Monday morning in the Preacher's Study
First thoughts about next Sunday's sermon (Lent 5C)
What is your consuming desire?
On the fifth Sunday of Lent this year we see/hear both Paul (in Philippians) and Mary (in John) make extraordinary testimony to Christ and their desire to know and love him. Jesus surpasses everything of worth to them. There is no way to put a value on what Christ it worth to them.
Paul sketches his own impressive CV in order to contrast himself with the Judaizing preachers, but more, to indicate the high value he places on Judaism. Paul’s list of credentials: circumcised the eighth day (not as an adult), of the people of Israel (not just a Jew religiously), of the tribe of Benjamin (a family genealogy), a Hebrew born of Hebrews (probably refers to his family preserving the native tongue in the home), as to the law a Pharisee (full obedience to the whole law), as to zeal a persecutor of the church (the commitment is deep!), as to righteousness under the law blameless. But all of this gain (these thing are of tremendous value to him) he counts as loss only because of the staggering gift he found in Christ. He has now happily given up all other claims, advantages, and status. Paul’s desire to know Christ in full leads to his desire to live in Christ and to find union with him in suffering, death, and resurrection. Finally, for Paul, it is all about resurrection. It is the final hope.
So too is Mary’s testimony, although she expresses it without words. With costly perfume and her hair she participates in Christ’s life, death and resurrection, perhaps in ways even beyond her knowing. She does seem to know who she has before her . . . something, someOne, beyond value. Measuring the value or the “cost” is not possible for those who attach themselves to Christ, mainly because the gift they recognize as theirs, in Him, is grace. Once you get a good taste of this grace, it becomes your consuming desire.
Nearing the end of Lent the preacher is moved to anticipate the celebration of the Resurrection, but also to proclaim it with joy. Even in Lent, go ahead. (Hold the Alleluias if you wish, but your listeners “want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” Testify away!)