the view from the pew 6-13-17

John 12:1-8

Jesus Anointed at Bethany
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

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Judas complained to Jesus the same way unbelievers complain how churches, in particular the Catholic Church, should give the money they raise to the poor and suffering rather than using some of the money to express the glory of God in the grandiosity of architecture, art and music. From a sinful, human standpoint it sounds Jesus-y that everything ought to be done to help the hopeless but money is a touchy topic when it comes to churches. It didn’t take many high profile ministries to veer off course to sour peoples’ attitudes against the church and finances. But both are correct. We are to give, not just money, but time and effort to the poor and lame. And we are to glorify God with our abilities, for artists, sculptures, builders and musicians to give their best to God. If this means building a beautiful church, then so be it. As an aside, a few hours after mass we drove by St. Francis church in Manhattan where congregants were handing out packaged meals to those who came by.

Susan and I went to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City for noon mass. It is hard to find fault, inside or outside, with its construction. From my untrained eye there was nothing in there that wasn’t done well or seemingly without faith. Statues of saints, stained glass windows, wooden pews, the altar, paintings, the spires, doors and on and on. I’m not equipped to describe in detail the hardware in the church. Nor am I qualified to judge the rituals the priest and congregation performed during mass. Is it necessary for me to cross myself with my hand as the Holy Trinity is named. In the Lutheran Church, I may, but I am not required to do so. Kneeling for prayer? Dipping my fingers in Holy Water before and after service? There are differences in services from denomination to denomination. Pentecostals raise their hands during hymns and even some speak in tongues (the language of the angels). Some congregations dabble in snake handling. Others faith heal. Or do they? I don’t know. What matters most is loving The Lord, your God, above all others and loving others the way you love yourself. These are the two most important Commandments.

As you leave service through the main entrance at Saint Patrick’s, you come upon this statue of Atlas in front of Rockefeller Center. Atlas was one of the Greek gods known as Titans. They were born of Gaia (mother earth) and Uranus (father sky). Atlas, after losing in a war among the Greek gods, was sentenced to hold the sky up for eternity. I only mention this because I suspect that this non-Christian statue was placed directly across from Saint Patrick’s to try and rub it in the Church’s eye.

 

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