“A New Attitude”
Lent 5 April 7 2019
As we go through the Season of Lent and focus on Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, Jesus’s call to follow Him, and our response to what Jesus has done for us and calls us to do for Him we need to think about our attitudes. We need to think our attitudes about life – about the meaning of life – and how we respond to God and to others.
Our passages from Isaiah and John for today give us an opportunity to look at our attitudes and how our attitudes affect how we relate to God and others.
In our passages we have three people – Isaiah – Mary – and Judas. These three people have two different ways of approaching life — two different attitudes about life – and two different ways of responding to God and others. Isaiah and Mary seem to see life as an opportunity to see what God is doing in their lives and in the world and an opportunity to praise God for His blessings in their lives. Judas, on the other hand, seems to be too worried about how things are to see what God is doing or give God praise. Their attitudes impacted the way they lived – the way the responded to God – and the way they responded to others.
Let’s take a few moments looking at Isaiah, Mary, and Judas and see what their attitudes were – and how it impacted how they responded to God and those around them.
Look at Isaiah. In fact — imagine that you are Isaiah.
You are a Hebrew — a Jew — one of God’s chosen people. You and your people have a rich history of being blessed by God. God has blessed you and your people in many ways — the greatest of which being that God brought your ancestors out of slavery in Egypt — guided them across the wilderness — gave them commandments to live by — and gave them a land in which to live. This is all a part of your history. But now — it all seems to be just that — history. Things have changed. Your land has been taken over by the Babylonians. Jerusalem — your Holy City — has been leveled — the great Temple where you worshipped God is now rubble. You and your people have been living in Babylon for almost 60 years now. It’s hard for the older ones in your community to remember what Jerusalem even looked like — and the younger ones have never even seen it.
Some in your community believe that the only way to cope with the present is to focus on the past. They feel that have to live in the past because the present gives little hope — and the future even less.
“Wasn’t it great what God did for our ancestors?” they say — without much hope for any such things to happen to them and change their situation. God’s miracles of freeing captives and giving them a land and being their God and calling them to be His people happen only once in history — or so many in your community think.
You — however — see things differently. You have a different attitude – a different way of looking at things. You see things the way they are — but — by the grace of God — you also see how things can be. You see how your people are in captivity and you see how they feel they have no hope for the present or the future — and yet — you feel they need to look to the future and what God can do — not the past or the present.
Your message to is: God is about to do something new.
Forget the past — the future will be blessed by God in a richer and fuller way.
Don’t worry about the way things are — or were — but instead — look to how they can be. Look at what God can do.
In the midst of reality — and in the midst of a people who can’t seem to envision how God can change things — you are indeed a bit of an oddball. You have a different attitude. You don’t let the pessimistic attitudes of so many people distort or drown out your attitude of how – by God’s grace – things can be. Your attitude is an attitude of God. Your attitude is an attitude of the new things God can do. You indeed have a different attitude than most people and many probably consider you to be a bit strange because of your optimistic attitude of what God can do — but you don’t care. God has given you a new attitude and you are going to celebrate what God do and you are going to have an attitude of praise to God.
That’s Isaiah’s attitude.
In our passage from John we have Mary. Imagine now that you are Mary. You live in Bethany — near Jerusalem. You — your sister Martha — and your brother Lazarus have become friends with a certain teacher named Jesus. He has stayed at your house on some of His many visits to Jerusalem. You have marveled at all you have seen Him do and heard Him say. You have even come to believe that He is the Messiah — the one sent from God to free your people. Not long ago the most marvelous and miraculous thing of all happened. Your brother Lazarus died. He died and was buried. But — Jesus brought him back to life. Jesus gave you back your brother. You are so thankful — so excited – that you want to do something for Jesus — but you are not sure what to do. The next time He is in your house you – Martha — and Lazarus host a lavish feast for Him — His disciples — and your friends – and you decide to do something extravagant — something to let Him know just how thankful you are. You take a jar of perfume — a pound of it — so rare a perfume and so costly that it would take a year’s wages to purchase this amount — and you pour it on Jesus’ feet. You are fully aware of what people are going to think of you — wasting such perfume — but you don’t care. You have a new attitude about Jesus – about God – and indeed about life. You see what Jesus has done for you — and nothing else matters. With joy and thanksgiving in your heart you have a different attitude than most people have. You don’t let the reality of wasting perfume stop you from praising and worshipping Jesus — even in the most extravagant and joyful ways. You don’t let the cost of the perfume stop you from hearing and responding to the message of Christ. You don’t let the cost of the perfume change your attitude about what Christ has done for you and what you can do for Him. Like Isaiah, you have a different attitude than most people and many probably consider you to be a bit strange because of how your extravagant praise of Jesus is, but, like Isaiah, you don’t care. God has given you a new attitude.
