As a sort of extended preparation for Easter, as a church we have been working our way through the Gospel of John. We have now completed the Book of Signs (Chapters 1-11) and I hope we have all come to know Jesus a little better as a result of the seven signs which John has presented us with. We now move on to the Book of Glory (12-21) as Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last week of His life. However, though this week begins with an impromptu celebration on Palm Sunday we’re mustn’t think that the rest of the week is going to lead to such ‘glories’ as Jesus being enthroned as king, or being welcomed as the guest of honour in the temple, or winning a war against the occupying Romans. God’s glory is seen in quite a different way. One of the sadnesses of trying to fit our study into the time before Easter is we have had to miss a number of sections out, and not least a lovely little story at the beginning of chapter 12 which sees a friend of Jesus, Mary, anoint Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then wipe them with her hair. Those who saw it were horrified both because of the intimacy of the act, but also because of the extravagance (the perfume would have cost nearly a year’s wages for a labourer), and the disciple in charge of the money gives her a tongue lashing: ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?’ (v5). I suspect we might have had similar concerns, and if we’re reading this chapter for the first time, we might expect Jesus to back us up. But rather amazingly Jesus takes Mary’s side: ‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial’ (v7). Here we see a glimpse of the end of the story. Here we get a foretaste of the grand climax. Here we are put on notice of where God’s glory will actually be seen. Not in parades, or military victories, or even grand enthronements; at least as we think of them! Rather, we see the glory of God, in an act so extravagant that it will put Mary’s actions in the shade. God the Son, as we’re told in another Gospel, gave ‘his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). The perfume might cost a lot, but Jesus’ life is worth even more. Mary might be generous, her action might be extravagant, but God is far more generous, His actions far more extravagant. Here we find something of the glory of God, the complete giving of Himself, to death, even death on a cross.
This month, as a church, we’re reviewing and thinking again about our giving, and principally our financial giving. We have needed to do this for a little while, but I wanted to wait until you had a chance to get to know me a little, so that the first thing you heard me say wasn’t ‘give us your money’! In the grand scheme of things money is of secondary importance. God is interested in each of us as people, and therefore He is interested in our hearts, not in our wallets. I was called to be a priest, not called to be a fundraiser, but the truth is in our world we do need to think of finances, and indeed finances often show us where are hearts are, just as Mary’s extravagant gift (worth a year’s wages) shows how much she loved Jesus. So forgive me for asking for you to think about giving, but needs must! Tony, our hard-working treasurer, has a short article in this magazine, and has letters for long-standing members which set out our finances (we’re currently operating at a deficit!) and asks us to prayerfully consider how much we give, and in what way. Please do pray about it, and give what you can. If your financial situation means you cannot give much, then please don’t worry. Neither God, nor the church, nor your Vicar, values you because of your bank balance. But if you’re able, then please give generously, please do raise your weekly giving, and help us as a Christian community to maintain our presences in Chorley, continue to reach out with the love of God, and, we pray, do even more for His kingdom. (from Rev. Mike)