An Heirloom of Our Faith

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. – Matthew 26:6-7 (NRSV)

When my Cousin Norma died, she left me some old-fashioned furniture, a locket, and a vase. My mother collected the small items, but before the furniture could be distributed, Norma’s sister-in-law challenged the will. Very pregnant, I was excused from traveling to the hearing. My mother stood in for me and gave in on the furniture. When she came to help with the new baby, she arrived clasping the vase, her trophy from the struggle.

“She fought you over that?” The old-fashioned, vaguely metallic object she presented underwhelmed me.

“It’s lusterware!” Mother proclaimed, as if that explained everything I needed to know. In her soft Virginian accent, it sounded more like “lustah-weh-yah.” She placed it gingerly in my hands and told me how to polish it to a shine with a soft cloth.

The alabaster jar used to anoint Jesus would have been a treasured heirloom, too, handed down with great care. To open it meant to break it; the perfumed ointment inside was intended for only one use, anointing a beloved body before burial. To enter the room was a risk; to anoint this man a scandal.

This woman is part of our collective family story, passed down from generation to generation. Imagine her giving the alabaster jar one last polish before she takes a deep breath, moves toward Jesus, and breaks things open.

Holy One, we thank you for stories that have a luster, the heirlooms of our faith, handed down from the ancestors to make us brave. Amen.

Martha Spong About the Author
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, new from The Pilgrim Press.