Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM



The Ritual Of Preparation

March 23, 2024 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

NARDChrist Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
March 24, 2024
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Passion Sunday
Rituals Of Preparation

It was now two days before Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread; and the chief priests and the scribes were conspiring how to lay their hands on him, so that they could kill him … And while He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? "For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. (Mark 14:1 & 3-6)

If the chief priests and scribes could have heard verse one of today’s gospel, would they have recognized the irony? That it was now two days before the Passover and they were running late? Running late because in annual Passover celebration the Lamb had to be chosen on the 10th day of the month and sacrificed on the 14th day: a window of 4 days.

But here it was 2 days before the Passover and they were still short one Passover Lamb. Still had not laid their hand on God’s Lamb who is the fulfillment of every Passover the Jews ever celebrated! Who was about to make the eternal Sacrifice by offering up his Holy Flesh, and draining his Blood to atone for the sins of the world. To restore lost, blind, confused humanity to righteousness, innocence and blessedness. What more could a man ask?

Did they know that THIS Passover would be the final Passover? The one that every previous Passover had in view? Not marking the night the Jews were miraculously saved from the hands of the Egyptian army – by the blood of the Passover Lamb and the water of the Red Sea. But now marking the night for all time to come when, by the “Water and Blood” that flowed from the Lord’s riven side, the world was delivered from Satan the Seamless Tyrant. And so let all the world hear, believe and rejoice.

But the church reminds us today that no good things happens by mere waiting, wishing or hoping, indeed not even by our prayers, alone. But that rituals of preparation must precede all great things. This was the case in the Lord’s sacrifice; and is still the case for those who “offer up their bodies as living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:2) the Son of God in liturgy today – the very thing we are engaged in at this present hour.

Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, pays what is no doubt a king’s ransom for a one minute ad on Prime Time TV, in the hope that large numbers of people will give their hearts to Jesus in 60 seconds. But there is no such thing as instant conversion. But we find in today’s gospel that all good things are preceded by preparation. It was true then, it is true now.

We see this clearly in today’s gospel. As the time was drawing VERY NEAR for the long-awaited redemption of all things, there suddenly appears on scene, a woman. A remarkable woman! A woman that Jesus commands us to remember for all time. A woman who had the faith and the foresight to prepare for the world’s greatest event. A woman for all women to imitate. She did not care who criticized or what self-righteous arguments people forwarded against her.

She came prepared with what St. Mark teaches us was earth’s most precious, pleasant, pure and aromatic substance – it was called “nard,” N.A.R.D. She breaks open its meticulously sealed bottle, and pours it on the Lord’s sacred head, drenching him with it as he reclines at the dinner table in the home of Simon the Leper.

Picture it – if you can!

While naysayers “nayed,” and virtue-signalers signaled Jesus praised! Praised and commended to eternal memory this woman, who performed this unexpected and unimaginable ritual. She prepared the Lord’s Body; anointed his pure Flesh with pure nard, in view of his upcoming cross and burial.

Saint Paul no doubt had this gospel in mind when he names our Lord’s Self-Donation as a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:2) One of such enduring fragrance that it covers the fetid pong of our transgressions.

And then there were the careful ritual instructions that Jesus gave the two disciples as regards the all-important PLACE that they would celebrate this Last Passover which Jesus morphed into the First Divine Liturgy, the First Holy Communion, which is to say the same thing.

Nothing good happens without preparation.

If you came here today to obtain absolution then begin with confessing your sins. Lutheran Liturgy affords us that opportunity. Pray the confessional prayer and hear the absolution from the lips of the Pastor as if from Jesus himself. Divine words that rid all Simon’s of their leprosy and the tang of their sins.

If you are here to Commune with the Holy One in the Blessed Sacrament today then make ready with prayer, praise and thanksgiving.

But also take note of the careful preparation the church makes: her musicians, acolytes, deacons, priests. And especially her altar guild who, like the two disciples, arrive ahead of time to see to it that God’s Service is ready for the unparalleled grace here received. To prepare vessels and veil; purificator and paten; Bread and Wine to be consecrated so that all who partake of this Meal may dine sumptuously on the resurrected and exalted Jesus himself.

Where do we get this idea? That preparation precedes all great things? From Jesus himself.

Keep forever in the front of your mind that the LORD instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood some 18 hours before he breathed his last, and 3 days before the Resurrection which is the content of the Blessed Sacrament: Jesus crucified and risen again.

What are we to make of this sequence?

That the distribution of Salvation is every bit as essential to holy Christian faith and life as the “medicine of immortality” itself. For what good is medicine that cannot reach the ill; who are sick unto death from sneering lips that proceed from a bitter heart?

But hear this O Man! “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” And so prepare for your liberation. Prepare to rest. Prepare to be at peace, and to breathe free again unto the ages of ages. Amen.