What Really Matters? – A Sermon On John 12:1-11 For Monday In Holy Week

Monday in Holy Week – John 12:1-11

Sermon, John 12:1-11, Holy Week, Monday in Holy Week, Unconditional Adaptation of original photograph by José Carlos Casimiro from Maia, Portugal – Contemplando o Douro | Contemplating the Douro river, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons 

This morning as I was gathering my things to come to church I was thinking about everything that needs to get done this week: all the Holy Week liturgies and sermons, the regular office work, getting ready for family to visit, and somewhere in all that I want to read books, ride my bike, sit on the back porch with my wife. I don’t for a minute think that’s about only me. I’m pretty sure you know and understand in your own life what that’s like. And it’s not just this week, Holy Week. It’s every week, it’s every day. It’s life.

As I finished gathering my things to come to church, briefcase, phone, coffee, I paused for just a few seconds to look out the window and I wondered, “What really matters?” It was one of those thoughts that comes unbidden and unannounced, the kind that that shows up and interrupts. I didn’t ask for or intend to think that. It was one of those thoughts that haunts, so I thought I’d share it with you.

What really matters to you? What really matters for the life you want to live? What matters so much to you that when it is ignored, forgotten, denied, covered up, it becomes the matter with you? Like when someone asks you, “What’s the matter with you?” not in a negative, critical way but in a caring, concerned way. What really matters to you? 

I think that’s a question at the heart of today’s gospel (John 12:1-11). I think that’s the question behind Jesus’ statement, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

We so often hear that statement as being about the poor, as a comment on our powerlessness to overcome poverty, and, sadly, sometimes as a reason to give up on the poor. But what if it’s not? 

I don’t think Jesus is even talking about the poor. I don’t think he is offering a theology about the poor, making an evaluation of our outreach, or being pessimistic. I think he is just responding to Judas. After all, Judas, not Jesus, is the one who brought up the poor. 

Jesus could just as easily have said, “You always have the rich with you. You always have work to do. You always have errands to run. You always have chores to do. You always have bills to pay. You always have somewhere to go. You always have a to-do list. You always have things to tend to. But you do not always have me.” So I am back to my question. What really matters?

Maybe when Jesus says, “You always have the poor with you,” he is saying that our lives are conditioned, that we always live within a set of circumstances and conditions. And the challenge is to not let those overtake what really matters. Our work is to not lose Jesus (what we might call the unconditional) in the conditions of our life, and to not make the conditions of our life ultimate. 

What are the conditions and circumstances of your life today? And what really matters?

It is not a question of choosing one or the other. It is a matter of living in the tension of the two. What really matters does so not in spite of or because of our life’s circumstances and conditions but within them. What really matters calls to us from within the circumstances and conditions of our life. It asks a response from us. Sometimes we respond and other times we don’t. 

And when we do respond, the whole house is fragranced. That’s where I want to live, in the house of fragrance, don’t you? 

8 thoughts on “What Really Matters? – A Sermon On John 12:1-11 For Monday In Holy Week

  1. I have always found this a troublesome quote for the reason you discussed. It is so often used as a justification for not doing something to help. I find this contrary to the entire Gospels. Jesus clearly expects us to maker the effort whether the problem is solvable or not, we must try. Whatever we do, however wealthy we are we will always face challenges, that is the very nature of mortality. What matters is how we respond to these challenges, win or loose.

    Liked by 1 person

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