. It doesn't move people to give presents to each other or sing old songs. It ebbs and flows all around us, the Eastertide. Even the great choruses of Handel's Messiah sound a little like a handful of crickets chirping under the moon.

He rose. A few saw him briefly and talked to him. If it is true, there is nothing left to say. If it is not true, there is nothing left to say. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. For some, neither has death. What is left now is the emptiness. There are those who, like Magdalen, will never stop searching it till they find his face. [1]

Easter Sunday Morning Starts with this emptiness but leads us to a new place a new way of being in this world and relating to one another.  This is much of what the sunrise service experience is…It is dark… it is silent it is cold… Mary Magdalene approaches the tomb knowing what to expect…In extreme grief ..she knows she will attend to the body of the Lord…alone she will care for the one who the others fled from…alone…the stone is rolled back the tomb is empty !!!!

We teach, preach and believe that Jesus came to turn the whole social order and the world upside down.  He does away with tradition left and right while he walked on this earth and now even in death.

According to Bible archeology website burial custom for the time of Jesus was that it was the;
“women’s task to prepare a dead body for burial. The body was washed, and hair and nails were cut. Then it was gently wiped with a mixture of spices and wrapped in linen strips of various sizes and widths. While this was happening, prayers from the Scriptures were chanted.

The body was wrapped in a shroud but was otherwise uncovered.

Tombs were visited and watched for three days by family members and friends. On the third day after death, the body was examined. This was to make sure that the person was really dead, for accidental burial of someone still alive could happen.

At this stage the body would be treated by the women of the family with oils and perfumes.” [2]

Through this description we can see where the burial of Jesus is still turning things the wrong way out.  First it is Joseph of Arimathea along with Nicodemus who “took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with spices, in linen clothes.” (John 19:40) This was women’s work according to the tradition of the time and yet we have the men doing it.

Then tradition has it that the romans stood guard over the tomb.  Not the Family but the Government, the ruling class has taken on the role of what would have been for family and friends to do.

Then Mary, while it is not yet light enough to see where one is going heads to the tomb alone.  Women did not travel alone.  Nobody went out before light except those who had the lowest of jobs to sweep the streets, night watch or shepherds. Yet Mary sets of alone her heart heavy with grief. Yet she knows her role and with dread she anticipates caring for a broken body that was Jesus’.  She alone is heading out to care for Jesus but when she arrives there are no guards…the stone is rolled back... the Tomb is empty!!! She must have been filled with confusion, fear, panic!

Mary runs back to the disciples and then we find Mary right behind the disciples back at the garden.  She is healthy no wonder she thought she could move the tomb stone by herself.
John traditionally holds the two disciples are Peter and the one who Jesus loved ran back to the garden.  The one out races Mary and Peter and sticks his head in the tomb and see the linens lying there and then Peter walks in and sees the face cloth folded and then the other disciple walks in, sees all this and believes.

What did he believe?  The Gospel says they did not yet understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead. He believed Christ had risen. 

I often thought this a great leap.  The beloved disciple only had but to look into the tomb and believe.  But what I think this really says is that he was paying attention and got what Jesus was teaching all along.  You see with the linens lying there and the face clothe all folded up neatly says this is no robbery.  Who would steal a body and take the time to unwrap it first?  It had to be something else.

Some think the next verse is a little contradictory, but I do not see it as such.  It says they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.  Peter, I assume walked away understanding nothing, as usual.  The beloved disciple believed, he may not have made the scriptural reference yet, but he understood Jesus’ words and sayings.
Of course, the men leave Mary standing there alone, in her grief, unaccompanied again! Left her standing there weeping away…didn’t even offer her a tissue!

Mary sticks her head inside the tomb and there are two angels seated at the head and the foot of where Jesus’ body should be.  Jesus is bracketed by angels.  Angels at his conception, angels at his birth, and now at his resurrection.  This says that death is not that important.  It is important to us because we identify it with human suffering – yet the resurrection, to me, points past the suffering.  I believe the narration points to that as well. 

