Mingled down

In the home at Bethany. A Hearth. A Haven. (John 12.1-8) The events of the last weeks of Jesus’ earthly life are cast. A place, we presume, he knew well. We are told of some who were there. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Judas, Jesus. From a distance we could see it as a time of preparation or planning. Perhaps. As we prepare to enter into the drama of Holy Week it feels like a pause button has been pressed on the road to Jerusalem for this moment of retreat and tenderness. Maybe it would be gentler to call it a time of shared food and shared close company. It seems as though this was a private moment for just the closest disciples. Moments of companionship on a road that was to become, well, difficult. And into that space Mary offers an extravagance. Judas says it is a crime against the backdrop of poverty. Jesus says different and adds a prophetic word that poverty will never be over. There will always be those who are poor. We will all have our own ideas of what should be “sold to pay for the poor.” It is the generous act of radical hospitality takes the centre stage as the house is filled with the scent of perfume. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. We raise a mirror here to the narrative of the crucifixion and watch the supreme generous outpouring of charged emotion.

What would we give? Or would we, like Judas scorn the radical generosity and claim the thirty pieces of silver. But as we all know silver does not last, so to frame this as a transaction makes little sense. Even the thief to one side of Jesus recognised in the crucifixion the act of revelation. We can turn the mirror to our own times. Amidst the violence and turbulent scenes there are stories of sorrow and love come mingled down for a time. It is truly heartbreaking to watch and to know we can do little more than be witness to these things. returning to Bethany, to Mary. She anoints Jesus’ feet with all that she had.

You risked it all in a moment of emotion charged with an energy that heightened the senses. Perfumed hands, feet, hair flow mingled down. For a time.  Physical touch, in kindness, sorrow and love. Knowing somehow another chance would not come.


Liverpool Nativity

Arrived home just in time for the Liverpool Nativity at 8pm last night on BBC3, (if you missed it it is on again next sunday on BBC1) Easter 2006 saw the Manchester Passion denounced as blasphemous, yet probably did more than any other easter story-telling to interest people in that story. So was the Liverpool Nativity the same? Well, no, although I didn’t think the Manchester Passion was blasphemous, so who am I to judge. It seems, (from a quick glance at papers) that the nativity of our Lord once again was one of humility and desperate poverty, marked only by the devastating honesty of the performance and singing crowds. It will be marked as one of the great moments of biblical story telling i’m sure, but no denouncing crowds, except for the usual suspects we come to expect from the secularists. Is the nativity one of those stories so deeply woven into our being that it marks us? Any re-telling of it leaving us nodding in agreement then getting on with life?

No doubt about it though, it was good, real and honestly portrayed, with quite a political edge which may, if it sinks in, rock the boats of those in power. One baby, one life and a whole new world!