Posts Tagged ‘ Alabaster Box ’

Elton Johns Alabaster Box

What is the path to God?

Do you have to say a prayer? Do you have to kneel down and pray every morning? Do you have to read your bible? Do you have to apply the bible to your life? Do you have to go to church every Sunday? Do you have to spend every ounce of your time in the worship band? Do you have to be a servant to the church? Do you have to go on mission trips, or evangelism campaigns? Do you have to make a pilgrimage to a hillsong concert at least once in your life? Do you have to take communion, do you have to be baptized, do you have to go on retreats?

Although these things are good but are they the path to God? What is the path to God?

If someone were to come up to you and ask what would you tell them? If these do’s are the path to God. You do realize what a problem this creates.
It draws a line in the sand of who is in, and who is out. So lets assume everyone reading this blog does “the to do list.” That would make us on the right path to God.
If we are in, who would be out? Who doesn’t follow these sets of do’s and donts? The homosexuals, your friends that hate church services, people at strip clubs tonight, the prostitutes on Newark avenue and your professors in college. Etc.
I just came back from watching a good friend of mine in the production “Rent”. It is a story of struggling young adults in New York City. I had no idea what the story was about before I went and was rather shocked by the end of the play.
I went to work at the fire house the next day and was describing to the guys how I was shocked by the homosexual scenes. Mostly because it caught me off guard. That’s when the senior man of the house yelled to me up the stairs. “God loves gay people too Kevin!” I put my head down, continued to mop and said to myself, “your right, your absolutely right.”

Luke chapter 7 vs. 36
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

The Torah was of great importance to the Pharisees. It was the focus of every part of their lives. They believed that Moses had given a two-part law: The written law of the Torah itself and the oral traditions. These were sayings that help the faithful apply the torah to their life. This oral law of do’s and don’ts became a complex guide to everyday life.
The Pharisees had many beliefs in common with Jesus and the New Testament. They believed in the physical resurrection of the dead and a coming day of judgment followed by reward or punishment. They anticipated the Messiah at any moment. They believed in angels. They recognized a combination of free choice and divine control in human life. They thought of God as all-wise, all-knowing, just, and merciful. They taught that he loved his people, and was constantly calling them to a life of obedience. Because their lives revolved around the study of the Torah, the Pharisees made the synagogue their community center.

There were more than 6,000 Pharisees by Jesus’ time, and they were the dominant influence on the people’s spiritual lives. The Pharisees desired to raise the spiritual character of the Jewish people to help them draw nearer to God. They believed that a relationship to God depended on constant and deliberate obedience to his detailed set of religious laws.
The do’s and donts.
They believed that obedience to the Torah was the path to God. Jesus never criticized anyone for being a Pharisee, unless they didn’t practice what they preached. The Pharisee’s like modern day pastors were a powerful force for good among God’s people. In many (perhaps most) respects, the theology of early Christians was similar to that of the Pharisees. Since many Pharisee’s were community Leaders it was not strange for them to be inviting Jesus into their homes for dinner.
Lets talk about there homes and dinner because it sheds light on the text. It was quite different than what we think of when we think home and dinner. If you were to walk down a road in Jesus’ time there would be high walls lining the streets. Every now and then you would come across a huge gate in the wall. Once inside you would find yourself in a beautiful courtyard. Around the courtyard would be the balconies and homes set up like apartments around the courtyard. Inside this courtyard would be gardens, and a U shaped table were the men of that apartment complex would sit and discuss matters of the community at night.

This was their dinner.

The Gate to this courtyard was always kept open so that people who passed by could overhear the meetings, easdropp. People could come and go. But only the invited, the important, the men could lounge around the U shaped table. Only the men could eat and talk politics / Religion. It was customary when invited to dinner in one of these courtyards to be greeted by a servant. The servant would wash the guests feet and give them oil for there hair. After you were refreshed you where greeted by the men at the table with a kiss.

This symbolized acceptance and friendship.

This is what it meant for Jesus to be invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner.

He would be greeted at the gate, his feet would be washed, oil would be given to make him feel refreshed and at home. He would then be led through the courtyard with the apartments looking on and given a seat at the u shaped table where he would be greeted by the other men with a kiss. He would then lounge, eat, and talk with the men about important things going on in the community.

Luke chapter 7 vs. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
And as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
This was a woman who lived on the outside. She did not follow the oral tradition and apply the bible to her life. She did not follow the written law. The do’s and donts of the system were not applied by her. She didn’t read her bible, she wasn’t part of the worship band, she didn’t go to church faithfully every Sunday. Her reputation was wrecked, her life was broken.
She didn’t have her act together, she worked the underbelly and black market of the community. She new and spoke the dirty words, watched the rated r movies, drank a little too much, was greedy and suckered in by abusive men. She was the social outcast, and because of this she would never be part of the in crowd. The accepted, the saved, the redeemed, the children of God. She would never be invited to dinner, never have her feet washed, never be given olive oil for her hair, never be greeted with a kiss of acceptance. Never have any real say in the community. Never have a path to God.
The bible says that this woman learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s community courtyard meeting. I wonder what else she learned. Maybe she learned how Jesus raised a widow’s son. Maybe she learned that he healed a centurion’s servant. Maybe she learned that Jesus was searching for the poor, the hungry, the heartbroken, the objects of insult, rejected. Maybe she learned about the shriveled hand Jesus restored on the Sabbath, going against the system. Sticking it to the man. Maybe she learned she liked Jesus very much. Maybe she heard that an evil tax collector actually was accepted as his apprentice. Maybe she heard about the friends who cut a hole in a roof to get their friends sins forgiven. Maybe she learned all around her how people where connecting to Jesus and finding a path to God in the most unusual ways. Whatever she learned, she was hooked and decided to pass the courtyard and watch a man she heard so much about.

