Several years ago,
I heard an Episcopal priest named Becca Stevens
talk about what it’s like to raise children . . .
to raise them,
to watch them,
to learn them,
and to know them.
As many of you know from firsthand experience,
when any of us decide to bring a child into this world,
we are, for all practical purposes,
inviting a stranger into our midst
because when it comes to unborn children,
none of us ever know whothis child will be,
whatthis child will look like,
howthis child will act,
wherethis child will go.
And so, when we do bring a child into this world,
most of us cannot help but stand there
in wonder, fear, and awe
as we begin to learn who they are.
It was exactly this sort of wonder
I heard in Becca’s voice
as she talked about her own children.
She said, “I remember after my children’s births,
learning the details of each child
as I held them and watched them
“I knew all the patterns of their freckles;
the sweet baby fuzz on each earlobe;
the birth mark on the inside of a thumb;
and the arch on the left eyebrow.
“When it came to my children,
I knew every curve,
“This,” she said, “must be what adoration is like.
Part of how we show adoration and love
is to sit in silence and learn the details.”
When was the last time you actually sat down
and thought about what it means
to “adore” someone or something?
When was the last time you allowed yourself
to sit and “adore” God?
Not talk to God;
not bargain with God;
not petition God;
not get something out of God;
When was the last time you,
like Becca with her newborn children,
actually held God and sought to learn
every detail of who God is?
When was the last time God was adoredby you?
* * *
To me, adoration is the hardest form of prayer.
It’s not like the others; the others are easy.
Confession is easy
because we all have misdeeds and shortcomings;
we can all sit down and give a report of our sins.
(We may not liketo, mind you, but we can!)
Thanksgiving is easy
because we all hopefully have something
we can be thankful for.
Intercession, where we pray for others,
and petition, where we pray for ourselves
are also easy enough.
All of these can be done easily
in a variety of styles and approaches.
But adoration . . . adoration is tough
because to our goal-oriented minds
and our self-centered hearts,
it just seems like a waste:
a waste of time,
a waste of energy,
a waste of resources
to just sit there and adore God
simply for the sake of it.
But when that’s the mentality we carry,
we’re missing the entire point.
* * *
In today’s Gospel lesson,
Judas certainly misses the point,
for adoration is exactly what Mary is about in this story.
In the last week of Jesus’ life,
they were all sitting in Lazarus’ house
when Mary breaks open her jar of oily perfume
and anoints Jesus’ feet,
using her own hair as a washcloth.
Whenever I encounter this story,
I always think of Becca,
because just as Becca
sat close to her children in their earliest days
and learned every curve and ripple of their tender flesh,
Mary Magdelene was doing the same thing with Jesus.
She sat close to her Lord in his final days,
touched the curves and ripples of his feet,
and learned the details of her Lord and friend
Jesus of Nazareth.
This was adoration and wastefulness in its purest form,
and what a wonderful waste it was.
During all of this,
Judas interrupts and says
that the perfume in Mary’s hands
could have been sold for 300 denarii,
which amounts to something like $6,000.
They say that’s like nine month’s wages back then.
Judas sees this wastefulness and tries to stop her,
but Jesus says no.
“You always have the poor with you,” he says,
“but you do not always have me.”
In other words,
there are always a thousand reasons
not to waste your resources,
not to waste your energy,
not to waste your time.
But when it comes to loving the living God,
perhaps a good waste of time
is exactly what you need.
My best friends is also a priest,
and he recently told me about making a hospital visit
where he went into the ICU
and found his parishioner fast asleep.
He wouldn’t dare wake her
since he knew she desperately needed the rest,
but somehow in that moment
amid her snores and the beeps of the machines,
he realized how badly he needed some rest, too.
So what did he do?
He sat and prayed.
For forty-five minutes,
he sat in God’s presence . . .
sometimes praying for his parishioner,
sometimes praying for others,
but mostly just sitting and loving God.
We both agreed that while many would say
that was a waste of time—
that he should have gone on from there
and worked more,
that was probably the most important thing
he did all week.
* * *
Friends, embedded in this story
is an invitation to you,
one that comes just at the right time
as we prepare to embark on Holy Week.
Next Sunday (a week from today) is Palm Sunday,
the day that marks the beginning of Holy Week.
Here at St. Anne’s we offer a service eachday
from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday:
Our big, combined service on Palm Sunday next week.
A simple, imtimate evening Eucharist in Little St. Anne’s
on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
The pivotal and dramatic Maundy Thursday service
on Thursday evening here in the sanctuary.
The solemn service of Good Friday at noon.
And, of course, the worship service to end all worship services,
the queen of seasons bright,
the jewel of the year,
the earthquake of the resurrection:
our Great Vigil of Easter
right here at 7 a.m.
on Easter morning.
It is a fullweek.
It is a quietweek.
And to many looking in from the outside,
it is a wastefulweek
because it is a week in which
the whole point
is to set everything else aside . . .
and adore God.
Holy Week is God’s gift to you.
Holy Week is the one week of the year
in which you get every opportunity
to lay aside the cares and occupations of your life
so you can come,
sit close by your Lord,
and adore him.
Just like Becca with her newborn children . . .
just like Mary at her master’s feet . . .
this is your time to come sit and learn
of the God who made you
and loves you more than you can imagine.
* * *
Beginning a week from next Sunday,
Holy Week is your week to forget about yourself,
to walk the way of the cross,
and to allow yourself to waste your time
in the worship and majesty of God.
It serves no purpose but its own.
It will not make God love you more,
but it willincrease yourlove for him.
So come . . . use this week
to prepare your heart for Holy Week,
and beginning Palm Sunday,
come and waste your time.