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…and it has nothing to do with basketball. But it is madness none the less. Perhaps you’ve already noticed.

In the Gospel reading appointed for Lent 4 (Luke 15:11-32), we encountered a strange character who dies again and again at the behest of his undeserving sons. His property, his honor, his place in family and community all end up being sacrificed for the sake of one who is profligate and another who is resentful…when all he really seems to want is for the family to love each other enough to come into the feast. Madness.

In the Gospel reading appointed for Lent 5 (John 12:1-8), a foolish woman anoints Jesus’ feet…pouring out not only a costly ointment, but her whole heart in fragrant adoration of the Lord who restored her brother to life. At least some in the crowd (and, if we are honest, some among us) are quick to point out that such extravagance is just crazy…that it could have (should have) been more reasonably deployed for the benefit of more folks than just Jesus. What she does is madness.

And in the Gospel reading suggested by the Narrative Lectionary for March 17 (Luke 19:1-10), we meet a wee little man perched in a sycamore tree (you know the song!) who is so overcome by Jesus’ grace that he promises to give away half his possessions to the poor, and to repay four-fold any whom he might have defrauded. This is an appropriate response to divine mercy? Sounds like madness to me.

How interesting. Here in the deeps of Lent…a season more often marked by solemn repentance and serious promises to do better…we find extravagant devotion. I’m beginning to wonder: While our sinfulness certainly deserves to be considered with appropriate gravity, perhaps the best response to divine and transformative compassion is not a long face, but the mad laughter and tearful joy of those who know that their lives have been restored…who know that they have been raised from sin and death to a new life as children in God’s family and heirs of God’s grace. In light of such mercy, how can we keep from singing and rejoicing and throwing grand parties and falling in reckless adoration before Jesus’ feet?

Madness? Perhaps that’s what the neighbors will think.

And may such madness be ours.


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