The Receiving Controversy


Image Description: A glass jar of oil surrounded by some olives.

Matthew 26:6-13

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

As Jesus nears trauma and death, he receives a costly gift.

“Why this waste?” the disciples say, angrily.

Jesus models something different.

Western cultures don’t always value gifts of receiving. We sense that we need community, relationships, and the care of others, but we don’t ultimately value or affirm this way of living. Instead, we tend to value and affirm people who appear entirely self-sufficient, as though they don’t need anything. And this often leads us to hide our needs and vulnerability, bolstering a false image that we don’t need anything or anyone.

That Simon and Garfunkel song comes to mind:

I am a Rock.
I am an Island. . .
And a rock feels no pain.
And an island never cries.

In my faith tradition, we have a beautiful way of saying that God’s power works differently. God isn’t some solitary monad floating out there in space – distant, isolated, and individualistic. God’s power is revealed in vulnerability, weakness, and togetherness.

Have you ever received love beyond what you expected? Do you remember moments like that? How can we receive them again in our memory, and in ways that inspire us toward greater receiving, along with greater giving?

Renee Roederer

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