For the Angels ask her “Woman why are you crying?”  She answers; “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”  Isn’t that the definition of grief?  I mean when a love one dies we try to rationalize, we try to stand firm in our faith but in that ultimate moment of extreme grief, we are lost. Our loved one is gone and we really do not know where they are.  Mary is us. She is us at any moment of loss, confusion and fear…the tomb is empty.  As empty as the hole in our heart when we lose someone we cherish.
Then Jesus repeats the question; “Woman, why are you crying?” I think this is made to emphasize this is not a time of grief, “The life lived is not to be grieved” [3] see my blog spot Sometimes Alleluia November 2015 for that sermon. Then Jesus asks; “who are you looking for?”  That is a strange question to be asking at a grave side.  I mean the question assumes you must be seeking someone living for the dead are easy to find.  But Mary, missing that it is Jesus who is speaking to her, says just tell me where he is, and I’ll get him.  So, Mary is assuming this Gardener is somehow a part of this conspiracy to steal the body of Jesus. 

Then he says to her, in a tone of voice that only she could recognize, and it melts her heart and opens her eyes…Mary.  

As Christ calls Mary by her name she recognizes him.  How many times in our own lives when we look back we can see God’s hand at play but, when we were in the moment, we could not or refused to see God with us.  I wonder how often Mary looked back on that moment and wondered why she did not recognize Jesus Right away.

Jesus then says do not hold onto me, or another translation would be do not cling to me.  Jesus is saying, do not hold on to me as you once believed for I am something new, something different, and something beyond physical. One interpreter believes this is Jesus saying my Physical body has died and I am now a spiritual being. [4] This is where Jesus moves from man to Christ.  

There is a shift in his being and how he is perceived from here on out.  Then he proclaims to Mary “Go to my Brothers and Sisters and tell them I am going to my Abba and your Abba, to my God and your God!” (John 20:19) This is important again because not all of Jesus followers, not all of his disciples were Jewish.  We traditionally think of the disciples as the twelve yet in the books of acts the numbers “range between 70 and 120 to a ‘growing Multitude’”. [5] Like we teach here about the last supper it was women, children, servants, it was those healed by Christ and those who will hear the 12 in their own tongue.  Jesus proclaims one loving accepting parent God for all and in that God, we are all, every one of us, brothers and sisters.

The final Proclamation Mary Makes is “I have seen the Lord”. Remember that quote from John 12:21 “Sir we would see Jesus.” Mary has seen the Lord! Mary, a woman, who ventures out before dawn.  Mary who walks around independent of any man or any other companions.  Mary who is assuming she can roll back the stone.  Mary who keeps pace running with the men. Mary is the first to see the Lord and proclaim a resurrected Christ a new Jesus a new way of being in relation to one another in this world. A world where we are called to care for each other no matter who you are or where you are in life’s journey. A world where we as Brothers and Sisters in Christ proudly proclaim for all to hear…You are a part of God’s family!  This is what I hear in today’s Gospel and the message of the resurrection.  May we always get past the empty tomb moment and live in the experience of an all loving God, a true family of humanity, and the blessings that a relationship with Christ can bring into our lives.  Amen.

[1]. Frederick Buechner, Easter, October 13, 2009, accessed March 14, 2016,
[2]. Elizabeth Fletcher, Tombs,
[3]. Joseph Shore-Goss, The life lived is not to be grieved, November, 2015,
[4]. anonymous, John 20:17, February, 2014, accessed March 14, 2016,
[5]. Nikhilesh Jasuja, Priya mMenon, and Carolyn, Apostle vs Disciple, March 8, 2016, accessed March 14, 2016,

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The triumphant ride into Jerusalem!

The triumphant ride into Jerusalem!  The grand Procession.  The joy, as we re-enact often what for many of us is a fond memory from our own childhood. John Wesley Notes that “‘Hosanna’ (Lord save us) was a solemn word in frequent use among the Jews.  The Meaning is ‘We sing hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he, the Messiah, of the Lord. Save. Thou that art in the highest heavens.’ Our Lord restrained all public tokens of honor from the people till now, lest the envy of his enemies should interrupt his preaching before the time.”[1]

Today we celebrate Jesus’ Triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.  Today is also known as Passion Sunday, which we will honor during the week as we recall the events that led to the torture and execution of Jesus.    So today let us focus, on today!
Marcus Borg with John Dominic Crossan in the book “The Last Week” gives us a beautiful picture of what was happening;

Two Processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30…. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession, From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. …

On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the roman Governor of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers.  Jesus’s procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God; Pilate’s proclaimed the power of empire.[2]

Most people do not realize that Pontius Pilate rode into Rome.  He was sent down during the Holidays to make sure there was no trouble.  Yet during this time there had been trouble and Pontius was anticipating it. 

