The Alabaster Jar

Though it is my day off, I'm doing some reading for my sermon next Sunday (because I have a friend coming to visit this week). I'm fascinated by tears and kisses. I think that might be where my exegesis leads. There's something about sacred trust there that resonates with me -- especially after the conversation I had with Maryjane.

But, there's something about this alabaster jar. The commentaries and dictionaries talk about the material itself. The Anchor Bible describes it as a "yellow or creamy calcerous sinter." Um, ok. But, that doesn't really do much for figuring out why this sinner woman is carrying it around. Is that just what you carry perfume in? Or is there something else there? I wonder. I wonder.

That week, I will be getting ready to go to our General Synod 26. And if you didn't notice from my sidebar or the general enthusiasm of our UCC colleagues, it's a big year for us. It is the 50th anniversary of our little denomination. We have a lot to celebrate. I'm so excited I could burst (no really, I get that excited about church stuff). But, my church is rather "ho hum." It doesn't impact them. I want them to be excited. I admit. I want to manipulate them.

So I wonder if the alabaster jar might be an opportunity to talk about the things we carry. And then those women travelling in the beginning of chapter 8. What's that about? The Social Science Commentary of the Synoptic Gospels (you should own this) assures us that the fact that these women are travelling with this man, this Jesus character, assumes that they are some kind of surrogate family. And if that's not what our churches strive to be, then I just don't know. But, is that related to the alabaster jar? Is it a stretch to relate them?

What are your thoughts? Or is it too early for me to be asking these things?


Songbird said...

Those alabaster jars were expensive and generally handed down as family heirlooms (wrote a big exegesis paper on Mark's version of the story), so the association of a fallen woman with the valuable jar is a gloss Luke added for who knows what reason. I'm fascinated by the four versions of the story. Too bad that text won't fit for my sermon series next week. When I worked with it three years ago I brought in the St. Teresa of Avila quote about Christ having no hands but ours to do ministry now. That's a good message for any time and place, and perhaps can tie into General Synod and our identity as UCC people working on God's behalf?
NYC was good, but I am travel-weary.

more cows than people said...

i'm just getting into this passage today. i wasn't much drawn to the alabaster jar bit, i was more caught up in how exactly this woman entered the scene unnoticed. Any chance she came in with Jesus? I'm really intrigued by this possibility.

I'm also intrigued by the tension which scholars chalk up to two combined literary traditions between the fact that Jesus explains her behavior as her "great love" motivated by the tremendous forgiveness she had received. BUT then pronounces her forgiveness. If she followed him in, or came in with him. Might she have already been accepted by him, but still couldn't quite get her head around this feeling so unacceptable? Might the weeping suggest her continuing grief and the act suggest a mixture of soliciting acceptance and gratitude for acceptance- sort of both- (the article on the front page of text week this week is helpful, but still leaves me wondering on this)- like... she is overcome with gratitude, but still not sure... don't we know LOTS of people like this? And don't we come to worship praising God who has already forgiven us, but then confess our sins and hear the declaration of forgiveness every week (at least in Reformed traditions)? I don't know if I'm writing my musings effectively. But I'm captivated by this and many other possibilities and open ends in this passage.

You're wondering about how to evoke interest in your denominational life through this text and I'm wondering how to link this to the recognition of graduates that we'll have in our service.

Blessings on your continued prep and your time with your friend. (We have company this week too!)

jts said...

I'm trying to see this passage through a health perspective. The woman does seem to come into the story unnoticed. I'm wondering what her sins were. Jesus says they were "many." I suppose it's not important on one level. Jesus is restoring the woman to the community, so I see a communal health restoration.

I'm wondering what this passage might say to someone struggling with depression or with a disease. Or does this only speak to a broader community health ethic?