Friday, May 20, 2016

Poem - The Alabaster Disaster - Version 2

The Alabaster Disaster
Version 2
Elder O. Kris Widmer  -  MDiv, Poet Apprentice

Idea:  7 January 2010        In Process: Now & Then; Here & There          This Printing: 27 April 2016
The Backstory to Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-11

I recall hearing two sermons relating the story of the woman buying the perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet.

I seem to recall a message by Dr. H. Roger Bothwell.
I have just, as of 30 March 2016, confirmed from Ian Bothwell on Facebook
that indeed her husband is the original author of this story.

The second one was preached my friend, Dr. John McVay, at the Loma Linda University Church,
I was blessed to come across a DVD Recording of this message.
I’m assuming he was reproaching his own version of the Bothwell story.

I transcribed the opening story portion of Dr. McVay’s message
and I then I preached it at the Antioch Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The title of this poem is the same as the title of the McVay recording.
A poetic title indeed!

In this poem, I have kept most all of the specific details from the story of the McVay sermon,
taking additional liberties here and there to craft the story into meter and rhyme.

I dedicate this poem to the use of creativity and the arts in preaching.
and in gratitude to the preachers that have mentored me from near or far.
This list includes
Charles Sandefur, Roger Bothwell, Louis Venden, John McVay, Richard Duerksen, and others.

I am indebted to my friend Corinne (Corky) Hoyt Cook
for significant improvements and proof reading in May 2016, necessitating this second version.

“At great personal sacrifice she had purchased an alabaster box of “ointment of spikenard, very costly” with which to anoint His body. … as He (Jesus) went down into the darkness of His great trial (Gethsemane, the cross, the moment of death) He carried with Him the memory of that deed, an earnest (a pledge, down payment) of the love that would be His from His redeemed ones forever.”
   Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pg. 559, 560.

To God Be The Glory.

The Alabaster Disaster
Version 2
Elder O. Kris Widmer  -  MDiv, Poet Apprentice

Idea:  7 January 2010        In Process: Now & Then; Here & There          This Printing: 27 April 2016
The Backstory to Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-11

She slips out in the morning on an all-important task.
To trade her tawdry treasure for an all-important flask.
Now, in these pre-dawn moments, she furtively walks the street;
Glad there are no other people up at that hour to meet.

She has walked streets before, but not this part of town.
“A lady of the evening”, in an upper-thigh length gown.
Back then, she would be in bed all night, but never sleep a wink.
A gal like her was bound for hell, that’s what the townsfolk think.

Back then; she’d just be ending work at this pre-dawn hour.
But that was then and this was now.  She’d somehow found the power
To step out of the shadows, into the light, you see.
And it was all because of the Master – from Nazareth in Galilee.

Pause with me and take a look.  Catch a glimpse of her yearning face.
An attractive, beautiful woman; that time’s trauma can’t erase.
She stops to read the signage.  First one, and then another.
She’s the daughter of a couple - with a sister and a brother.

She knows right where she’s going; she’s bought goods there before.
Her brother’s birthday present, and her Dad’s… “Ah, here’s the door.”
She enters. On the counter is a brass, long-handled bell.
And all through out the building - a pungent, punchy smell.

She waits to see if Omar will come without the chime.
It appears he must be occupied; she rings the bell this time.
Then from out behind the curtain, steps the owner; short and round.
“I’m sorry. I not hear you come!  You didn’t make a sound.”

“Ah, it’s you!  Yes, pretty lady.  Welcome to my shop!
Is it your brother’s birthday or maybe, again, your Pop!
I know what is your favorite.  I’ll get it, just a sec.”
Said Omar - jolly, brown and bald; with swarthy, sweaty neck.

“You open up my shop, O.K?  Best sale of the day!
You get my workday started in a good financial way.
I make you special deal; an extra special price.
Because you repeat customer, I treat you very nice!”
He grasps below his counter for the cheap stuff – clay, stained plaid.
That’s what she bought the last time she was here to gift her Dad.
It is olive oil and lemon zest, with sage – a scent for men.
She’d bought it several times before. Now she was back again.

