One of the shows that my husband and I enjoy watching is a show called “The Big Bang Theory.” Some of you may be familiar with this show, but if you aren’t – it is a sitcom following the lives of four young men who are brilliant scientists, and for no better word, also stereotypical nerds. They live across the hall from a young waitress, who is the opposite of a science nerd, and in the 7 seasons of the series - the show has explored the lives and relationships and struggles that the characters have faced. One of my favorite characters on the show is Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist, who began college at the age of 11 and earned his Ph. D by the time he was 16. Sheldon is brilliant. He has an IQ of 187 and he knows it. He is constantly belittling the intelligence of his friends and truly seems to believe that he is smarter than just about everyone else in the world. But Sheldon struggles with some of the very practical and real parts of life. He can’t drive a car and when his routine is disrupted, it completely sends him into a tailspin. But what Sheldon struggles most is with relationships. Both with social interactions but also with love and intimacy. For three seasons, he has had a girlfriend and he just hasn’t known what to do with her. Physical contact of any kind is a struggle. At the end of this season, after a number of things were changing including the burning down of his favorite comic book store, he’s standing in the ashes and he says – “My life is falling apart. My roommate is getting married and my girlfriend loves me so much that she wants to move in with me.”
The season ended with Sheldon at the train station – headed away to get his head straight. Unsure about what to do.
Sometimes we can have all the knowledge in the world, but miss the things that are truly most important. We can miss the things that are worth making our lives about.
Last week, we told the story of the Rich Young Ruler – he was a person of knowledge who came to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus tries to redirect him – to help him see that there really isn’t any good thing that he can do to earn eternal life. It’s a gift from God – but that there are things he can do to walk more fully into that life in the here and now. He can follow the commandments – and by doing so – be more able to live into the good abundant life that God offers- but the young man doesn’t seem to get it. He wants a list of rules – he wants a simple and easily understood answer. In the end, Jesus invites him to give up all his possessions and follow him.
I go back and forth about how serious Jesus was about this – was he using hyperbole – was he trying to make a point? Did he really want to have him give up everything?
Or was he trying to help this man see something that he was missing?
Sometimes you can have all the knowledge and all the stuff and all the right answers - that you need in the world, but you can be missing the things that are truly most important. Truly worth making our live about.
And then we enter into our story for today. Jesus is headed into a very difficult time. It is a couple of days before Passover, so just days before his death.
The authorities have been conspiring to kill him and he knows what is coming.
So he is at the home of his friend Simon, a man who was a leper at one point, an outcast. And he is inside the home dining, when an unnamed woman, who would have been a member of the household, comes to him and anoints his head with a nard perfume – a ritual that would have been common for preparing a body for burial.
It is an extravagant gift. The perfume was valued at approximately an entire year’s wages for a day laborer.
And the disciples – the people who have had closest connections with Jesus – the ones who have known him best – immediately begin judging this woman. They berate her and criticize her for her act.
Saying – this $$ could have been given to the poor.
Jesus is quick to defend her actions –
For in a room full of friends – during a week with his impending death approaching – it was an unnamed woman – who had the foresight and generosity and love to offer this gift to him.
Sometimes, even with all the knowledge in the world – we can miss what is truly most important.
We’ve been talking this month about growing in knowledge. This first month in our series on Growing in Disciples has been connected to the discipleship guides we created for our community. And as you look at this first topic of growing as a person of knowledge – you see that it’s connected to the idea of wisdom. Increasing our knowledge is a part of the work that we do to become a person who is not just knowledgeable but also a person who is wise.
Knowledge is a tool. It’s not the end in itself.
And wisdom has a lot to do with our ability to take what we learn, to take what we know and to put it in its proper place. To use it in ways that actually create meaning and life and usefulness. To take our knowledge and allow us to focus on what is most important.
I can relate to the rich young ruler – and to these disciples myself.
They had good intentions.
I think they started out on the journey – truly wanting to make their lives about what was most important. Truly wanting to follow God – to make their lives focused on the kin-dom of God – to follow the call of love, justice, and compassion. To let go of their desires for power and status and stuff.
But I also think it is easy in the everyday moments – to lose sight of what is most important.
To allow our human need for structure and predictability and rules and control to shape the way we make decisions and the way we respond to what happens around us every day.
It can be hired to remember what is most important when I’m dealing with the challenges and frustrations of the things I have to do each day –
To try and listen to where God is working and to respond with openness and love to the way God is working in the world.
To take what we have learned and apply it in the everyday moments of life -
And so I can relate to the disciples in their blindness and I can relate to the rich young ruler in his inability to see and to listen.
But I am inspired by this woman – who in the midst of every day life, managed to see and appreciate that which was most important.
Who managed to see the important thing that was right in front of her – and in connecting it with what she knew to be true - was able to respond with courage and generosity and love.
It must have taken great courage – to walk into what was likely a room full of men – who might have been judging and staring at her –
I think that’s why Jesus said – that for generations – the story of her act would be remembered.
A woman who didn’t miss the very presence of God that was IN HER MIDST.
She was the one who had WISDOM –
She was the one who managed to take what she knew to be true and to have the courage to connect it to her life in that exact moment.
I am inspired by her wisdom.
And I want to live more and more days of my life.
Aware of the living God in my midst.
And NOT missing the things that are most important – the things that are right before me.
And so on this Memorial Day weekend – a time where we remember things of importance. May you have the ability to take what you have been learning and to connect it to the every day moments
To see God in your midst and
May you have the courage like this woman –
To respond – with generosity and with love.