Dear Hyde Park Family,
Last weekend, my daughters and I enjoyed a quick three-day trip to New York City to celebrate Grace’s eighteenth birthday. We saw three amazing Broadway shows: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II,” and “Be More Chill.” If you want to get me talking the next time you see me, ask me what I thought of those shows. They were simply stunning.
That Saturday morning, the girls wanted to walk down Fifth Avenue, the famous high-end shopping district near Central Park. We walked by Cartier, Bergdorf Goodman, Luis Vuitton, mostly staying outside, gawking at the windows and the high-priced items.
Then we actually walked into Tiffany’s.
I felt like a fish out of water as soon as I walked into the world-renowned jewelry store. We entered through the revolving glass door and were greeted by a fancy dressed doorman. There were concierge attendants in the elevators, and a greeter at the entrance to every floor (“Welcome to the second floor: wedding and engagement rings.”) There was a large portrait of Audrey Hepburn from her iconic role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Most everything cost at least five digits.
I told the girls, “Don’t even think about getting your souvenir here.”
As we were walking out, one piece caught my eye. It was a Tiffany Soleste Yellow Diamond pendant, a 1.29 carat, intense oval yellow diamond, surrounded by a perimeter of brilliant white diamonds. It was on a pendant of platinum and 18K gold, set on a 16-inch chain. From every angle I looked at it, it sparkled with dozens of twinkling lights, a miniaturized nebula of stars, a compact and constant display of fireworks.
I asked the woman behind the counter. “How much is that?”
“Twenty-four thousand dollars,” she said, glancing quickly at my cheap windbreaker and baseball cap. Before I had a chance to say, “Really? That’s amazing,” she turned around to help another guest. I guess she had somehow assumed that I wasn’t about to pull out my checkbook.
I walked out wondering what it would be like to have the kind of money that would make a purchase like that possible. I wondered about the wisdom of owning such a piece of jewelry, when money like that could be otherwise used in such beneficial ways. As I was turning these thoughts over in my mind, I stumbled into the revolving door on the way out, bumping my head into the glass and freaking out the woman in front of me.
I really didn’t belong there.
Later in our hotel, I began preparing for my sermon this Sunday, a story from John 12:1-8, in which Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with a very expensive perfume. John tells us that the value of that perfume was 300 denarii, the equivalent of 300 days’ wages. In today’s terms, the cost of that perfume was $25,380. Roughly the cost of that Tiffany Yellow Diamond Pendant.
At that point, I imagined Mary, taking the very same high-end piece of jewelry that I had just seen at Tiffany’s, breaking the necklace and the pendant into smaller pieces, and pouring it over Jesus’ head and feet, as the bits of that necklace fell buried into the dirt.
And then I totally understood why Judas said what he did: “Why was this perfume not sold for [$25,380] and the money given to the poor?”
I’ve been thinking about Judas’ question ever since, and this Sunday I want to share with you some of my thoughts on this text. We’ll think through why Mary’s sacrifice was so extravagant, and why Jesus’ praise for her and his rebuke of Judas actually makes sense. Above all, we’ll take another step toward “Getting Unstuck” from our old ways of thinking and behaving, to be free to live the life God wants us to live.
Join us this Sunday, with or without perfume and jewelry!
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist