Lenten worship: a waste or graced?

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“And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Mark 14:4-8

Why are we here tonight? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to stay at home and spend time with our spouse or children? Is this a waste of our time and energy? Perhaps we could be working to raise money we could give to the poor. Or, maybe, we could be out ministering to the poor and needy around us and providing them with a supper. Why are we gathered together here instead of being out there in the world?

What about Mary? Why did she pour this expensive ointment on Jesus – certainly an extravagant act – when it could have been sold for nearly a year’s wages and the money given to the poor?

What did Jesus say to the criticism? “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.”

While many might consider attending Lenten services as a waste of time, Jesus graces us with His presence and accepts our humble worship (cf. Matthew 18:20). Through the hearing of His Word, we are moved to acknowledge our wretched sinfulness and look to Him and His sufferings and death for mercy. And through faith in His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, He graces us with pardon and forgiveness, new life here and everlasting life in heaven.

Indeed, it may seem to many a waste of time to gather together here to worship Jesus and hear His Word, but we are graced through it (not because of it) as we learn of Jesus’ sufferings and death in our stead, and of His glorious resurrection, that we sinners might obtain mercy and forgiveness and have life eternal through faith in Jesus’ name.

We thank and praise Thee, O Jesus, for bearing the guilt and punishment for our sins that we wretched sinners might receive mercy and forgiveness through faith in Thy holy and precious name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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