Sing. Play. Edify.

Poured out and remembered always

May 25, 2014

4 gospels

Charis-Kairos (Tears of Christ)” – Makoto Fujimura


Sunday afternoons for me are a small but valuable window of rest between the morning and evening services. They’re also a time to put in a great deal of thinking — without much actual doing. I usually find myself mulling over the services of the morning, running through a mental checklist for the evening, and thinking forward to the weeks ahead.

What I’m continually struck by is the collective time and energy that the worship ministry pours into each service. This week was less time-intensive than usual, but last week was more so. The men’s choir sang a new anthem, which took several weeks to write and several more weeks to rehearse. The orchestra rehearsed together four weeks, ninety minutes per week (not counting hours of individual practice time). The band rehearsed separately. Stage set-up took several hours on Saturday, and the tech team arrived ninety minutes before the first service to prepare and check every detail. Choir, orchestra, and band arrived soon after.

While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. – Mark 14.3

And suddenly, the second service was over. As soon as the closing prayer ended, several people scaled the platform steps to begin tearing down the stage and preparing for the evening service. It’s a familiar weekly rhythm, but there’s sometimes a bit of a letdown that comes at the end of a service.

Whenever I’m feeling this way, it’s always accompanied by an unspoken question: “Was this worth it? Where did all these hours of time and labor go? Should I have spent my time (and the time of the other musicians and support team) on something that seems so fleeting?”

“But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. – v. 4-5

Their objections and mine come from the same kind of heart — a heart that gets 2 Corinthians 4:18 completely reversed. It’s a heart that makes evaluative judgments based on what is temporary, rather than what is eternal. And it’s precisely for such myopia that Jesus answers their objections.

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. – v. 6

In the face of accusations of wastefulness, Jesus validates this woman’s extravagant act of worship: a year’s wages, broken and poured out in an instant. But He continues with an even more remarkable statement: what she has done will be remembered always. Her expression of sacrificial devotion will be told everywhere the gospel is preached; but even more powerfully, it is remembered by God Himself.

How does the reality of divine validation affect our weekly preparation for corporate worship? Simply by reminding us that what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal. Of course you may record the music, just as you may take a picture of a fleeting sunset. But that’s not really the point. Pour it out.

What if the woman had kept the perfume intact in the bottle? Paradoxically, it would have been ultimately lost. So it is with our time and talents and strength and passion. But this should be no surprise to us, for we need only remember the words of Christ: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”