April 7 2019, 5th Sun in Lent: Forgetting Skubala
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our crucified and risen Lord. There’s a lot of research today regarding how to keep at bay some very frightening mental diseases of Alzhiemer’s and Dementia. Things that rob of person of the use of their brain long before they loose use of their bodies. If I were to summarize the research of what helps keep memory loss at bay it would be stimulation, repetition, and activity.
Now I admit I’m leaving out medication as one of the helps but that’s up to the pharmaceuticals to determine. But the things we lay people can have control over is our choice to stimulate our brain with reading and words puzzles and the like. We can choose to put regular routines into our day, to find things to repeat on a daily basis whether its bedtimes, mealtimes, or simple chores. That repetition can lower stress and anxiety because it creates the familiar. The other big helper is activity. This doesn’t mean training to become an Olympic caliber athlete as much as avoiding being a couch potato. A daily walk, taking care of pets, Tai Chi, a lap in pool are all things that encourage blood flow through the body and more importantly the brain.
So why do I mention all of this? Well as I mentioned earlier in choosing to read the account of Jesus’ anointing in Bethany from the Gospel of Matthew- Jesus gives this woman who anoints him high praise and says “Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Now how many of you actually remember this part of the story of Jesus’ life? Its easy to overlook, easy to forget and yet Jesus asks us not to. Why?
I think he’s suggesting not getting into one of those situations like Alzheimer’s or Dementia where the brain has worn out long before the body Jesus doesn’t want our spirits to wear out long before our bodies do. The memory of what this woman has done for him is to be proclaimed everywhere the good news of Jesus is proclaimed. Why what’s so special about it?
First of all, many of the things that help keep the brain healthy keep the spirit healthy: stimulation, repetition, and activity. If keeping the memory healthy is important to you, think of how important it is to keep the spirit healthy! I had a friend who commiserated with me about how as you get older you go into a room and totally forget why you went in that room. You ever have that happen to you? She posted on facebook this week “Not to brag but I just went into another room and actually remembered what I’d gone in there for…it was the bathroom but still!” 😊
Two weeks ago I preached a sermon on Fertilizer, anybody remember the biblical word I used for Fertilizer…skubala! Still got some working brain cells. I need to let you know I had one of our younger members come out and inform me that they had kept tally of how many times I used that Greek word over 40 times! Just one thing they wanted to know…what was that word again?! They had paid enough attention to count how many times used in a sermon, but by the ending hymn ten minutes later they couldn’t for the life of them remember the word.
Our brain loses track of things so easily, and so does our spirit. Jesus’ request for us to remember this woman’s spiritual act of anointing him for burial is to say here is an activity to repeat, here is stimulation that serves a purpose. Judas and the disciples want to obsess about the cost and totally gloss over it meaning and purpose. This woman, Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus who had been raised from the dead and given back to her knows about death. She recognizes that when Jesus says so often “I’m going up to Jerusalem to die a sacrificial death” that this was the time.
She not only pays attention to his words, which by the way the rest of the disciples are deaf, dumb, and blind to, she doe something about it. She responds to the stimulus of Christ’s coming sacrifice. She does something routine in the burial process of anointing the body. She actively serves Jesus. In so doing she aligns her spirit with Christ, whereas the other disciples are still discussing who is the greatest, she’s asking how can I serve?
There’s a new TV series my wife and I like “New Amsterdam” about a newly hired Hospital administrator/doctor who turns the hospital on its head by insisting everyone be willing to ask first and foremost “How can I help?” and if they’re not willing, they’re fired.
I sometimes think our entire Lenten season is in someway, our way of remembering what she did, she prepared Jesus and herself for his upcoming passion. She asked herself “how can I help?” In Lent we try to once again pay attention to the details and meaning of what great love God had for us to send his son as an atoning sacrifice for us. But do we ask “how can I help?” How can I help proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus?
I think when we honestly ask “How can I help, God?” it keeps us from being a spiritual couch potatos- one of the quickest ways to kill a spirit. When we are open to responding to the spiritual stimulus God puts before us, it can draw us into healthy activity and even healthier daily routines. It allows our spirit to stay stimulated and active. When we examine our routines in daily life asking, “do these promote health not just of mind and body, but spirit as well?” we get a chance to become healthier.
I don’t care if you forget skubala, Jesus doesn’t care if you forget skubala. But work on what’s important to remember, Jesus bled, died and rose again for us. Don’t forget that! As Paul might say from our second lesson “All that other stuff isn’t important, what is important is what Christ has done for us”
How do we remember that, remember her example:
Personally, I want my body to wear out before my brain and I want my spirit to be the last thing that goes. If you’re like me, then you can also be like her, Mary of Bethany a follower of Christ whose spirit was alive and vital. She was open to God’s stimulus rather than backing away from the impending crisis she prepared for it. She responded with a caring routine, she had practiced for loved ones over the years. In fact she’d probably prepared her brother, Lazarus’s body for burial just months earlier, only to have Jesus restore him to her. And She wasn’t deterred by cost or effort. She put herself out there, and asked herself “How can I Help?” and then did that helpful thing.
I’m hoping as we come toward the end of our lenten journey’s you can take a look at your lenten disciplines with an eye toward Mary of Bethany, and ask yourself how can I help? How do these lenten disciplines help? How can they help my spirit stay alive and vital? How can they help me serve my lord and savior? Forget skubala, remember her in the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Amen.