So far we two people – Isaiah and Mary – who have similar attitudes of praise to God for what He has done in their lives and who live in a joyful hope of what God can do in their lives in their future. Their attitudes of joy and praise and hope have a great effect on how they live their lives, how they respond to God, and how they respond to others.
But in the John passage there is another person — Judas – and Judas has a much different attitude than Mary’s or Isaiah’s. Judas responded to God differently than Isaiah and responded to God much differently than Mary. Imagine that you are Judas. You have followed Jesus for three years, and have given up everything you had to follow Him. You are hoping that — maybe — He’s the Messiah who will free your people from Roman rule. Isaiah’s vision for freedom from captivity did indeed come true — but now you and your people are ruled by the Romans – and it’s time for God to act again.
But — will God act? You are sure Jesus could rally your people to overthrow the Romans. He has done so many miracles. He has said so many things. He has so many followers. Now is the time for Jesus to act – to say the word and lead the revolt against Roman rule. And what does Jesus do? He lets this woman waste a jar of expensive perfume. He lets her act like a fool — or worse. You could have sold the perfume and done some good with it — you could have helped the poor who needed it so badly — or you could have used it to buy weapons for the revolution — or you could have helped yourself to the money the perfume sold for. But Jesus lets it be wasted. This Jesus — this Mary — certainly see things differently than you do. They certainly have a different attitude about things than you do – and you are not so sure that you like it. Your attitude is one of practicality and action without much time for worship or praise. You let the things of the world influence you, and you feel that there is no room for a different attitude than yours. You have no time for extravagance – no time for joy – no time for thanksgiving – no time for seeing how God can make things different – or make you different. You only have time for reality — and your version of it at that – and when Jesus does not conform to your view of reality — when Jesus doesn’t seem to have your attitude about the way things are or the way things should be — you don’t realize that your attitude could be wrong and you don’t let Jesus make a difference in your life or give you a new attitude. You are stuck in your attitude of reality and won’t see how God is acting in your life, and your attitude truly influences how you relate to God and others.
So we have Isaiah – Mary – and Judas.
Three people with two different attitudes about life — two different attitudes about life and its meaning — two different ways of living life — two different attitudes of how they could live in response to God ‘s love. Yes — the attitude we have about life and its meaning impacts the way we live and the way we respond to God – and it impacts the way we relate to others.
So — what’s your attitude? What’s your attitude about life? Do you – like Isaiah — have an attitude that sees the things God can do? Do you focus on the great future God promises – and do what you can to make it a reality?
Or – do you – like Mary – have an attitude that allows you to see what God is doing in your life — and worship and praise Him for His blessings?
Or – like Judas — are you stuck in reality — so stuck that you can not see what God is doing — and can do — in your life and in the world?
Can you have an attitude that sees what God is doing and can be doing in the world and in your life — regardless of how out of step it makes you with everyone else — or do you only have the same attitude everyone else has – whether it’s an attitude of love and praise for God or not?
Which is your attitude?
Which is the way you live?
Which is the way you approach life?
Friends — Lent is a time for you to look at Christ’s death on the cross — what it means for you — and how you can live in response to it. I pray that this Lent may be a time for you – indeed for all of us – to be blessed with a new attitude – an attitude that sees what God is doing and can do in our lives and our world – and an attitude that allows us to respond in extravagant love and praise to God.
Let’s be individuals and a Church that can show the community and the world that there can be a different way to approach life – that there can be a different attitude about life – an attitude of excitement over what God is doing and an attitude of praise to God. Let’s show the community and the world that there can be an attitude in life that sees what God is doing and can continue to do — and that we can respond to God with extravagant joy.
Let’s show the world a new attitude. Amen.