“I don’t want that.” She speaks at last. “That was a different me.
Is there something else that you might have that I would like to see?”
I know that’s not the finest scent you have inside your store!
Don’t you have a little something that costs a little more?”

By now, you realize this place; this fantastic, fragrant room -
Is an old-world, side street mercantile, which sells the world’s perfume!
 “Well, Ma’am, in fact I do. What a wonderful surprise.”
The hope of a larger sale puts a glint in Omar’s eyes.
He reaches below the counter, and grabs a box of wood.
“If you’re wanting something special, this is what you should

Consider. Locally made product – Roses from Jordan’s banks.
When your beloved shall wear it - they’ll offer you their thanks.”
He props the lid wide open “Ma’am, Please. Go on. Inhale.”
By the look upon her face…he thinks he made the sale.

“How much?” the lady asks him. “I tell you special price.
Because my in-laws are away…and the weather should be nice.
For you, because I like you…and my first sale of the day.
Five dollars – you should buy it. Please take it. On your way!”

She held his gaze a moment.  She questions “Roses, ‘twas?”
She has a bit more money, but she’ll not tell him she does.
“I want to buy the finest scent you have inside your store!
Don’t you have a little something that costs a little more?”
Omar looks her over.  He hadn’t planned for this.
He stashes back the wooden box “I must have been remiss.
I have a simple metal box.  It’s understated grace.”
He plucks it from it’s hiding spot, and guides it towards her face.

“Ma’am, an infusion of the Iris that blooms just once all year.
It’s imported from Damascus. They cannot make it here.
It is not an imitation. No, this is the real McCoy!
He opens up the cover. “It’s a wondrous scent. Enjoy!”

She pulls her hands towards her, to get a stronger whiff.
It was as if a spring bouquet was there for her nose to sniff.
Her eyes are closed. Her lips? A smile! - so Omar thinks “Oh wow!
She’s going to want it. I can tell. She’ll close the deal now!”

“How much?” The lady asks him. “We’ll Ma’am. You understand
It is from far Damascus; thus a long, slow caravan
Must bring it here! But, as I really like you and I’m little bit behind…
A hundred dollars. Take it now, before I change my mind!

She hesitates, just slightly.  He knows, by how she stood,
She’ll resort to his first offer - the rose filled box of wood.
They always did, and she would too – at least a sale’s a sale.
He’d seen it happen many times, almost without fail.

She takes a breath. “Ah, here it comes. ‘I’ll take the rose.’ she’ll say.”
“Excuse me, please, Good Omar.  This box is kind of grey.
“I want to buy the finest scent you have inside your store!
Don’t you have a little something that costs a little more?”
Suddenly, Omar is worried.  She looks not like a thief.
She arrived quite early, and alone - and that was a relief!
She appears, to him, so ordinary, not the type with money.
He has to squelch a giggle, for now it strikes him funny.

 “I do have other products; with tags of hand-made vellum.
I did not bring them out before, I hardly ever sell ‘em.”
Now he lifts a silver box, with a functional mechanical clasp.
With a knob upon the lid  - in the shape of a little asp.

“Ma’am, you asked for ‘more expensive’, and this one fits that bill.
You can see that it’s Egyptian.   But, it includes one free refill!
So, for the discerning buyer, it is really quite a steal.
And…it comes with a custom carry bag – in ivory, slate or teal.”

 “The formula is ancient. The ingredients are classified.
Its body-balm of cardamom, with balsam – purified.
It’s a gift of rare extravagance that few here can afford
It’s a gift for a lovely lady, who is wedded to a lord.

His nod gives her permission to release the clap, and flip
The lid back for a moment. It is not a step to skip.
The scent is truly wonderful.  Like nothing she’s ever smelt.
While Omar fidgets nervously with the fabric of his belt.

