“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” -John 12:1-3
Sometimes words just cannot express what we feel.
Think of times when you’ve been so happy all you can do is laugh it out.
Think of those times you’ve been so overcome with grief that only tears and wailing could express your sorrow.
Think of the times when you’ve loved so much that you want to move heaven and earth to show what you are feeling.
For God, too, sometimes words cannot express what God is feeling.
Finite words can never communicate the infinite heart of God.
And yet we say that we listen for God who is still speaking… We say in liturgy “this is the word of God for the people of God.” But what we mean by that is not that the will, wisdom, and love of God can be fully captured in human language–but that language, when spiritually inspired, begins to reveal the graces and mysteries of God.
Knowing that language cannot fully express the heart of God, God not only beckons to us through inspired speech, but offers us grand gestures beyond words:
Like in those times when we’re overwhelmed with God’s holy presence in nature, life, death, and renewal…
Through events and moments in time and space that we call miracles–unexplainable instances seemingly beyond coincidence, in which our lives are touched and transformed by divinity…
And perhaps the greatest, grandest gesture of all: through the life and Body of Christ, hung upon a cross–wrestling with pain and sorrow and love and grace, with these words engraving the scene: “forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing…”
Indeed, sometimes words just cannot express what is felt, or meant.
Perhaps as we draw closer to the foot of the Cross this Lent, we might better appreciate the weight and the depth of the lyrics of that old hymn, which sings, “sometimes, sometimes, it causes me to tremble.”
And so, in the face of God’s grand gestures toward us, what might it look like to show God grand gestures in return?
It might look like a woman breaking open an expensive jar of perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus.
It might look like dropping to our knees, exhausted, without answers, crying out, and believing that honest tears are sometimes “better than a hallelujah.”
And it might look like giving our all, taking risks, and doing new things for the sake of the reign of God, believing that Spirit will lead us.
Because if we believe that we are following a living God, and if we dare to believe in a crucified and risen Christ, then grand gestures are what need to accompany our life, faith, and ministries. And in those moments, when people ask us why we do the grand things we do for the sake of the reign of God, we can humbly but honestly say…
…sometimes words just cannot express what we feel, or believe.
Reflection by: The Reverend Dr. Richard W. McCarty