I can picture her mingling in the crowd waiting for Jesus to show up. The community leaders are hob nobbing together. In their expensive robes and elegant customs they were busy patting each other on the back,

There he is. She notices him as soon as he comes through the gate, but she also notices something else. The servants don’t greet him. The Leaders don’t acknowledge him. But Jesus reclines anyway. He reclines at a table without being refreshed and without being accepted. Jesus is on the inside of the Pharisee’s house but on the outside of their hearts. He is not accepted and he is treated the same way a sinner is treated. The Pharisee’s actions are on purpose.

Their actions are done to shame Jesus in public. To show the people he is not really one of them.

The woman’s heart must have been pounding out of her chest. Why are they doing this to him? Why are they trying to ruin his image? I mean me, I can understand. But this man has done nothing wrong and they are abusing him politically. It is only right to honor someone you invite to dinner. I hate when they do this to people.
“Self righteous. Bleep beety bleeps.”
The woman identifies with what they are doing to Jesus. She sees Jesus being publicly shamed and moves in to rescue him. She breaks down using her tears to wash his feet. She breaks down from years of feeling the same shame and the same humiliation. She breaks down and says, “Jesus, I will not let you be alone.”

She breaks down and chooses to make the Pharisees feel just as uncomfortable as they made Jesus. She breaks down and says enough is enough, not here, not now, no more. “I am broken, I am ashamed, I am humiliated, I am sinful, but I will not allow this to Jesus. He will not be by himself tonight.”

She then lets down her hair and goes against the cultural grain to dry his feet. She lets down her hair as symbol of intimacy. She lets down her hair to say hear I am, no more hiding, no more of this bullcrap, no more big you little me. She lets down her hair to show Jesus who she is, who she’s been, what she needs.

She kisses Jesus’s feet to let him know she fully accepts him. She kisses his feet to embrace whatever friendship he offers.

She pours perfume on Jesus to show the Pharisee’s he doesn’t need them. She pours perfume on Jesus to give him confidence that he has friends. She pours perfume on him to refresh him and make him feel welcomed.

It was a beautiful display of sacrifice and love in a room full of hate and self righteousness.

Where am I in this story? Have I ever tried to publicly humiliate someone? Set them up for failure? Call them out to make myself look right. Have I ever destroyed someone’s character with gossip? Has anyone ever made a really bad decision and I’m there with an I told you so. Have I been on the top side of power so long I feel I have a right to be arrogant, and all knowing? Am I in charge of who’s in and who’s out? Do you use your authority outcast people you don’t like or agree with?
Could I invite Jesus to diner and into my courtyard of coworkers, subordinates, and friends? Could I I do to him what I am doing to the people in my life? I am curiouse how uncomfortable I would make him with my leadership.

Or, am I the talk of the community, the church? Why do I feel my reputation shattered and my life in pieces? Am I broken, hungry, and a spiritual outcast? Why do I feel like the path to God is lost? Why do I hear stories about this Jesus and long to find him for myself?

The first time I met Jesus I was reading a comic book. I was 11 years old. The second time I met Jesus, I was in a youth prison in seacaucus far from the do’s and donts. I have met God outside of a my dads bar and inside a building engulfed in flames. I have met God blowing up balloons in Ramallah for oppressed children and buying a block of cheese for a homeless man. I have met God in extreme fear and fatigue, and in moments where I am made fun off and feel alone. I have met God in the untraditional, unconventional avenues of life and I am hooked.

What if the church was a place not were we find God, but learn how to find him out there?

Where do you see Jesus this morning? What wrongs can you make right? Who can you stick up for, who can you protect, who can you provide a safety net for?

Jesus is in the humiliation, the ashamed, the broken the hungry the outcasts of my life. Maybe my true freedom this morning is moving in to rescue and be beside people. Maybe my path to God starts by asking him to come along side of me and identify with me. Maybe Jesus is waiting for me to say enough is enough, something must be done about homelessness, oppression of immigrants and single parent moms struggling.

In this story Jesus allowed himself to be in the prostitutes shoes. He allowed himself to be publicly humiliated and ashamed. He allowed himself in an unjust situation to show that he was leveling the playing field.

The Pharisee says to himself, If Jesus were really a prophet and I know he is not. He would know who is trying to sexually arouse him and that she is an outcast.

Jesus knowing the judgment that the Pharisee made before he even got there, the judgment in his heart at the moment, challenges him to make one more judgment.

Simon, (the pharisee’s name)
Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now witch of them will love him more?
Simon replied, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.
You have judged correctly, Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came to your house, You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman , from the time I entered has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven. For she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little. Jesus said to the woman, your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you. Go in peace.

It was as if Jesus was saying,
Simon I know who is touching me, I know her life style and I don’t agree with it. Compared to your little offence tonight she has a long way to go. But at this moment she loves me more than you do. At this moment she loves God more than you do.

I was watching a news story recently about Elton John and his life partner. The story describes the rejection of their bid to adopt a little boy who had HIV from the Ukraine. If this boy was adopted he wouldn’t have to worry about a thing for the rest of his life. He would be accepted, cared for, and set up to live his life to the fullest. I almost broke down in tears because it was as if God was saying,

“Kevin I know who is touching me, I know his life style and the great offences he has made against me. But at this moment he loves me more than you do.”

Jesus said in Matthew 21:32 (New International Version)
“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.”

I wonder how many ways the “outsiders” are loving God more than we are as a church. We judge, we shame, we blame, we insult and harass.
I wonder how many times God looks at us and says, I know who is touching me, I know there life style and I don’t agree with it. But at this moment they are loving me more than you.

At the end of the story, the Pharisee was left with questions, the woman was left with peace.