A reflection from John 12
“Mary took a pound of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume… Jesus said “Leave her alone. She bought it so she might keep it for my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have.”
Many years ago, I was invited to lead the Chapel services at a clergy retreat in Southern California.
There were flowers arranged and candles lit. A sense of peace filled the small chapel space.
I tend to be a bit of a creative rebel and felt that the retreat was just a tad too structured so I decided to use this Bible text to create a ritual.
With no budget given, I set off to the drugstore scanning the shelves, for a cream infused with the unforgettable scent and a small container of glitter.
Glitter was in the children’s craft section and the nard, in a moment of genius came in the form of a large container of Noxzema. If you don’t know what Noxzema is, think of heavy nightly cleansing cream scented like a muted eucalyptus tree with tones of aftershave.
Later that evening, the few attendees filtered in and we began by praying and reading the text.
These were tired pastors, seeking restoration. What began as my light-hearted attempt to create a ritual of restoration became serious when one of the attendees, a young overburdened pastor began to weep when I anointed him with the glitter-infused cream. He later said that he was always the one caring for others and once he felt himself cared for in this gentle manner of prayer and touch, something came to life in him
This was the time of snail mail, and some days later, I received a letter from him asking me for the written liturgy of our service and where he could purchase the anointing cream.
I don’t remember how I answered, but I know that expensive perfume simply involves a gesture of love and that a liturgy of anointment sometimes occurs best in the moment without written words.
- Pastor Jill Ross
Christ the Good Shepherd
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