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Extravagant Worship - John 12

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. - Psalm 150:6

Early in my 20's I was fired up for God and it often came out in fiery critiques of the religious systems that I witnessed around me.  On one such occasion I was walking down the street with a good friend.  We had been friends for many years, and most of that time I had served as a sort of spiritual mentor for her, a role that would be reversed on this day.  I noticed this large church on my left, and noted the extravagance of the brickwork as well as the largest stained glass window I had ever seen.  I began to stew, thinking about how much money this must have cost.  I started ranting out loud about how wasteful it is to spend all of that money on the building when there are people living without food in the trailer park around the corner.  Several minutes into my rant my friend asked me "what is it to you what they spend it on?".  As soon as she said it the images of today's scripture reading came flooding into my mind and I found myself humbled and ashamed.  

Today we read chapter 12 of the Gospel of John.  This chapter covers a lot of material that, for brevity sake, I won't even mention.  Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, so he stayed in Bethany with him and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  While Martha served a meal, Mary started washing the feet of Jesus.  She opened an expensive jar of ointment and anointed his feet with it, wiping it away with her hair.  Judas, recognizing that the jar of oil was worth a year's labor, complained about the act, noting how it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  Jesus replied "Leave her alone...for the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

The words of my friend so closely matched the words of Jesus in this story, that I was forced to confront the wickedness in my own heart.  It was in this moment that I realized that I cannot criticize the extravagance of another person's worship.  Yes, part of authentic faith is to feed the poor and seek justice, but an equally important aspect of our faith is extravagant worship.  This is not an either-or question, but a both-and.  Extravagant worship is not really about fancy bricks and glass,  God does not need those things, but sometimes we need to give them because they cultivate a depth of gratitude in our hearts that allow us to serve the poor and seek justice with our whole being.  In this way, worship is not about giving God something that God needs, but about transforming us.  Worship is not meant to change God, but to change us.  

What does extravagant worship look like for you?  For some it may be money or expensive things, but for others it may be giving of their time and skills to create a space or a place that honors God.  

Shout out to the volunteers who help make LifeJourney Church a beautiful space.  Thank you for your extravagant worship!

God, help us to find a way to seek you through extravagant worship in a way that is authentic to the core of our beings.  Use the effort and time we invest to transform our hearts and make us more like Christ.  If we find ourselves resistant, help us to be more like Mary.  Amen.


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