The State of Our Hearts

April 6th, 2009

Spring 2009 Latin America Cross-cultural group

By the spring 2009 Latin America Cross-cultural Group (pictured above with Loren and Pat Swartzendruber)

This reflection was compiled by cross-cultural leader Ann Hershberger, EMU alum and current professor of nursing, after the group reviewed the passage on a recent Sunday morning for their worship together. Ann and her husband Jim, a pastor, have led several cross-culturals to Latin America.

Read: John 12:1-11

Reflect: Living in Central America this semester we can easily imagine hosts putting themselves in danger for inviting particular guests such as Jesus to a dinner in their honor. We have heard frequent stories of persons who were attacked or killed for offering hospitality to others. At the end of today’s story Lazarus and his sisters are clearly in danger for they represent evidence of Jesus’ power. Yet their love and care for Jesus carries them on.

Mary adds to their notoriety as she used a copious amount of very fragrant and expensive perfume to wash Jesus’ feet, aromatic enough to fill the entire house. Further, she then uses her hair to dry his feet, inappropriately revealing herself to a group of men. Martha continues to serve as she has before.

Their motives are not explained. Judas, however, gets the parenthesis of explanation in this passage. We are given the reasons for his words of condemnation for Mary’s extravagance. (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief.)

As our group discussed this passage it became clear that the state of the heart is the key behind the motivation for our actions. We might serve at tables, give ourselves to poor or other causes, host those seen as dangerous to the church or society, engage in an expensive act of celebration, or decry actions of others. But what is the state of our heart when we do these things? What if our motivations followed us around in parenthesis or those cartoon balloons for all to see? (She said this because……, he did this because…).

During this semester we are in a place where the poor certainly are always with us. That is true in Harrisonburg or anywhere else as well, though it is easier to live without seeing their presence. Jesus was clear in his overall message that response to the poor and others in need is imperative. And we must respond even if it means disapproval and danger from those around us. Yet, today, we recognize we must respond from a place at Jesus’ feet.

Respond: God, help us be aware of the state of our hearts with each action and word. May we know you and love you enough to risk bold actions on behalf of those around us.