Last Sunday I attended the final service at Holy Trinity Port Melbourne for Fr Noel Whale on, in his words, his ‘final retirement’. At the age of 80+, Noel went to the parish 11 years ago to help rebuild and establish it in the community. He spoke about the Church as both building and people and reminded us that throughout life, we are all sojourners on a journey and pitching our tent is part of this journey. The parish has a certain vibrancy about it, and he reminded the congregation of over 100 not to underestimate the building and the faith of those who gathered. He described the building as sacred space. His words have stayed with me during this week, and I believe them to be equally true for us at South Darebin.
Why this reading from John this Sunday, in the middle of the year of Luke? All the other Gospels during Lent have come from Luke. I am not completely sure, other than to say John’s account of the anointing of Jesus shortly before the Passover at Bethany is full of potency and emotion as the final days before the events of Good Friday are to take place. Lazarus and his sisters give a dinner party in honour of Jesus. Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead and is the host of the dinner, while Martha serves and Mary anoints his feet with a precious ointment. The house is probably filled with fragrance, thanksgiving, and emotion, yet Judas scoffs at the cost of the evening and suggests that the money could have been better spent on the poor. Lazarus may also have felt a degree of discomfort, as his life was likely in danger, as his existence showed the extraordinary power of Jesus. We join the dinner party and note the disharmony between Mary and Judas. The gift of Mary in anointing the feet of Jesus as an act of love is rejected by Judas. She is however not put off by the judgments of others. In times that challenge and that seek to sideline Christian faith, may we have the love that Mary showed towards Jesus and remain open and loving despite possible rejection and hostility.