Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: What A Waste!

"What a waste!"

It's a phrase we use a lot.

Can't believe I spent time watching that reality TV show!

Can't believe we paid $870 for the family to go to that awful movie!

Can't believe I drove all the way out there and they didn't have the thing I wanted.

The phrase can take a serious turn too.

Can't believe I invested in that relationship.

Can't believe I told that lie - look what it cost me.

Can't believe he made those choices - look at all he has lost.

What a waste.

It's a famous story.

Jesus is at a friend's house having dinner and a woman - perhaps of ill repute, no one is really sure - comes in.

She takes a jar of fantastically expensive perfume (I mean, really expensive, not mall expensive but 401K in 2007 expensive) and pours it over his head as an act of love and devotion.

The religious people in the room are shocked. (Religious people are always being shocked, have you ever noticed that? Jesus never seemed to get shocked by anything except the foolishness of religious people).

"What a waste!", these indignant ones said. "The woman could have sold the perfume and sent the proceeds to Compassion International or World Vision or the homeless shelter!"

They did have a point.

Jesus sits there in a puddle of perfume, dripping from his hair, down his beard, onto the floor.

You can't re-bottle that stuff. It's gone, like a 401K in 2008. Gone.

Theoretically, it could have been put to better use, more responsible use, surely more logical use.

Only, Jesus tells the church leaders to hush and says "She's done a great thing. People will be talking about what she did forever".

And so we are.

So, what's the deal?

Two layers at work here.

First, no act of love, no matter how extravagant or illogical, is ever a waste.

Love loud, love boldly, love illogically, love even when the religious leaders shake their heads and say "You should have tithed your time and your money, not spent it on _____________!"

(I'm not saying don't tithe, by the way).

As the title of a great book puts it, Love Does.

Don't let hesitation, shyness, insecurity, or fear of not being good enough keep you from loving.

But there was something else at play in Jesus' words, something significant and serious.

In those days, when someone died they embalmed them with perfume, to arrest - even if only for a short time - the process of decay. They poured it over their body and it ran down into a puddle.

When Jesus died, he was embalmed this way. This woman's act prefigured and foreshadowed this.

He was a thirty-something Rabbi with incredible powers of healing and teaching. People flocked to him.

Then Jesus started saying risky and unnecessary things. And it got him killed.

What a waste, right?

Only, it wasn't a waste at all. It was the greatest investment ever, because it was a hard core, all in, reckless, crazy, illogical investment - a bet, really - in you.

That's the way God operates. And that's why when you look at something immeasurably painful in your life, thinking it's a waste and you'll never get it back and she'll never come home and all hope is lost and you'll never love or find love again Jesus says "If I have my way, nothing is ever wasted".

So, let Me have my way.

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