Each weekend, around 400,000 churches in the U.S. celebrate our risen Lord, but with every party is a party-pooper. You may have a couple in your church this weekend. They find a reason not to celebrate, or manage to celebrate the wrong things. Unfortunately, pastors sometimes find themselves missing the party for the same reasons as some of our members do.
The resurrection of Lazarus was cause for celebration, so his sisters threw a party in Jesus’ honor. John 12:1-8 provides a challenge to pastors (and church members) to make sure we keep the focus on the one to whom the honor is due. There are four people in the story who give insight to our responses to Jesus.
Laid Back Lazarus
It had been a crazy week for Lazarus. He spent the first half in a tomb. He spent the second half celebrating his resurrection. It was the best and worst week of his life!
Lazarus was a party-pooper because he seemed to have gotten the idea that he was the guest of honor at this party. He was reclining while his sister Martha was serving and sister Mary was worshiping.
Some of your church members come to church to worship, others come to work, and most are likely doing neither. When a church I pastored was building a new worship center, a wealthy member suggested to me that we have cup holders in our seats. I assumed he was joking, until it became awkwardly obvious that he was not.
A laid-back-like-Lazarus attitude reflects a consumer mentality, a mentality that can affect pastors as well as members. Allow God to replace your entitlement mentality with one of appreciation.
Let us consider how we may support one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
Mad Dash Martha
I see myself in Martha. A lot.
Like most ministers, I show up to serve, which is good. Yet, like Martha, I get easily distracted by all of the preparations that have to be made and become “worried and upset.”
Hard work is commended in Scripture, but Martha was too busy to worship. She lost her focus and her joy. Luke gives us a lowdown on how Mary and Martha were getting along (Luke 10:38–42). Like a lot of sisters, they weren’t.
Do you ever bite off more than you can chew and lose your joy? Perhaps you are inadvertently robbing others of their joy as well by huffing and puffing around the church. If you are like Mad Dash Martha, those around you are waiting for you to explode or implode. Your good work ethic is commendable, but it does not excuse you from redirecting the focus off of the Guest of Honor.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joy and songs. (Ps. 100:2)
This third party-pooper famously “objected” to the apparent wastefulness of Mary’s gift. Judas was not rebuked by Jesus for being financially frugal, because that was his responsibility. He reasoned that pouring a year’s wages on someone’s feet was wasteful and irresponsible. He even feigned concern about helping the poor.
Nobody bought it. Everyone would know within the week that Judas was a thief and a traitor; caring less for the poor, his friends, or Jesus.
Judgmental members are party-poopers who enjoy criticizing other people and their ministries. Pastors can be guilty of this when an exuberant member has a ministry idea. Sometimes pastors only see more work for themselves, when all the member may want is encouragement or permission to go do it.
Therefore stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Rom. 14:13)
Mary was different. She anointed Jesus with expensive ointment worth about 3 years’ wages (John 12). Messy Mary worshiped extravagantly by pouring out most of her inheritance on the feet of Jesus, as well as on the floor around Him and her hair.
Mary was no party-pooper. She focused on the resurrection and the life, and didn’t care much about what others thought about her extravagant gift.
When was the last time you worshipped publicly with abandon? Genuine love is sometimes expressed in raw, spontaneous, and even undignified ways. Church can get messy when it turns into a resurrection party.
David was dancing before the Lord with all his might. (2 Sam. 6:14)
What we do at church is not nearly as important as how and why we do it. Are you a party-pooper at your own church? If so, prayerfully consider the Guest of Honor before you show up this Sunday.