Aug 6, 2017

“Honors and Betrayals” 8-6-17

Matthew 21:1-16
August 6, 2017

It would be an understatement to say that we have a lot going on today.  We Presbyterians believe that there are two sacraments that have been authorized by God, and we are celebrating our faith by observing both of them today.
The symbolism involved in both of these sacraments speak for themselves, So I am not going to dwell on them too much, except to say that they both have to do with Salvation and the body of Christ.
In the Sacrament of Baptism we welcome the one being baptized into the Community or body of Christ.  In the case of baptizing children we do not declare that the child is saved, we declare that they belong to us and among us.  They are, for a while to be counted among the saved until they make their own profession of faith, or refuse to do so at a later time in their lives.
In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper we identify the source of our salvation as being our Lord Jesus Christ and specifically his death and resurrection.
So in Baptism, a child or a believer is joined to the church, the body of Christ, which is currently the body of Christ on earth, consisting of those who believe in and serve him. 
In selecting our scripture reading for this morning, I skipped forward just a few verses in Matthew because this passage has to do with the death of Jesus, which is an important element in both of these sacraments.
As we celebrate our being the community of Christ or the body of Christ, and as we welcome this little one into it, I found this passage to be timely and interesting.  It gives us the context of the community of Christ.
The passage begins with Jesus’ declaration that he would be killed within two to three days.
Shortly after that, the enemies of Jesus met and conspired about how and when they might have Jesus killed.
Shortly before or during those days, a woman took a valuable jar of perfumed oil and poured it over Jesus’ body as some sort of anointing and a way to honor him and declare her love for him.
Shortly after those two events, Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 so far faithful followers decided to betray him.
And there you have it, that is who we are and the context in which we live.
We live in a world where the enemies of Christ still conspire against him and against his followers.  It is more covert in our locale, but this opposition to Christ and his followers is quite overt in other parts of our world.  Christians are being hunted and killed and denied rights.  Just as Jesus was.
As we live in that world we are characterized by the other behaviors in this passage.  We have among us those who do all sorts of things to honor the body of Christ.  They help others, they honor others, they support the church, they send their adult children to be pastors and missionaries and they serve as Sunday school teachers.  They serve and serve in the body of Christ and they honor Him as did the woman with the perfumed oil. 
But sometimes their services seem so extravagant that some of the rest of us try to find fault with them. 
And among us are those who even occasionally side with the enemies of Christ and would betray Him and His to His enemies.
Some of those will be forgiven and come back to us, and some will not. 
But as we celebrate these sacraments today and thus declare ourselves to be a part of the body of Christ and citizens of his kingdom, I want to lift up the behavior of that woman.
That is precisely what Jesus did.  He understood that many in that room did not understand the full value of what she was doing.  In fact, I am not sure that she understood the full spiritual value of what she was doing.  Jesus said that she was preparing him for his burial.  She was bestowing a near final honor on the flesh and blood of our Lord.
She is the one we want to be our example as we teach our little ones about Christ and His body. 
We live in a world where the enemies of Christ abound outside the body, and sometimes even within it.
Sometimes the nature and mission of Christ is misunderstood even by those who are within his body.
But there are always those among us who boldly honor Jesus and lovingly care for His body, even when their words and actions are misunderstood.
As we honor Jesus in His sacraments, I want us to recognize that that woman is to be our example.  She loved Jesus and she did something to demonstrate her love.  We need to follow her example and do things that demonstrate and prove our love for Jesus and his body, and we need to teach our little ones to do the same.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906