Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”
The scene of Mary washing Jesus’ feet with her hair seems so unexpected. It also seems unexpected that Jesus would respond to Judas’s remark by saying something so cold as “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me,” which sounds a bit self-centered: Certainly it would have been unexpected that someone would use such a costly amount of this expensive ointment to anoint an itinerant preacher and carpenter’s son.
This reminds us that God is often doing the unexpected. It is certainly unexpected that a woman would anoint a man, for in that culture at that time only men anointed men. So everything about Mary washing Jesus feet with expensive burial perfume is out of governmental, social, and religious expectancies.
You may have observed over your life-time, as I have, that God regularly loves to do the unexpected with, for, and through some very unexpected people. And here near the culmination of Lent and the celebration of Easter are the highlights of the work and activity of God doing some very unexpected things. Death is assumed to have the last word here on earth, until Jesus is raised from the dead on Easter morning.
As I thought about all of the unexpected events in this dinner that Jesus and the disciples had with Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus (whose resurrection had been an unexpected event before Jesus’ resurrection), I began to ponder the unexpected ways that God had come to me and worked out events in my life in spite of the social, legal and religious orders of Christians.
Lent is a good time to sit back and think about how God has been active in our lives in ways we never expected. Even though I felt from early childhood that God had called me to be a pastor I never expected it could happen because females were not accepted socially, or theologically in Christian denominations during the 1900’s.
Yet, in 1990 I was called to pastoral studies, and then ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1994. I had resigned myself to hoping that I could be called as a missionary teacher, but God did the unexpected and called me to a rural Lutheran congregation where the prejudice against women serving as pastors was strong, and even more unexpectedly, I never had a problem regarding that sexual issue during my twenty plus years as a pastor. I served two congregations over a twenty year period and four other churches after that as an interim pastor. God had done the unexpected in many women pastor’s lives by the end of the 1900:’s, and God continues to do the unexpected whether we are ready for it or not.
- What unexpected events have you experienced in your life that tells you that God works in unexpected ways to bring about the Kingdom of God?
- Can you sit down and list the unexpected events that you have experienced in your life and see God’s hand was at work in each of them?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.