All posts by Joanna Manning

God of extravagant love

Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 125, John 12:1-8,
and “The Heavens Torn Apart” – John Terpstra

Joanna Manning


The readings today are full of the promise of restoration. Isaiah has rivers gushing in the desert; the psalmist sings of those who sowed with tears reaping with joy and carrying home their sheaves; Paul tells us to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead; and in John’s gospel, Mary of Bethany pours out a jar of costly ointment which fills the whole house with its fragrance.

 And So we read about a God who breaks boundaries, does new things, a God of surprises, and a God of extravagant love! This is the thread that runs like gold through the readings of today, culminating in John’s account of the anointing of Jesus’s feet by Mary of Bethany then drying them with the strands of her lustrous long hair.

So in this gospel, after the raising of Lazarus, Jesus has returned again to the house at Bethany. It is possibly his last stop before he enters Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus feels safe here. Elsewhere Jesus has spoken wistfully about the birds of the air having a nest to shelter themselves, but he has nowhere to lay his head. But it does appear that he was a familiar and much loved guest here. It was a safe refuge, possibly the closest Jesus came anywhere to feeling at home and amongst friends.

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Hope and her two beautiful offspring

St Augustine of Hippo, the fourth century Bishop of the city of that name is an early church father that I usually love to hate. Augustine has been responsible for much of the fear of women and sexuality that has dogged church teachings throughout the centuries.

BUT Augustine also wrote this memorable phrase about Hope, which is the theme of today’s celebration: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; “ he wrote ( I’ve changed the noun to be more inclusive!) “ and their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” This time he had it dead right. Anger and courage – two of the components of Hope and also two themes running through today’s readings.

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