The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Like costly anointing oil (Sunday, April 23)

with 3 comments

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
Psalm 133 A pilgrim song of David

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, flowing down Aaron’s beard,flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where GOD commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.

mixHOW WONDERFUL IS THAT? What do I know about “costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard …”? I suppose if we lived in a dry climate without running water, it might make sense. Heads would be hot and itchy. There’d never be a shower. No shampoo. If I poured oil on a guest’s head after he came in from the heat, it would probably be cooling. But the image doesn’t carry much water in 2006, does it?


Sometimes we need to do a little research during worship together!

<So I mix up some spices and olive oil

[note to self: more cinnamon next time].







Next, Bunny P. seals up my oil-resistant priestly robes with masking tape.>
(I can’t imagine what “the collar of [Aaron’s] priestly robes” must’ve looked like – I wasn’t willing to risk my black t-shirt).






<Dan begins pouring – I figure it takes quite a bit to get the “flowing down Aaron’s beard” effect … so he pours it on. But look! A smile’s forming





<And guess what? It is astonishing! It feels like someone’s opened the roof of your head and poured in the breeze that comes from the mouth of a cave. I expected it to be pleasant, but it was far more than that.


in eyes





Now, in your eyes it isn’t the best.>


stays on

<And it doesn’t really come off (really, not even in the shower).


But despite all that, I found the psalmist’s simile to be a lot more vivid than before!


Now let’s see – what was it that he said all this was like? Ah:

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!”

And here it is lived-out centuries later in Acts 4:

The whole congregation of believers was united as one–one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.

And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.

Hmm. I’ve never seen a church like that – where people were so concerned that everyone was cared for that they didn’t even hang on to their own property. But I have seen us making some progress toward it.

Someone humbly brought an issue to the church board’s attention recently. It was about one of the unusual ways we do things here that was uncomfortable to them. It was wise to bring it up.

I learned a couple of things during the discussion. First, I realized that I had made a unilateral decision that affected everyone. That was a mistake.

Second, I became aware that one of the reasons I had made it – and made it like that – was that I still carried some wounds that were ready for another round of healing. As durable and tender as our leaders have been, there have been other folks who’ve come and gone from our faith family who have done a pretty good job of leaving pain behind.

The board saw that, and tenderly and sacrificially cared for me (one more time!) Their tender care has been one of the reasons I kept coming back all these years.

And this Scripture points to yet another reason: a dream of what could be. It does seem that a church existed – and could exist – where individuals experienced so much of God’s grace internally that they became like Jesus. They became so much like Jesus that they were more caught up in the thrill of loving God and each other than they were in personal gain. Just like people were attracted to Jesus himself, the early church – his Body – became so like him in their inner hearts that people were attracted to it, too. Their friendship together was greater than not hurting each other (though I’m sure that was a given). It was active, passionate care for one another’s well-being.

I think God is nudging us that way. I also think it will take a while. For all of us have been wounded by church people along the way somewhere. And trust takes time.

I do believe it’s normal gospel life, though, and available to all. Which includes us.
As you’re able, would you like to join me in asking God to heal our wounds, fill us up with Jesus, and make us people whose hearts are magnetized toward God and each other, until we realize, “how wonderful, how beautiful … like costly anointing oil”?

All Scriptures from: The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Written by Monte

April 25, 2006 at 12:36 am

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks, Tim and Amy! I so appreciate your willingness to drop off a thought or two.

    Amy, I am sure you a right. In fact, I believe this is how the Kingdom is intended to work. As Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” And Peter wrote, “Always be ready to give an answer to them that ask you the reason for the hope that is in you. But do so with gentleness and respect…”

    Implication is, people will see something in us so attractive, so love-beautified, if we are deeply and quietly following him (Aha! That reminds me of Jesus Christ), that some will long to be near. I think this is why throngs follow Jesus.

    How different from evangelism or church growth as I learned it, in which we staged events so that people who didn’t really want to “come to church” would show up there. Or, we visited people’s homes in order to share with them a formula by which eternal destiny could be made safe.

    Jesus knows little of those. He walks around doing good – loving people – then pulls his followers away to reflect and rest. The curriculum is almost always either “what just happened” or “what’s about to happen.” He takes his followers outside, lets his Father-directed heart lead him where it will, then closets with his followers to challenge them more specifically to follow his example. Outside-inside: both! Outside, he demonstrates his heart toward followers and enemies. Inside, he intensively imparts his most intimate insights. The continuity in both – or maybe the conduit through which the Kingdom’s ways flow in both – looks to be relationship: love. Costly, unprogrammable, often unimpressive and terribly vulnerable. Scary. Wonderful.



    April 26, 2006 at 2:05 pm

  2. M-

    Your reflections got me to thinking: What’s the point of growing “up into him, who is the head”? It’s great for getting along together, being able to forgive and let go of control, doing stuff in unity. But wouldn’t it be great to also always have people around us and among us who are not at all like Christ, who don’t “get” God’s love yet–people who are made curious and “taught” by our love for one another? Heavenly!


    April 26, 2006 at 9:18 am

  3. Wow! Looks like you had a great time experiencing the flow of God’s goodness and mercy over your head and face….isn’t it great to understand the word pictures that God’s Word gives us? They are so rich when we take time to understand them and put them into practice today…I think about this example and how the cooling misty things we have today are much the same. They let the cool water flow over our hot heads and faces in the summer heat…it is kinda of like the squirt of water I put on my daughters hair in the mornings to make a pony tail…they jump and screach at first with the cold blast of water but then they calm when the brush goes through their hair without entangledment…much the same as a church working together with change. At first it seems to be too much to take but then as we see that the change is relevant and reaching to greater depths spiritually it becomes refreshing…just some thoughts.


    April 25, 2006 at 6:51 am

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