I’m Jealous of Mary (Fifth Sunday in Lent)

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It’s been an emotionally exhausting week for many following the death of Dara. There are no adequate words in times of unexplainable and unimaginable loss. Many people mentioned to me that they wondered what I would say at a funeral of 4-year-old. I wondered myself… So, today I must confess to you that I have little to say; little left; little inspiration. I guess the good news of this is: it’ll be a short sermon.

While it is a gift beyond measure to be a preacher, it is also a weight. One which often leaves me wondering why God leaves it up to fragile, fallible people like me to proclaim grace, love, forgiveness, and new life. I’ve said this before, but it’s something I’ve never forgotten (and probably contributes to my preaching anxiety): I had a professor in seminary that once said, “If Jesus didn’t need to go to the cross for what you stand up there and say, then why are you saying it?”

I’m going to tell you straight up today: I don’t know if Jesus had to go to the cross for what I’ll say today.
What I do know is, today, I want to be Mary.
I want to sit at the feet of Jesus, praying and singing.
I want to pour perfume over his feet and not care about when the grime of the earth ends up under my fingernails.
I want to cover him with my hair and weep terribly for the sadness and brokenness of this world.
I want to touch his robe and know he is real one last time, feeling the weight of his hand upon my brow.
I want my nostrils to be filled with intoxicating nard and sweet breads.

But that’s not where I am. Not after this past week.
I am compartmentalizing my emotions – promising myself I’ll deal with them next week.
I am blindly moving through the days completing tasks as they arise, rising only because of the alarm and thankful the sun doesn’t need me to wake it up.
I am pouring glasses of soda to get my motor running, rather than wasting time with perfumes and lotions.
I just keep moving – sitting, resting, sleeping – seems too risky, too vulnerable.
I am distant, detached.

And so, I want Jesus to love me into a place other than now.
Which is why the fact the Mary stays in the now, despite the fact that Jesus is leaving – going to the cross to die – strikes me so harshly this week.
How does she do that? How does Mary stay in the now?

She is so vulnerable – knowing that being present in the moment will allow her to experience the fullness of life.

She acts with such beauty, insight, and open-handed grace. She sees what the disciples either miss or refuse to see: that Jesus, even as he prepares for his entry into Jerusalem, is also preparing for his death.
She may not know exactly what the future holds, but she somehow knows that life is about to be very different. And, she’s not afraid of what death looks like, of losing Jesus, or of letting Him go.

When Jesus raised Lazarus, her brother from the dead, He gave Mary the gift of living hope. She has learned there’s no such thing as love that is too extravagant or hope that is too lofty.
And I think when Mary sits at Jesus’s feet, she returns that gift to him.

She allows Jesus to be present in the now, to experience love, to be touched and in doing so, she loves Jesus into the future, just as Jesus loved her into the future when he raised Lazarus.

I believe that Jesus took Mary’s love with him to Jerusalem; I believe her love emboldened him and comforted him. I believe her love embodied living hope for him – even in the midst of death.

Which I think is striking – that Jesus needs our love as much as we need His.

Mary is brave.
Brave enough to keep on loving, even though loving Jesus will break her heart.
Brave enough to hold him close, even though He’s on his way out the door.
Brave enough to let him touch her, even though it’ll be the last time.

I’m not as brave as Mary, although I wish I was.
I’m jealous of Mary; I want to be Mary.
But, I’m still me…
Standing here wondering what it would be like to allow myself to sit at his feet…
Casting my fortitude, resisting, and armor aside and lay my head in his lap and rest.
Whispering the words that stick on my tongue, trusting that love won’t break me, and letting him stroke my hair.

If I could do that, I’d weep big crocodile tears and sop them up with his robe.
I’d pray He knows I love him, even though I’m no Mary.
I’d ask him to carry my love with him to the cross.
And then, beg him to keep loving me into now, even when now is the last place I want to be, so that I won’t lose track of the living hope that carries us into tomorrow…
if I could sit at his feet. And so, I wonder how would it be for you, if you could sit at Jesus’s feet? Amen.