The Extravagance of God
What is the most extravagant gift you have ever been given?
When I ask myself this question, I am stunned by the generosity and profligate largesse I have received in my life! When I was ten, my mother depleted her savings account to buy me a full-sized accordion to play. Relatives helped send me to music camp. My college education was largely funded through scholarships. I’ve been given so much!
More recently, in 2006 our family took the journey of a lifetime together in Europe, made possible by a generous sabbatical grant from the Lily Foundation. And I have watched as our children have received gifts and help from many people as they pursue their vocations and dreams.
Equally extravagant are the gifts of love and time and money people make to the Church: so many quiet offerings – some small and some lavish – which make our congregational life together rich and nurturing…flowers, snacks, gardening help. One such recent gift of $4,000 this spring has funded choristers at 10:45 a.m. – something St. Dunstan’s used to have. We’ve added three Whitman High School choral scholars and a baritone soloist…and what a difference it makes! Gorgeous choral music is back at St. Dunstan’s, and it lifts all our hearts and spirits in amazing ways. Is this extravagant? Yes, in a way, I suppose. But what a boost to our worship…what a beautiful channel for God’s love and inspiration music is. (We’ll need future gifts to keep the choristers’ program going next fall and beyond.)
Jesus’ good friend Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, shows extravagant love for Jesus in today’s story. She literally pours out her gift of precious ointment of nard, to anoint her friend Jesus, knowing that he would die soon. In some sense, Mary’s lavish gift is an anticipatory response to Jesus’ even more lavish gift of his whole life on the cross.
The God we know in Jesus is one who gives his all: to preach, teach, and heal; to bring God’s Kingdom into our earthly lives; to stand for love instead of fear and hatred, even to the death. It doesn’t get more extravagant than that. Let us all find joy in giving – even extravagant giving! – which makes the world a more beautiful, a more loving place. JBM