Three reflections on the woman with the alabaster jar (Matthew 26, Mark 14; Luke 7, John 12)

Mary anoints the feet of jesus by Frank Wesley

Mary Anoints the Feet of Jesus by Frank Wesley

Anointing by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beloved,
may everything I do today
be my anointing of you;
every thought, word and deed
a pouring out of myself for you,
a gift of service, adoration and thanks.

May every act comfort you,
receive your sacred story,
join me to you in your suffering,
embrace your dying
and prepare for what will follow.
In your death may you be wrapped
in the balm of my own heart.

Give me courage to give my gifts
no matter how others may judge them.
May my life give off the aroma
of gratitude and love.
Accept the anointing of my tears,
my prayers, my being.
In your love
I carry the alabaster jar of my life
into this new day.

Why This Waste? by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The oil is poured
The criticism comes
even while the scent is still thick in the air

Why this waste?

Why worship?
Why take the time?
Why spend the money?
The poor, remember the poor
There’s so much work to be done

Yes beloved, remember
Remember the poor and remember her
The way is And not Or
Worship and Work
Loving God and Loving Neighbor
Looking Up and Looking Out For
The cross-shaped life

The work doesn’t work without the worship
The worship’s unfinished without the work

Pour Forth by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
There… beyond the feasting circle
A woman
Who are you? What is your story?
No name, no voice
Yet coming close with your gifts

Some are easy to see
An alabaster jar full of exotic perfume
Boldly broken,
And you pour forth more gifts
Out pours your heart
Your adoration
Your gratitude
Your passion
Your sacrifice
The air is thick with your story
It oozes down your Beloved’s beard, pooling on his callused hands

The shattering brings the circle silent
The aroma, meant for all to enjoy
Instead draws an angry answer
They will not bear your story

Cutting remarks fly at you through the fragrant veil
Indignant daggers thrust into your offering
How dare you! Who do you think you are?
Too generous
Too extravagant
Too intimate
We have a better way
Such a waste… code for waste her
Shatter her spirit
Quick, to the stones
A broken body is the cure

Stop! Leave her alone declares the Anointed One!
Misspent? Misused?
No! You misunderstand!
You miss the mark!
She did what she could- all that she could
Balming my body for burial

You have loved Me
Censing my sacrifice
Grace made fragrant
An act beyond words
A silent song for the ages

Pour forth

It is blessing. It is beautiful.
You are blessing. You are beautiful.

Soak it in

You there, religious ones
You berate, rebuke and bombard
While she… she breaks open
She breaks through bearing the Good News

Your words will fall forgotten
Her story will stand… remembered

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The anointing of Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels and probably recounts two different events. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8

Matthew, Mark, and John mention the location of Bethany and the woman as Mary, the sister of Matha and Lazarus. Mary is criticized for the extravagance of anointing Jesus with the costly nard rather than selling it and the proceeds given to the poor.

In Luke, the location seems to be in the region of Galilee in the north. The woman is unnamed. Jesus himself is brought into question and criticized for allowing a sinner to touch him.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ head is anointed. In Luke and John it is Jesus’ feet.

The details are interesting, but do not miss the main points- the extravance, the courage, the thanksgiving, the grace, the blessing, the welcome. This is why we remember.

Poem: We Need to Linger

holy week primitive cartoon adapted
Before we get to Easter, we need to linger:
in the vulnerability of the basin and the towel
at the remembrance and promise of the table
in the struggle and betrayal of the garden
in the shadows and shouts of injustice
at the bloody brutal beautiful cross
in the silence of linen and spices and death

For without these, the empty tomb is empty

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Poem: We Need to Linger © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for Violent Times

call to prayer and action

It breaks my heart to be posting this prayer yet again in the face of another mass shooting. The school shooting in Parkland, Florida marks the 29th mass shooting in the US in 2018, in just 45 days.

Yes, we need to pray.

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

But we must not stop there. James 2:14-17 reminds us

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.Prayer changes things and changes us. It calls us, leads us, and empowers us to join Jesus in his saving work.

It is time to pray and to act
To seek God’s wisdom and empowerment to respond
To call on God for peace
and to care for bodies before they are zipped into body bags.

This Lenten season I invite you to break from the usual custom of fasting or other form of self-denial and, instead, to fast from apathy. That means you set aside all your noncaring attitudes and move closer to the caring love of God. Even in its mildest form, apathy is a spiritual illness. The cure for apathy is also a spiritual one. … We must move from prayer to action.
– George Hovaness Donigian, A World Worth Saving

How are you responding in prayer and action? – Lisa <

Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

God our Strength, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Calm our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

God our Help, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Calm our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Calm our hearts so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you
We step forward with you in your saving work
Amen

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Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Worship Resources for Transfiguration Sunday

the-transfiguration-by-obrian

The Transfiguration by Michael D. O’Brien

Prayer for Transfiguration Sunday
The post includes a short reflection and quote from Jan Richardson in addition to the prayer.

Reader’s Theater: The Transfiguration
A simple script for three voices based on Based on Mark 9:2-8(NRSV). In this setting, you have the option of sandwiching the reading between the song His Name is Wonderful by Audrey Mieir (United Methodist Hymnal #174).

The Glory of God’s Reign
For a traditional worship setting, Psalm 99:1-5, 9 (NRSV) is combined with the classic hymn Immortal Invisible God Only Wise (United Methodist Hymnal #103). For a contemporary worship setting, the scripture is woven into Chris Tomlin’s powerful song of adoration, How Great Is Our God (CCLI #4348399). This worship resource would also be suitable for the last Sunday of the Christian year, Christ the King Sunday, also known as The Reign of Christ.

Transfiguration Meditation by Steve Garnaas Holmes
A wonderful line by line reflection on the Transfiguration text. Helpful as a sermon starter, for personal devotion, or a prayer during worship. It would be very easy to turn this meditation into a worship liturgy or a reading for multiple voices.

Terrifying Transfiguration by Steve Garnaas Holmes
A thought-provoking reflection on the Transfiguration which could be used as a creative call to worship or sermon starter.

What Did You See on the Mountain by Jim Harnish
Great sermon starter and discussion questions

Receive, a call to faith based on Galatians 3

holy-spirit-outpouring-deborah-brown

Holy Spirit Outpouring by Deborah Brown

Receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:14

Receive the promise of a covenant kept
Timeless, Steadfast
Anchor your soul in it

Receive the promise of a covenant fulfilled
You are a descendant of Abraham by faith
Heir of the blessing, God’s glorious riches, and a home forever

Receive the promise of life
No curse can name you, claim you
Christ bore it all for you
Nothing shall prevail against it
Nothing shall separate you from it

Receive the promise of belonging
Worldly labels and limits break down
In God’s presence and saving love

Receive the promise of the Spirit
God’s constant companionship
Leading, Mentoring, Correcting
Fire, Favor, Empowerment, Provision
Meaning and Purpose and Light
Unending Light

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Receive © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship or devotional setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer: For Yours Alone (Mark 16)

speak witness good news

Based on the short ending of the Gospel of Mark, The Voice Translation
Later, Jesus himself commissioned the disciples to take the sacred and eternal message of salvation far to the East and the West.

Jesus,
Your message is sacred
Holy, Set Apart, Treasured

Your message is eternal
Timeless, Lasting, a Firm Foundation

Your message is salvation
Deliverance, Wholeness, Grace

We bow before your commission to receive and bear your message into the world

Show us when to speak and give us the words
Never for our agenda, for yours alone

Show us what to do and give us the strength
Never for our achievement, for yours alone

Show others we are from you by your power at work through us
Never for our glory, for yours alone

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For Yours Alone © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.