Chrism Mass Sermon 2011

This is the sermon I shall preach this morning at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Luke 7:36-50

Can you feel them?

Can you feel those tears?

Those tears drip, drip, dripping on your feet,

warm and then cool on your skin?

Can you feel her stifled sobs,

from deep within,

from that part deep in her soul

which calls out to you with repentance?

Can you feel them?

Can you see her?

Can you see the top of her head,

not daring to look up,

not daring to look you in the eye?

Can you see her lift her hand and gather her hair to one side

and try to wipe the evidence away,

lest you think less of her?

That long, uncovered hair, rich in tones, bleached in parts by the sun?

Damp now, in tendrils, curling with the moistness of her own tears.

Can you see her?

Can you smell it?

That heady aroma of scented oil and perfume?

The air heavy with geranium and rose and myrrh.

First the base note tickles your nose, then the middle notes come through as you almost taste it,

and finally the top notes,

all mingling into one another to produce a most exquisite scent.

A perfume so heady that you can’t sense anything else – all the other everyday smells of cooking and cleaning have been overtaken by this heavenly ambrosia.

A perfume that makes you want to close your eyes, breathe deeply and inhale slowly…

A perfume that takes you to another place – to warmth and romance and healing and wellbeing.

A perfume so divine that it must only be used for those special occasions when nothing else will do,

when only the very best is good enough.

A perfume fit for a king.

Can you feel it?

That silky oil being massaged into your feet?

Oh so weary feet, dusty from the road, soles burning from walking so long.

First the oil slips down your ankle onto your sore feet and tenderly,

oh so tenderly, she starts to massage it in.

Oil so rich and scented that it immediately takes away the dust of the day.

Oil so sweet and soft that it feels as if you have the feet of a baby once more.

Oil so rich and luscious that it seeps through your pores into the very core of your being.

Oil so healing and relaxing that it makes you want to close your eyes and drift away.

Oil fit for a king.

Can you see her?

This unnamed woman who fills the air with exotic perfume and anoints the feet of Our Lord?

Can you see her?

She has no name in this story,

no name,

so she could be you.

You may get angry when women aren’t even given a name in these stories.

But perhaps by having no name she could be you, or me, or anyone.

Can you see her?

Can you see her kneel down, tenderly lifting each foot and slowly but firmly massaging in the rich perfumed oil.

With thumbs pressing firmly, round and round, soothing away the dust and tiredness.

Relaxing each muscle with every firm stroke.

Can you see her?

Can you see you doing that?

Some of you will be doing this tonight.

Washing the feet of our loved ones.

Kneeling on painful knees to tenderly wash the feet of those whom we serve.

For that is what we are called to do.

Called to serve,

called to kneel,

called to anoint,

called to love,

called to forgive.

Can you see them?

Those shy and hesitant feet,

unsure and uncertain,

feeling vulnerable and exposed,

not really wanting to do this act,

this act of receiving.

Because we’d all much rather be giving rather than taking.

We’d much rather be the one anointing than the one sitting awkwardly with someone at our feet performing this most intimate of acts.

And tonight we have the privilege of being that unnamed woman,

for tonight that woman is us.

Tonight we are called to serve.

Tonight we are called to see Christ in each and every one and to give such generous love…

Can you hear it?

Can you hear that call?

Can you hear that call to be a servant?

I’m guessing that we’ve all heard it.

We may not have liked it,

we may have resisted,

but at some time, perhaps in the dim and distant past, we too were called.

Samuel! Samuel!

Brian! John! Ian! Shona! Marion! Ruth!

Can you hear it?

Can you hear your name being called?

Calling you to serve at the altar,

calling you to serve at the bedside,

calling you to anoint and to pray,

calling you to tell the stories,

calling you to listen to the stories

and to make the connections,

calling you, sisters and brothers,

to be agents of transformation,

midwives of a new birthing of the Spirit,

calling you to shed tears, to wash feet and to kiss them,

calling you to pronounce the forgiveness of sins?

For it is only through experiencing the mercy of God that we can come to forgive ourselves.

Calling you to make sacrifices

but none so great as the one made for us.

Can you hear it?

Can you hear that call?

Speak, for your servant is listening.

Can you feel it?

Can you feel it in the air?

Can you feel the anticipation?

For tonight is the night,

the very night,

when we shall gather to tell the stories.

The night when we shall weep and wash,

when we shall gather to share the bread and wine,

the body and blood,

in that upper room.

tonight is the night,

the very night,

when we shall wait and watch.

This is the night when it all comes together,

when what we do each week, each day,

makes sense.

For this is our story

and tonight we must tell it,

tell it until it hurts.

For that too is what we are called to do.

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8 thoughts on “Chrism Mass Sermon 2011

  1. You know I’m usually a lurker, Ruth, but I have to say thank you today. Your sermon takes my breath away and leaves me as it should, hopeful, thankful and understanding more of the awesomeness of God. Every Blessing this weekend and always.

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