Imagine the imperial procession’s arrival in the city. A Visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on Horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of the bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curios, some awed, some resentful.[3]

This is an intentional display of imperial power much like the army marching in Tiananmen square or rocket launches around north Korea or maybe a military parade in Washington DC.  This is to instill fear and remind people who is in charge. Sometimes it’s a warning to the people, sometimes to other countries. It is also a warning to anyone who may think about offering any kind of resistance that there is a whole army waiting to react.
This display also was to be not just a display of military might but that of Religious authority as well.

According to the theology of Rome, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God.  It began with the greatest of emperors, Augustus, who rules Rome from 31 BCE to 14 CE.  His father was the god Apollo, who conceived him in his mother, Atia. Inscriptions refer to him as “son of God,” “lord” and “savior,” one who had brought “peace on earth.”  After his death, he was seen ascending into heaven to take his permanent place among the gods.  His successors continued to bear divine titles, including Tiberius, emperor from 14 to 37 CE and thus the emperor during the time of Jesus’s public activity.  For Rome’s Jewish subjects, Pilate’s procession embodied not only a rival social order, but also a rival theology.[4]

Jesus’s procession, if we look at it as it is written in The Gospels seems like a very deliberate, planned, political action.  He tells his disciples where to find the colt and just mention that the master needs it and it is understood who and what it is for.  Okay, that is an assumption, but no one questions the disciples after they say that the colt is for the master therefore one can safely say that the owner was probably a follower of Jesus.

People of that time had to be very conscience of the symbolism; the direct contrast Jesus was presenting. Jesus is coming into town riding on a donkey, lowliest of animals.  His army are all peasants and common folk.  They are hailing him as the King, mocking that of Pontius’s entrance.

Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world.  Jesus’s procession embodied an alternative vision, the Kingdom of God.[5]

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago something amazing happened as a result of a tragedy. A movement, a protest, a match up; the powerless against the powerful! The students of Stoneman Douglass High school had started something that, let’s be honest, should have started a long time ago.

On 60 minutes the students were asked “what makes you think you guys could do more? That this could be different?” here is what a student said; “the thing about it is we are the generation that had to be trapped in closets waiting for police to come or waiting for a shooter to walk into our door. We are the people who know what it is like firsthand!” another student states; “we are the mass shooting generation…I was born months after columbine.  I am seventeen years old and we have had seventeen years of mass shootings!” he goes on to say “that stop school violence act they are pushing in DC which is just a bunch of hot air fluff doesn’t use the word gun once it’s when in all these tragedies the one thing that links them all together is the Gun!”[6]

Those students rose up and are still fighting for just and common-sense laws.  They are riding against Rome.

We have a food pantry.  People can come and get food once a week.  There are no questions asked except name and members of household. This is only asked once and is never shared. Whereas the government requires that a two-person household make less than 1760 a month and cannot have more than 3000.00 dollars in assets…well that person would not be living here cause all I could find for rent in Marlborough was a two bedroom at 1135 a month

We ride ride against empire 

Actually, the little rainbow flag in front is a strong ride against Empire. Did you know that LGBTQ Youth are 125% more likely to experience homelessness than any other population?  This is usually due to abuse or an intolerant home. Our flag says more than just we tolerate you. It says we celebrate you and lift you up.  This is your sacred space.  

That means a lot in a country where it is still legal to discriminate against LGBT folks in 11 states in this day and age it amazes me that only 21 states, the district of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico protect, protect against both sexual orientation and gender Identity discrimination both in public and private sectors.

As a congregation of three denominations we stand on solid ground in our proclamation of no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here.

Riding against empire.

These are amazing movements…This is Palm Sunday…Those kids/ young adults, our food pantry, our congregation and denominations, were and are Jesus on a colt riding into Jerusalem!

This isn’t metaphor.  We are literally doing it. Day by Day. Step by step.

 At one time I would ask about today’s Gospel reading as you visualize this event could you see yourself in the story.  Would you have been one of the people joyously, celebrating, welcoming the new king into your city.  Believing this man was going to change everything right away.  This man, the one who is always causing trouble, breaking tradition, is in opposition not just to Rome but the religious authorities.  Would you welcome him Knowing that at any moment trouble could break out and you might be caught up it in it?

Well we have the opportunity to walk with the Jesus We can bring service to those who are food compromised.  We can walk besides those who seek justice.  We can offer sacred space to those who are told they are not sacred for we proclaim all are sacred as children of God!

