Today's Gospel reading told the story of Mary, who anointed Jesus' feet with oil and washed them with her hair. This story of extravagant love has many lessons, and pastors go off in all directions in teaching on this story.
One part of the story is often overlooked. We are told in the Gospel of John that Judas,who in just a few days would hand Jesus over to the Romans, was present, and was critical that such an expensive perfume was wasted, instead of sold to support the poor. The Gospel writer goes on to say that Judas was a thief, the unofficial treasurer of the group, and was embezzling from the treasury.
In the past couple of weeks, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church met in Oregon. While there, the delegates wrestled with whether certain people should be welcome in fellowship, even in positions of leadership, in our denomination. Some of the bigger questions include:
- How can we welcome all people without condoning behavior we believe to be sin?
- In a fellowship of believers, where all are sinners, is there a hierarchy of sin that should result in exclusion of some?
In that very first, most intimate collection of believers, we have a known thief. Jesus, knowing all things, certainly knew of Judas' thievery, down to the very penny. We can certainly argue that Jesus, knowing the ultimate plan, had to accept Judas with all his faults. But we can also argue that Jesus accepted Judas unconditionally, with all his faults, just as he accepted the doubting Thomas and the denying Peter.
Given this example, who are we to decide whether someone should be excluded from our fellowship?