Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So much need. So much pain.

 I shared this from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary on Facebook then took it down for fear someone in my congregation might decide I was too tired to care for them. Which is most definitely NOT the case.

As I began to contemplate Jamie's writing, this passage came to mind:
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”  Mark 14: 3-9

This passage often poses difficulty for our understanding of who Jesus is. How do we reconcile Jesus' declaration that "the poor will always be with you" with his care for the poor, ill, outcast...? Does this passage excuse us from caring for the least of these? No, it does not. It does, however, speak to how we are called to care for God's people and God's world, and I think Jamie may have nailed it on the head.

Notice what Jesus says next, "She has performed a good service for me...She has done what she could."

We have of late and probably always been bombarded by so many causes, so many needs, so much hurt, so much violence, and so much pain that it is easy to become paralyzed. It is just too much to comprehend. We don't know where to begin, so we do nothing. And then we begin to isolate ourselves from all bad news and need (or at least that's what I'm tempted to do).

Jesus told the disciples that the woman did the ministry that she was called to do - the ministry for which she had the resources.  I believe that is all we are called to do. What we can. What God has equipped us to do.

Now before you heave a huge sigh of relief thinking that means you are not called to step out on a limb or into some place less than comfortable, that is not what happened in either of these stories - the one in Mark or the one in Jamie's blog. What I like about Jamie's story is that even though she felt too tired to care, she opened herself to new possibilities even as she protested that she wouldn't be able to take on another cause, another ministry.

It took great courage for the woman to enter that room full of men to bring her gift to Jesus. I'm pretty sure this wouldn't have been in her comfort zone. She certainly wasn't welcomed by the men at the table. It took great courage to break open the jar and share something so valuable - to give so much of herself.

Perhaps Jesus' answer about the poor always being with us wasn't about ignoring the poor or failing to minister to and with them. Perhaps it was about seeking God's direction and provision for the ministry or ministries to which we are called and about trusting that God calls someone to meet every need. As to whether those calls are answered - I'll keep praying if you will.