Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
John 11:55-12:8

55Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?" 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

1Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5"Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
I received one of those musical birthday cards from a friend this year for my birthday. It was a really funny card. It was a photo of Mount Rushmore with the presidents wearing birthday hats. When you pressed the button the presidents sang “We Will Rock You” and their jaws even moved in time! It really did bring a smile to my face, mostly because it was ridiculous! 

After I’d had a good laugh and texted a video of it to anyone I could think of, I noticed that the postage on the envelope was for over $6! I don’t think I’ve ever paid six dollars to mail a birthday card. I called my friend and thanked her for the really hilarious card, but told her she spent way too much to send it!

My friend told me that it seemed like a small price to pay to bring so much joy to someone and it made her really happy to send these extravagant birthday cards and that she had every intention to continue to do so for as long as she could afford to do so. To her, it wasn’t a burdensome expense. It was an expression of joy and love.

I’ve seen so many communities of faith fall into a “scarcity complex” when it comes to finances, rather than feeling secure in their choices to use their resources (yes, even financial resources) to spread love and joy with wild abandon. I was a leader in a congregation where the children and family ministry team would annually put on an enormous petting zoo (complete with pony rides!) with an Easter egg hunt, which culminated in crafts and snacks. Was it an expensive event? Yes. And annually there would be hand wringing over the ROI (return on investment) on such extravagant expenditure. Finance chairs would ask if we ought to charge admission. Maybe we should cancel the event so we could save money. Even when the budget was tight, we’d never failed to pay our utilities or make payroll. There was no reason we should not express our love and joy to the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of children and families in our community through this annual event. It was always just our own anxiety that caused us to wonder if we had spent the money the “right” way - not an actual scarcity of resources.  

In fact, that’s what Mary does with the expensive perfume she used to anoint Jesus’s feet. She makes this incredibly expensive purchase for no other reason than to express her love for Jesus. Judas isn’t actually worried about whether the cost of the perfume could be justified. He was only worried about his own perceived scarcity of resources. He was a thief not because he stole from the common purse, but because he was so willing to rob others of expressions of love and joy for his own gain.

We do this very same thing to ourselves. I’ve heard many people deprive themselves of a simple joy, particularly during pandemic, because it somehow feels wrong to treat themselves well. A friend told me of an elderly man who wondered aloud if he ought to cancel his cable subscription. It seemed like an exorbitant expense to him. My friend asked if he was running into budget problems. No, he had plenty of money. My friend asked if he wasn’t enjoying the subscription. No, he actually looked forward to spending a few hours each day watching television, particularly since he could not get out to visit friends or family during the pandemic. So, she asked, what would you be saving your money for? He wasn’t sure. He just had a sense of scarcity and that somehow he wasn’t worth this simple pleasure.

You are worth it. You are worthy of love. Love is worth the expense.
Bless us with love enough to share, Spirit of Plenty. Love us even when we rob others of the love they deserve, Christ the Redeemer. Humble us to accept the love before us, God of Love. Amen.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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