So, if you think to yourself yes, I would be there.  I would welcome Jesus to the city.  I would be ready to stand beside him and walk with him no matter where it leads.  I would then say to you, know this…you are part of a great and brave group of people who are ready for a big and dramatic change, and it has started! But remember, with Jesus as soon as trouble started most all turned against him.  They asked for a murderer to be released over him.
So, who are you in this Palm Sunday Story?

Can you picture yourself maybe as the colt?  An innocent creature living in servitude, who is suddenly thrown into this spotlight.  You are given the great honor to carry the Lord and Master into this city.  You alone have been chosen to be blessed and to touch the living Christ.  The excitement of the crowd is energizing and terrifying at the same time and yet.  And yet, when it is all over you go back to what you were doing before no better and no worse for it.  Your life just goes on as it always did.

Maybe, just maybe, you are one of the Roman guards on the far side of the city.  Part of the big corporation.  A Good soldier.  Following orders and doing what you are supposed to do.  Maybe you have heard something about this man about town.  There are rumors and stories.  Oddly enough you are called to stand Guard at an execution and turns out to be this Jesus you have heard so much about, “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"(Mark 15:39)

Knowing all this, all this history, all this conflict, knowing what might be, knowing what we might have done in this story, who we might be.  Knowing that all this triumphant celebratory entry into the city will only end on a hill.  Jesus comes. Despite all that... Jesus comes and Because of all this…All of you…all of us, all of humanity…Jesus comes!

Because there is poverty in the world …Jesus Comes
Because there is Hunger in the world… Jesus Comes
Because there are migrants who are seeking a better life …Jesus comes
Because there are worn torn parts of our world…Jesus comes
Because the planet and all things living upon it are crying out for justice…Jesus comes
Because there are those who need just and equal health care…Jesus comes 
Because people need disaster relief in Puerto Rico ...they need food, electricity, roofs…Jesus Comes
Because of Students who want to be safe and see no need for weapons of war to be available in our society…Jesus comes!

Jesus Comes! Jesus Enters the city and there is an open invitation to follow.  But how do we do that?  How do we follow Jesus into Jerusalem? What are we Called to do? How do we prepare to follow Jesus into Jerusalem?

 We are called to accompany those in need on their life journey.  We are called to take action when we see injustice.  We are called to help close the gap where we see people being marginalized. No, we can’t do it all.  We can’t all be expected to literally walk besides those in need. But we can write letters…offer financial support…offer support to organizations and businesses that believe in the same causes we do.
We can boycott business who do not understand how their actions support injustice and call them out. 

Our cry of Hosanna is we walk in the way of Christ and we are called to act upon that call to the best of our ability. For some that may be offering a prayer, lifting Christs love that is in our heart to another. Offering a smile or a word of encouragement. Standing for a just and peaceful world in our hearts may be all we can do but it is more than enough! And actually, offering kindness and prayer is the best place to start!

Amanda Beck writes;

“You may say that these practical instructions amount to being nice to others and being a good person but carry very little spiritual weight. We would all prefer merely to contemplate the mystery of God’s coming near and follow Jesus’ journey with a spiritual devotion to the suffering servant. It is true that many of these instructions don’t seem spiritual in themselves. We must do them, not because of their own spiritual weight, but because our hearts are very small. We clutter them daily with concern for ourselves, misplaced loves, and hurt feelings. We must make room for Jesus in order to welcome Christ properly. Somehow this practical work done with spiritual attention prepares the way of the Lord as nothing else can. It changes us. It makes room in our hearts that Jesus can fill with the kingdom of heaven. This is the way to make straight the path of the Lord: self-emptying. There is no other way to let Jesus’ message sink in, and there is no other way to follow our Lord than to walk in his footsteps. Jesus’ life was one of self-emptying and service to God and humanity, and so we make our lives in his likeness. If there was ever a week to get this right, this is it. If there was ever a point in the Christian narrative to step out of the way and let the story of divine love continue, this is it.[7]

So, on this day when we gleefully welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with all the knowing and all the anticipation of the spiritual practice of this week.  This is the time to spend spiritually on ourselves.  This is the week to practice spiritual centeredness and forgiveness and seek right living or ways to help make living right, so that we cannot only be spiritually present to each other but to the community around us.

This week can be used to ramp us up for the rest of the year so that we here at Federated Church of Marlborough may put our faith into action through our commitment to compassion and justice. So that as individuals and as a congregation, we address the needs and challenges of inequality in our communities and around the world as we seek ways in which we may join others to advance social and environmental justice.”

