Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday in Holy Week: Love and Give Abundantly With a Focus on Others

Holy Week is a journey to the cross and beyond ... and every day is a different step. This week, I'll be offering a reflection for each step of the journey for us as a Cathedral community.

I remember a meeting Magdalene St. Louis Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton and I had a year or so ago with a potential funder. She was skeptical of our model and pushed back strongly:

“Why does it need to be two years, could you do six months or a year?”

“Why can’t you do a more streamlined program for 30 or 40 women instead of this ‘Cadillac program for six or seven?”

Our answer was … because this is our model. This is what we believe. This is what it takes.

Because the women who will come into our circle will have had untold depths of pain and abuse … and we need to offer as much of an abundance of love.

Because this is about creating a sisterhood for life, and people who have learned to trust no one don’t get over that in six months.

Because one of Magdalene St. Louis’ core values is “Love and give abundantly with a focus on others.”

Today is Monday in Holy Week – our first step on our journey together to the cross and beyond. The Gospel reading for today is a story of this abundant love:

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. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:1-11)

Everything about this story sings “love and give abundantly with a focus on others”

*The oil that would have cost an entire year’s salary.

*The intimacy of Mary massaging the oil into Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair.

*The fragrance of the perfume filling the entire house

The reason Christ Church Cathedral decided to take on the role of catalyst in starting Magdalene St. Louis is we believe the church’s job is Eucharistic – to gather all the people around the presence of Christ and invite all to lay their lives on the table with it, trusting that if we do, God will bless it and create new life which we will take out into the world.

In my life, I’ve never known anything to look more like Jesus than Magdalene/Thistle Farms. It’s the Benedictine model of welcoming the stranger as Christ married with the conviction that love in community is the most powerful force for healing and social change in the universe. That’s Jesus.

We are starting Magdalene here not because we want to “do something good” but because Magdalene is who we are called to be. Magdalene is the salvation of the church. The circle of Magdalene shows us who Jesus dreams and longs for us to be.

Magdalene is the church as Mary … pouring out love in abundance despite the scorn of those around.

Magdalene is the church as Jesus – saying the deepest pain and abuse of the world is to be borne by us all, because Love Heals.

What if the measure of success we used as Christ Church Cathedral was not whether our budget is balanced or what our average Sunday attendance is or how many meals we serve on Saturday morning. Don’t get me wrong … all those are good and laudable things.

But what if our measure of success … what if the questions we asked at every Chapter meeting and every Sunday and every time we gather were:

“Are we loving and giving abundantly with a focus on others?”

“Does the stranger feel welcomed as Jesus?”

“Is the world appropriately scandalized by our way of life?”

“Is St. Louis being filled by the fragrance of our love?"

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