This series on my proposed confession for the 21st Century is based on the historic use of the word confession. It is an admission of faith, not of guilt for a crime.
My confessed tenets are easily remembered by the initials of the Sheep Pen Confession. SPC stands for Service, Presence and Compassion, which were defined in previous messages.
These three essential elements of the confession derive from my interpretation of a story in which the righteous are said to have performed at least one of six actions to benefit others. These include feeding the hungry, providing water to those who thirst, giving hospitality to wanderers, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, and visiting those in prison.
Performing any one of these services provided the doer a metaphoric access to a great king’s sheep pen, the eternal abode of the blessed. But I think there’s more learn from this story as far as our actions are concerned; more in terms of what qualifies as Service, Presence and Compassionate activities.
My own choice for an action which exhibited these three traits involves an unidentified woman, who entered a private dinner and anointed the head of one of those present from a jar of expensive perfume. Her actions brought jeers of contempt from the onlookers, even though they benefited from the aroma of the ointment; which served as a pleasing indicator of her sacrifice.
The recipient was not hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick or in prison; the conditions mentioned above which prompt the actions of the righteous. But he was bereaved, knowing that his death was imminent.
He countered the critical taunts of the others with a simple compliment: “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” He went on to promise the woman that her actions would be proclaimed wherever the good news of his messianic program was preached. The irony of this statement is that the woman’s verbal tormentors would be the ones to tell and retell of her blessed intrusion upon their private gathering.
The woman’s name remains unknown to us. Her compassionate service delivery bore no promise of fame. It did prove to be exemplary, however, though its impact was expressed in a manner even the woman likely did not understand at the time or anticipate.
The one whose hair dripped with the sweet fragrance of the woman’s perfume defined her actions in a manner, which helps us to appreciate that our Service, Presence and Compassion can have an impact beyond the immediate.
He told those in attendance at the dinner, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” A resurrection followed.
In this same way, what we intend may never fully encompass the significance of what we do. Still the doing is required in order for the transcendent benefit to find fulfillment.