From betrayal to anointing
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This weekâ€™s sensual anointing text is one of those biblical texts that has a personal story permanently attached to it. Late one night, sitting in the ER, I wiped blood away from a dying memberâ€™s hands and experienced deathâ€™s sting along with his family. I knew the power of being present in Christâ€™s name when there are no words to speak.
A few years ago at the Festival of Homiletics, Barbara Lundblad was finishing her lecture. She received a standing ovation and was moving away when she stepped back to the microphone. As an afterthought, she asked a question that continues to move me to reflect on the mystery and manners we use at the Lordâ€™s Table. â€śHave you ever wondered why we begin our invitation to the Lordâ€™s Table with remembering Christâ€™s betrayal,â€ť she asked â€śinstead of beginning with the anointing of Christ by a woman?â€ť
I pulled out the Bible from the pew rack and wondered myself, What would happen? What does it mean to shift from a perspective of betrayal to one of anointing at the table? Try saying, â€śThe week our Lord was anointed by a woman, â€¦â€ť I can testify that one thing that happens is that those who are steeped in liturgyâ€”who have always heard it said in a particular wayâ€”tilt their heads, raise their eyebrows and reflect a posture of â€śWhat did she just say?â€ť
Theologically, I can testify that the new expression is good. God is a living God who works through both betrayal and loveâ€™s anointing.
When the family of faith comes to the loaf of bread and witnesses one of its own whose lifeâ€™s mistake is plastered in the paper, the fear of judgment and shame are transformed into Godâ€™s beauty and restoration made real. â€śThis is Christâ€™s body, broken for you.â€ť When the family of faith comes to the cup and witnesses one in the body whose grief is so palpable, the hope of merciful kindness transforms the darkness and weight of grief into Godâ€™s beauty and steadfast love made real. â€śThis is the cup of the new covenant, shed for you.â€ť
Coming to and leaving from the table, we are anointed in Godâ€™s good love. And the languageâ€”of our liturgy, prayers and invitations into the mystery of Godâ€”straightens out the way, binds us together and compels us to service.