You all are doing a lot individually and collectively as a congregation, but this week, this week is for yourself and God.  This week is about reenergizing ourselves as Christians as we live into our story.  Look for yourself in the story, look for what moves you spiritually this week. Watch for the story as it continues to unfold around you.  Jesus’ walk to good Friday is one of Christianity’s richest traditions.  It empowers and inspires so that we may be who we are called to be Christ to the world. As we are called to engage the 3 great Loves: Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, and Love of Creation, Amen.

[1]Jenee Woodard, The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013), 85
[2]] Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week: The Day-by-day Account of Jesus's final Week in Jerusalem (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006),2.

[7]David Neil Mosser, and Wellman, eds., Abingdon Preaching Annual 2011 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 119.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Anointing the Anointed

Today’s Gospel we open with some familiar players.  We have Mary and Martha and Lazarus now arisen form the dead. Jesus, the twelve, the crowds and the Chief priests.
Nicholas King puts it this way…
“this meal, which is placed at the same point in the narration of both Mark and Matthew, in this Gospel has an air of a ‘thank-you’ to Jesus for Lazarus’ restoration to life, and Mary’s gesture of anointing, intimate as it is, feels like an act of gratitude.”[1]
A meal of gratitude of thanks giving in which the family is celebrating Lazarus restored. The man who once was dead restored to life.
In the Play Corpus Christi by Terrance McNally we get a little different view of this miracle.
Simon there was an old man Lazarus. He’d been dead for six days and was starting to smell to high heaven. He had a wife and six daughters. I wish you could hear the racket they were making.
                And we do as the DISCIPLES become the WAILING WOMEN.
                They are Loud.

Joshua Arise Lazarus.

Simon  I think this was one of the practical miracles. I mean, there was no big reason for it.  Lazarus was no big Cheese or even especially a nice guy.  Joshua just couldn’t stand the noise.

Joshua Shut up, women.  Thank you.  Lazarus arise.

                LAZARUS suddenly sits up. (in the 2006 version everyone screams in horror)

LAZARUS what’s the matter with you? You’d think you seen a ghost!

Joshua You have been asleep Lazarus – not for six days but for all the years of your life. Now live as if your very life depended on it.

LAZARUS How do I live? Teach me.

JOSHUA Be awake every moment and give thanks to God the Father for it. Give back as much – no, more! - Than you have been given. Laugh. Fill your lungs with His good air and Pray.  You have all forgotten how to pray.”[2]

So, in this Gospel scene it would seem the whole family took this advice they are gratefully living in the present, they have invited Jesus and the twelve and their companions for a thanks giving meal. In the thrill of the moment and the need to show Jesus her true heart filled with thanksgiving Mary anoints Jesus feet with some expensive oil called nard. Then she dries his feet with her hair.  The aroma fills the room.
Something different is happening here.  Something unique.  Remember in Luke is the first time we encounter Martha and Mary
“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’” (Luke 10:39-42).
Since then their brother became ill and Jesus was there to revive him, resurrect him form the dead. It was Martha who ran out to greet him …Mary did not come out till word was sent that the master had called for her. It is Mary who believed that “My brother would not had died had you been here.”

Now we meet them again.  Martha is busy in the kitchen.  Not out of duty but out of Joy for this is her ministry. We find Mary once again at Jesus feet.  The place she took to listen and learn from Jesus. In her Joy and in her gratefulness, she chooses to anoint Jesus feet. A pound of Mary’s nard, yes you can find it at Walmart, would sell for 543 dollars today it is cheaper because of mass production. Judas believes it is worth about 1086 dollars either way it is nothing to laugh at this is expensive oil.
So what is an anointing,
“In Old Testament times, people were subject to anointing when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, when Saul became the first king of Israel, Samuel the prophet anointed his head with oil in a ceremonial fashion (1 Sam. 10:1). This religious rite was performed to show that the king of Israel was chosen and endowed by God for the kingship. Likewise, the priests and prophets (1 Kings 19:16) were anointed at God’s command.”[3]
“’Messiah’ is a Hebrew word translated as ‘anointed.’ In the proximity of the Passover independence celebration, Mary anointed the Anointed. In this passage, we see that the Gospel of John offers a radical view of the power that women hold. Whereas throughout much of Western history the pope (a male) crowned the king (another male) or vice-versa. Here Jesus is anointed (given power) by a woman from the countryside, from the working class, from the laity.

