Sermons That Work

In the Middle of a Little Town…, Monday in Holy Week – 1999

March 29, 1999


In the middle of a little town there runs a very unassuming little creek. In fact, this small, flowing body of water is so unassuming that you’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it. But when it is discovered, a whole new, wonderful world is opened up. It’s a world that’s not seen from the expressway, the highway, even the local city streets. One has to search a bit for its charm and purpose to become apparent.

It’s this little unimposing creek that just might lead us today into Gospel freshness, a Holy Week newness, and a deeper sense of our Lord’s great passion and death. We take a journey of discovery along its banks. And as we do so, we’re filled with a couple of questions we decide need answering: Where does it come from? Is it at all important to our town and our land? Where does it end? Does it have a purpose?

So, off we go. Up stream we march. Getting away from culverts, overpasses, back yards of businesses, we enter a quieter realm. As we proceed along the creek’s side, our attention is drawn upward. We’ve never noticed it before but all along both sides of our little rivulet, trees and other foliage march along in protective fashion, forming a leafy, green border to the stream. One might even assume that someone came out and planted them. But, no, that can’t be right; there’s also a haphazard quality to their majestic, canopied growth. At any rate, they form a quiet, darkened, protective corridor under which the water flows, steadily, yet unrushed, unhurried, deliberate.

Deeper, deeper we go into our enchanted land of discovery, crossing easily from side to side of the creek until we do, in fact, find its source. It’s a much bigger body of water, a lake and from an almost imperceptible flowage begins the creek. That’s one end of it. Back we go to find out where it ends, where this newly discovered world flows. We make our little dance steps until, surprise, surprise; we’re right on top of the familiar town pond! Not only have we discovered a new leafy back bone in our town, we’ve also made a discovery, which probably would be apparent on a map. But in our journey, how much more interesting! How fascinating! How good and gracious indeed! Not many people come to church today. Yesterday, Palm Sunday, many thronged the churches of our land. But today is quieter. It’s more like the town creek. Maybe, just maybe, we’re open to a similar adventure to the one of discovering a facet of the land that was always there but which we’d only noticed casually and not very attentively.

Sister Mary, of Mary-Martha-Lazarus fame, anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil and wipes them with her feet. This is not greeted with praise by others. It wasn’t very practical. It was a downright waste of money, thought some. What’s the point to all of this? Only Jesus speaks on her behalf, “Leave her alone,” he says. “She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

Mary has discovered and honored the essential, vital creek bed of truth. Unseen, ignored, ridiculed by many, if not by all, her vision and her world acknowledge the Truth, which is Jesus. She does that which is the one thing necessary. She worships and adores the Savior of the world who is about to suffer and die for the sins of all people. She does what one can only do in the presence of the Holy One: she worships the source of all life; she adores the source of new life in the wake of cross, grave, resurrection, and triumph. The worshiping, adoring Mary lives in the vital stream of eternal life. On this day, it is her privilege to point us all to that which is always before us even if we don’t take the trouble to go out and look for it. She places herself at the feet of the Master so that we might model and emulate her stance. Throughout this most holy of weeks, that is where we are directed: lost in wonder, love and praise;
found at the river of delight, rediscovering the quiet adoration of eternal life at the source of all life, our Holy God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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