yearC lent5


Sermon for Lent 5:

             John 12:1-8  -  It's O.K. To Be Extravagant
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A few years ago there was a true story about a man in New York City who was kidnapped. His kidnappers called his wife and asked for $100,000 ransom. She talked them down to $30,000.


The story had a happy ending: the man returned home unharmed, the money was recovered, and the kidnappers were caught and sent to jail. But, don't you wonder what happened when the man got home and found that his wife got him back for a discount? Calvin Trillin was the writer of this story. He imagined out loud what the negotiations must have been like: "$100,000 for that old guy? You have got to be crazy. Just look at him! Look at that gut! You want $100,000 for that? You've got to be kidding. Give me a break here. $30,000 is my top offer."


Mark Trotter concluded his rendition of the story with this thoughtful comment: "I suppose there are some here this morning who can identify with the wife in that story, but for some reason I find myself identifying with the husband. I'd like to think if I were in a similar situation, there would be people who would spare no expense to get me back. They wouldn't haggle over the price. They wouldn't say, 'Well, let me think about it.' I like to think that they would say, 'We'll do anything for you.'"


The point of that story is this: sometimes it's O.K. to be extravagant! Now, that is precisely what this story in the Gospel of Mark is all about. Remember the story with me. Jesus is on His way to the cross. It is just a few days before Passover. The chief priests and scribes are plotting against Him. Judas is about ready to betray Him. The crucifixion is less than a week away and Jesus knows it. Jesus and His disciples stop at Bethany. just a few days before, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead there in Bethany. Now, as they are having dinner, a woman comes to Jesus and does a beautiful but extravagant thing for our Lord. The Gospel of John tells us that the woman was Mary, (the sister of Martha and Lazarus). Mary brings an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment. She breaks open the jar and pours the costly perfumed oil on Jesus' head. she anoints His head with oil.


Why did she do that? Some say it was an act of gratitude in which she was thanking Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. Some say it was an act of consecration in which she was baptizing Jesus to encourage Him to go into the Holy City and do what had to be done. Others say it was a foreshadowing, an act of preparation, in which she was anointing His body for the death which was to come in Jerusalem a few days later. All say it was an act of love and kindness.


But Judas said it was a waste. If you lived strictly by the Judas mind-set, you would have no Spire on the church, no flowers on the altar, no art on the wall, no robes for the choir, no fine organ, no beautiful weddings. Your daughter would come to you and say, "I'm in love and I'm so happy. I want to get married." And you would say, "Well, why don't you just elope? It's much cheaper. It would be wasteful to have a wedding." But the Mary mind-set says, "Sometimes in the name of love and kindness and gratefulness; it's O.K. Indeed, it's beautiful to be extravagant." Let me show you what I mean.


1. First Of All, It's O.k. To Be Extravagant In Our Generosity.

2. Second, It's O.k. To Be Extravagant In Our Gratitude.

3. Third And Finally, It's O.k. To Be Extravagant In Our Graciousness.

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Mel Gibson's powerful new movie has grossed over $240 Million dollars, on target to be one of the top three movies of all time. No preacher should miss addressing this important film. The new Lenten Series from "The Passion of the Christ" follows the movie's themes complementing the current events and topics that will be in the press these next two months. Here is the series:


     Lent 5: His Trial

     Lent 6: His Death

     Easter: His Resurrection

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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