Artist – Frank Wesley
This is the third and final ‘Mary, at your feet’ poem, which tells of an evening in Bethany, at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jesus is there, too. They are holding a feast to celebrate Lazarus coming back from the dead, and, it being near Jerusalem, they are joined by many others.
I found some spikenard on line, the closest I could find to nard, the rare perfume Mary pours over Jesus, and burnt it as I meditated on the story. It is pungent and earthy, an intense fragrance. As I meditated, I remembered all the times that Jesus had told stories of the Kingdom involving feasting, and banquets, and how he left us a shared meal to remember him. This particular banquet, celebrating a man coming back from the dead, seems like that.
I thought of Mary giving something so costly out of love, I thought of the other story of a woman anointing Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50). And I remembered that Messiah means anointed one, and that the only earthly anointing Jesus receives is like this, at a feast, in an outpouring of love and gratitude.
This poem, too, was read at the Alive festival 2014, and I used it as a starting place for prayerful writing with a group of people. We burned spikenard, and imagined ourselves into the story. Some beautiful work resulted. People were able to connect with times when their life had been restored to them in some way, with times they were grateful, and wanted to pour our love and thanksgiving. For others, they felt they were outside, looking in at the feast.
In this poem I see the doors wide open, like the gates of the city in the book of Revelation (21:25).
Mary, of Bethany, at your feet a third time
And so you come once more to Bethany,
and share a meal with Lazarus,
a resurrection feast,
all those kingdom feasts you told of:
wedding banquets with long tables
set wide with good things,
with room enough for all,
welcome at your table.
Now, in Bethany, the house is ablaze with light,
shutters and doors thrown open,
all wide open with joy unspeakable,
music, laughter, dancing, wild thanksgiving
for one who was dead is alive again,
And all night, while crowds pour in from Jerusalem,
the feast goes on, and on,
as Mary enters now, cheeks glistening with joy,
past her brother at your side, back from the grave.
She kneels at your feet again,
pours out extravagant nard,
scandalous anointing of your warm, living feet,
unbinds her hair and lets it flow like water
over them, wiping them in such reckless
and tender thanksgiving.
Fragrance fills the room, the house, the night,
as more people pour from Jerusalem to you,
to you, who comes to us in our weeping,
who shares our bread with us,
and brings us to such joy as this.
I am greatly honoured that this poem was read at the Good Friday Service of the Riverside Church, New York.
The whole service is recorded. The poem appears at about 21:50
You can see it here