A Needful Extravagance

Image: Extravagance © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +4, Year C: Luke 7.36-8.3

Therefore, I tell you,
her sins, which were many,
have been forgiven;
hence she has shown great love.

– Luke 7.47a

Once again we see Jesus’ persistent refusal to distance himself from us. From the hungry, from the sick, from those who have lost their way, from the outcast, from those burdened by the labels and names and roles laid upon them: Jesus refuses to turn away. And not only does he resist turning away; he welcomes those who risk making their way to him. He recognizes and elevates those who push beyond the barriers and boundaries and rebuffs: the woman, so long bleeding, who reaches out for the hem of his robe; the children who gather around him; the women who, in every gospel, come to anoint and bless him, who see him as no one else does.

In this passage from Luke, in this woman’s lavish gesture, we see how love pours itself out: not in self-abnegation, but in an offering that springs from the depths of who we are. Love makes its way past the labels, breaks through the burdens of prejudice and stereotype and bias. This woman who has been set free by Jesus, and who now comes to anoint him: she knows this. She knows how love looses us, how it bridges the distance between us, how it calls us to recognize and respond to the holy in our midst. With such clarity and grace, she illuminates who Jesus is. With his response, Jesus illuminates who we are: not defined by the sins of the past but by the love and grace of the present.

Blessing for the Anointing

Some with ointment.
Some with tears.
Me, today,
with words
gathered and treasured
carried and poured out
for you
wherever you are.

May you welcome this
as what it is:
a needful extravagance
an offering both lavish
and crucial
that has let go
of everything
to lay itself at your feet
and tell you

I see you
I bless you

And you,
where can you go
that you do not need
this anointing,
this blessing that drenches
the one who gives,
the one who receives?

 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook, where we’re currently featuring the amazing work of our friends who teach with us in the Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild. Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot!

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Extravagance,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
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© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

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