Make space for the extravagant

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Reflections based on Luke 7:36–50.

‘A woman in that town who lived a sinful life … came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.’

After a little break over Christmas, we are back to our Wednesday devotionals on worship…

What total extravagance. Could you picture yourself doing that: entering a home uninvited, weeping and wiping Jesus’ feet with your hair and then kissing them and pouring a year’s worth of perfume over them? Jesus not only accepted the offering of worship from this woman, but also told her that her faith had saved her. Others looked on, probably shocked that Jesus allowed ‘such a sinner’ near him and also appalled at the apparent ‘waste’ (which, incidentally is how the disciples responded to a similar incident later in Jesus’ ministry – see Matthew 26:6–13 for example).

Before we side with the onlookers, condemning the sinner as inappropriate and her actions too ‘showy’ (do we do the same in church?), think about how she truly understood the depth of her sin. She wept enough tears to clean Jesus’ feet! She knew who she was and her dire need of Jesus. As she poured out her love extravagantly, He forgave her extravagantly, extending His love and forgiveness to her.

Extravagant means ‘excessive’, ‘lavish’, ‘wasteful’ and I think worship that can be described like this comes in response to how much we truly understand what we’ve been saved from. I am enjoying listening to a song by Kim Walker Smith at the moment, which has a line in it ‘I wanna waste myself on you’. It seemed like a strange line at first, but it has been hitting my heart each time I listen to it, and, looking at this passage, I can see exactly what it means. Just as in any other love relationship, God enjoys it when we show Him how much we love Him. This woman poured out something so precious that others called her wasteful, yet Jesus understood her extravagant act – and praised her for it. Can He do the same to you?

Question: What extravagant act can you do today to show God how much you love him?

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Costly worship

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Reflections based on Genesis 22:1–18.

‘Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son,
your only son.’

Imagine what is going on between the lines here for a moment. At the start of this passage we are told that God asks Abraham to take his son and sacrifice him on an altar. In the very next verse we are told Abraham set off the following morning, early, to do just that.

I am curious about what must have been going through his head during the night, but what an incredible act of obedience to get up and prepare to do what God has told him to! He doesn’t know that God is going to step in and provide a different object for the offering – even if he does say in faith when Isaac asks him where the lamb is that God would provide (oh how deeply that question must have cut him).

And how must Isaac have felt when his father then bound him to the altar!? He must have thought he was crazy! And yet he then sees how God steps in in his sovereignty and listens as God makes a promise about Abraham’s descendants. Of course, this episode also gives us a beautiful picture of how God would, in the future, give up his own son to death. While he stepped in and saved Isaac from the altar he had to allow his own son to suffer in order to save humankind.

We may never be asked to pay such a high price as Abraham, or indeed be tested as much as he was, but, when we hear God’s clear direction, it is an act of worship to be obedient – whatever the cost. Interestingly, in 2 Samuel 24:24 David says, ‘I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing’. In a way, worship needs a cost – as it then reveals how much God means to us.

Question: When was the last time that you offered God something that cost you greatly in terms of personal sacrifice?

Why faith should hurt

God never promised that staying close would be easy.

Westernised Christianity doesn’t seem to cost that much these days. Has it become too sanitised, or compartmentalised so that it doesn’t intrude onto the rest of our busy lives? Having grown up in a US church that fell apart due to an overbearing pastor I’m wary of being prescriptive. But a lot of the ‘discipleship’ I see around me doesn’t have much sense of ownership. People just don’t seem to take responsibility for their faith anymore.

For the rest of this post, please click here to read my guest blog for Threads.

Thanks 🙂