New Life Prison Community
I am the pastor of a prison congregation called New Life Prison Community in Newton. An inmate-member named Jon approached me the other day. Jon wanted to talk with me about his favorite song: The Alabaster Jar. I asked him why he liked this song so much. What was it about the song that spoke to his heart? Jon told me to take a good look at the lyrics because they mean so much to him.
"This alabaster jar is all I have of worth
I break it at Your feet, Lord, it's less than You deserve
You're far more beautiful, more precious than the oil
The sum of my desires and the fullness of my joy
Like You spilled Your blood, I spill my heart
As an offering to my King
Here I am, take me as an offering
Here I am, giving every heartbeat for Your glory
Jon reflected that the song expressed his desire too. He wanted to spill his heart as an offering for His King, to give his whole life to his Lord Jesus Christ.
When I read the lyrics, I thought about the origin of this song in the Gospels. You can find the account in Luke 7:36-50. "She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." (Luke 7:37b-38) Immediately Jesus' host, a Pharisee, objected because the woman was "a sinner." Jesus replied directly to his objection by noting his lack of hospitality, his lack of love compared to the sinful woman:
"Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (Luke 7:44-47)
Although she never opened her mouth to speak, this woman's love-in-action has been preserved for centuries in the Holy Bible. Luke Timothy Johnson makes some careful observations about Luke's account: "In the sinful woman we recognize again a member of the outcast poor, rejected by the religious elite as an untouchable, but like the poor throughout this Gospel, showing by her acts of hospitality that she accepts Jesus. In contrast, the Pharisee invites Jesus to table, but violates all the rules of hospitality, and thereby shows that he does not accept Jesus." (The Gospel of Luke, 129)
Even though Jesus is not currently with us in the flesh, we still can minister for Christ and to Christ. As it is written in Matthew's Gospel, "The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matthew 25:40)
Hospitality is provided for Christ whenever we serve the least of these. Love is shown to Christ whenever we visit the sick, give shelter to the homeless, or feed the hungry. Compassion is given in Christ whenever we visit someone in prison or make space in our community for ex-offenders. God calls you to carry your alabaster jar to Jesus' feet where you can give him something more precious than the most expensive perfume: your life. Give Christ the King your life as an offering of loving service.
Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa. New Life has been growing disciples for Christ in prison since Feb. 8, 2011. Rick & his wife, Rose, live in Pella with their two children: John and Annaliese. Pastor Rick loves to ride his bicycle and just finished his second RAGBRAI.
Contact Rick at PastorRick@newlife-prison.org or find out more about New Life Prison Community at www.newlife-prison.org.