I want to post on two family services that have happened here recently. I'll do them in separate posts though, so here's the first.....
Dinner with Lazarus
We did a couple of services around John 12:1-11 the second of which was a family service and was done by our youth worker Mel and team leader Mary. I wasn't in the whole service so actually missed the bit I'm going to talk about here but it caused a bit of a stir and was an event that I reflected on for quite some time.
The passage is the anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary with expensive perfume. She uses her hair for the task and it's an erotic act, full of devotion and love for a man in grave danger who brought her brother back to life. The brother is in the room and the whole evening must have been charged with all kinds of conflicting and powerful emotions.
As a part of the service Mary T (minister here) got her husband (Dave) to burst in the service and lavish her with over the top love and gifts (ala Mary in the story pouring oil on the feet of Christ). It was this element of the service that caused the most consternation.
Dave burst in and adorned Mary with over sized jewels then picked her up and threw her to the floor. As it worked out in God's infinite wisdom, there was a stumble and Mary fell to the floor with Dave on top of her. There were limbs and clothing everywhere.
I was in my office while this was taking place and could hear the gasps of consternation as she fell to the floor. At this point I thought I'd better go have a look at what was going on. I mean how often do people have involuntary verbal reactions (other than yawning) in a service?
The rest of the service was great. The reaction to a minister being thrown to the floor though in a questionable manner had not gone down so well. Talk of chaos, inappropriate behaviour, lack of respect for the role were all spoken of.
To be fair, there were also people who spoke of creativity, a connection with the passage and an excellent family service. That's part of the beauty of this place. Massive diversity.
I thought a lot about what people had said. Mainly the bad stuff (that's always the way). It seems fitting that this reaction was there. I don't want to make too many similarities between Mary and Jesus in this blog but Mary displays some amazing discipleship qualities. She gives of herself in all sorts of ways sacrificially, she takes in the homeless, gifts large amounts of her cash and calls upon Christ to lead her forward. How interesting then that because she gets flung to the floor in a rather unceremonious way she should be criticised for being non ministerial.
I imagine the discomfort Judas feels here is a similar reaction. sensibilities are challenged. How should a teacher and a follower of the way behave? Is the defining aspects of our loving Christ our behaviour and confirming to expectations or will it be in who we welcome to our table, will it be with our breaking bread with Judas or with our shunning the vulnerable when emotions are high.
Jesus welcomes his anointing by Mary, he accepts this lavish gift and points out its prophetic voice even if it is wrapped in eros and yearning.
I wonder if we will start to use different criteria of what is holy sometime soon. To look not at whether a minister can be flung around more seriously than if she radically walks the way of Jesus. When will the marker of a Christian not be placed in their acceptance by society and their 'respectability' but be firmly placed in their approach to the least?
My kids enjoyed the family service a lot. They have an understanding of this story and think church is fun. Job done for me. The service was good.