The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Small actions, great love

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love" (Mother Teresa)

Mary often is accused of being impractical, and this Sunday’s Gospel (John 12:1-8) only seems to solidify the charge that she is a devoted dreamer. Under the close watch of Judas Iscariot, Mary does the unthinkable by pouring an expensive pint of pure nard over Jesus’ feet. Moreover, Jesus’ acceptance of this gift shocks and angers Judas, causing him to judge the actions of both the one honoring and the one being honored.

Beneath the surface, however, we see an act filled with great love, grace and adoration. Mary stoops before Jesus, carefully pouring the precious ointment on his feet. We can imagine the great pains to which Mary went to carefully cover the feet of her teacher with nard. We can envision her cautious movements aimed at not wasting a drop of the precious, sweet-smelling substance. Finally, Mary wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair. The act is unforgettable and calls us to contemplate how we can serve.

One community of Lutherans in South Dakota heard a calling in this text. As Mary showed her love for Jesus, we Lutherans thought we should do the same. In the name of Jesus, we resolved to care for the feet of the poor living among us, those to whom Jesus referred in John 12:8: “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Joining with our ecumenical partners and the Sanford Health Parish Nurse Institute, Lutheran congregations in Sioux Falls opened a foot care clinic for people who can’t afford such services.

Since the beginning of the Stepping Into Good Health project, those involved have been part of something unforgettable. Through gentle conversations and grace-filled touch, clients bare their feet and volunteers stoop to meet the vulnerability of their neighbors.

The impractical Mary, it turns out, inspired the Sioux Falls community to validate the humanity of each member—something that is stripped away far too often as financial resources deplete. In each touch given and each touch received, Mary’s good intentions are seen and heard, honor for Jesus is echoed and the fragrance of devotion is spread throughout the community.

This week's front page features:

The Annunciation — reconsidered: There’s more to the story than Gabriel’s request and Mary’s consent. (Image at right.)

Islam & Christianity: Understanding begins with acknowledging devotion and differences.

Linen service: Maryland congregation recycles hotel linens to local shelter.

What’s up with supper? Retreat at Camp Ewalu centers on Christ in the Passover.

Also: With humor, not a hammer.

Also: Truth.

Also: A God-forsaken place.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

Discuss textile recycling:

Gail Trafelet

Kathe Peterson
Join Gail Trafelet, a member of the All Saints Lutheran Church (Bowie, Md.) Serve Team, and Kathe Peterson, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Duluth, Minn., to discuss how used textiles (clothing and bedsheets) can be recycled for use by others.

All Saints' helps a local shelter acquire used hotel linens for use by its 100 women and children clients. Kathe Peterson and others in the Northeastern Minnesota Synod recycle old, cotton T-shirts into diapers and ship them to new mothers in Honduras.

Does your congregation have a textile ministry? Would you like to start one? Discuss the possibilities.

The conversation starts today and runs through March 27.

Consider reading "Linen service" and "Tops to bottoms" before joining in.

Join the conversation > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann asks: "Does faith help people forgive?"

Amber Leberman says: "Thank you."

Kathy Kastilahn (right) blogs about praying for the world.

Julie Sevig writes about going without.

Sonia Solomonson blogs about staying grounded.

Check out our blog > > >

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