Mary anointed Jesus’ feet

In that time and place, it was taboo for a man to be touched by a woman. Still more, women’s loose hair was perceived as being sensual by men in Galilean culture, as it is still true in some segments of present-day society.”[4]
So, Mary choose to anoint Christs feet. She anointed the anointed one.  But his feet…why his feet?  This Gospel takes place the day before the ride into Jerusalem.  This feast takes place before Christ is to be betrayed.  This feast takes place before Jesus shall walk the Via Delarosa, the way of suffering. She anoints Jesus feet for they are about to carry him on the most painful, intentional, journey in all of history.  
Those feet that carried him for 3 years will have to carry him for just a week more but what a week he is about to embark upon.  
It is an emotional time.  The family is grateful and joyous.  Everyone is celebrating and then we get Judas who interrupts everything with an accusatory tone.  Why did you waste the oil that could buy us dot dot dot…John does add the swipe at Judas telling us he is a bit of a thief and though he holds the purse he has been keeping part of it for himself.  Which makes it easy not to like him and to feel his motives are insincere at the minimal or downright evil at the max.
Jesus turns and scolds him …Leave her alone!  Then He alludes to the future…” let her guard it for the day of my burial…for the poor you will always have with you but me you do not always have.”
It is interesting that there seems to be no more reaction to this than that. We are kind of left with our own thoughts after this.  Unfortunately, our thoughts are not always the best.
“What does it mean to fight against poverty, when we face the reality: The poor you always have with you?
Maybe we should start by considering where and how we’ve heard this phrase before. Maybe we should work to re-imagine its meaning. I for one have heard this phrase used to justify apathy or inaction in the face of poverty, to account for outrageous expenditures in luxurious church buildings, to criticize movements that work for systemic change.
If Jesus says, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me,” -- so the argument goes -- we should attend to spiritual needs over, above, or instead of tangible needs. “Just a closer walk with Thee” instead of a march on Washington; thoughts and prayers as opposed to votes and legislation. Even at its best, this perspective promotes only individual acts of kindness but keeps the church out of the realm of policy making and community activism. But immediately this interpretation presents significant problems:”[5]
There may be a language problem here there is a way of saying things in Greek such as you will always have the poor with you that can also mean Have the poor with you always. Can you hear the difference?  It moves from a simple fact to a command.
 With this in mind, let’s return to the story. The disciples and some close friends of Jesus are eating dinner. They are celebrating a life, a life lived and life lived to the fullest. “And Mary (friend of Jesus, sister to Lazarus) brings in a pound of expensive perfume (amounting to what a day laborer would make in an entire year). She pours this perfume on Jesus’ feet and his head.”[6]
There are two times one may see an anointing in Jesus’ time: a coronation and a burial. This scene shows that Jesus is a king, a king that stands in opposition to empire a very different kind of king and it shows that he is about to die. Though he is about to die he remains on mission and reminds those with him; “I am going away,” but the poor are always with you. Keep the poor among you always.
Jesus’ life, journey and mission is anointed by a woman. In a way that stands against all common beliefs and hierarchy.  Then that mission is commissioned upon his followers in the very next sentence. Keep the poor with you…keep the poor close…
If we look at Jesus’ walk this is who we are to be concerned with first and foremost. Often the thought is feeding the hungry but there are so many other aspects that come with the care for the poor.
Care for the poor means health care
Care for the poor means Education
Care for the poor means Housing
Care for the poor means Clean water, air and land
Care for the poor means providing safe community
Care for the poor means access too everything I just listed
Once we hear these things and the list goes on, the list goes on to many things I did not cover. The List becomes overwhelming and we much prefer the concept of’ “well we will always have the poor with us.” If we keep this old understanding then we are commission to do nothing or at least not much but if we listen and understand and keep the poor close, keep the poor in our sight, in our thoughts and deeds daily or here is a radical thought, living with and among us not regulated to the poorest part of our largest communities. 
Then we are called to keep this anointed ministry going, we are called to not just seek out ways in which we can provide what we can but, we are called to stand against empire. We are called to stand in opposition to systems that allow systemic poverty to thrive. Just as Christ stood against empire.  We are called to seek out and create communities of equity and care.  We are called to provide clean air, clean water, medical  care for all! Whatever you wish for your family, your siblings and your children this is what we are called to provide for all so then shall we seek it for the least of these. And in doing so we too shall stand anointed…Amen.

[1]King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013. P.2038
[2]Terrence McNally, Corpus Christi: A Play (New York: Grove Press, 1998), 58.