Her reverie is ended. Again they’re eye to eye.
Privately she ponders just what she’ll eventually buy.
“How much?” The lady asks once more. Omar smoothes his collar.
“For you today, my special price, is only one thousand dollar.

Her slender lady fingers reach within a garment fold.
Omar hears coins clanking!  A sound that n’er grows old!
He sees her doing mental math. “I’ve more than that, you hear!”
And that is also music to a perfume peddler’s ear!

“I want to buy the finest scent you have inside your store!
Don’t you have a little something that costs a little more?”
Then, his wide eyes widen further.  He glances at the door.
For what he’s about to show her, he’s never shown before.

“Ma’am, I heard your coinage clinking.  I trust what you have said.”
His olive skin is different now, flushed to an olive-red.
In all his years in business, he’s never experienced this.
But he just needs to be certain that nothing is amiss.
So, his “crime prevention system” must be promptly activated.
What began as a “simple sale” has somehow escalated!
He bustles from his counter; to the window, checking the street.
He double locks the door. Now!  His security is complete.

His palms are moist - and clammy; his saliva in short supply.
He croaks in conversation.  His mouth is suddenly (croak) dry.
“Ma’am, I (cough) have another treasure. (croak) Give me a moment, please.”
He goes in the back to fetch it on trembling, nervous knees.

What he brings is wrapped in linen; woven tight, with the finest thread.
A golden vase and stopper, with a ribbon of brightest red.
Pure symmetry and loveliness - it shines in the morning light.
He removes the stopper this time, for he knows the seal is tight.

“Ma’am. (croaking whisper)  This has been imported from the capital in Rome.
It was made near the Tiber River.  It’s just never found a home
Yet.  (cough) It is saffron merged with cinnamon, with a dash of vanilla bean.
It’s intended for a King to give to his beloved Queen.”

He does not let her touch it, for her hands would leave a mark.
Her eyes seem now to smolder with a fire, though very dark.
“How much?” her familiar question. “How much?” she asks again.
 (croak)  “Two thousand and five hundred.  You’re going to take it then?”

He waits to hear her happy “Yes!” but this is not the case.
Her lip begins to quiver, as she gazes in his face.
Her hands clap tight together and she holds them to her breast.
“I have to know, Sir.  I have to know.  Is this one here your BEST?!”

“It can’t be ‘good’ or ‘better’.  It can’t be just ‘great’ perfume.
I want it to make a statement when the aroma fills the room.
I’ve asked you several times, now Sir…I’ll repeat it as before.
I want to buy the finest scent you have inside your store!
Could you possibly have one item yet that costs a little more?”

His diastolic numbers rise.  His pulse? In the unsafe zone!
Omar asks her once again. “Are you sure you came alone?”
“And you actually have the funding to procure the very best?”
He couldn’t tell by looking.  She was not finely dressed.
He stares upon her earnest face. He ponders her financer.
He broods “She sure can bargain.  I doubt she’ll like my answer.”
His brow is moist with icy sweat.  His heart in palpitation.
She has finally worn him down.  He’ll make no protestation.

“Madam, In fact I do.  I have one more scent-filled treasure.
It was purchased as an investment.  It’s value is beyond all measure.
My ancestors and I have saved for years for this artifact.
There is no item in all the world that can equal its impact.”

With that he disappeared again.  He was gone for quite a while.
She heard some noise occasionally – digging, and then a dial.
Then, he returns while carrying - on a pillow of milk-white weave –
An item in crushed, red velvet. (Omar felt like he might heave.)

He swallows hard, then stammers, as he peels the corners down
“Th-This is a-an al-alabaster jar.  The o-only one I ever f-found.”
It gleams like a starry galaxy in the darkest midnight sky.
He pauses to let that all sink in.  She does not bat an eye.

He resumes, in words of reverence  “Fr-from India it came.
It is M-Myrrh with a hint of Marjoram.  It p-puts other scents to shame.
It’s a g-gift fit for an emperor to p-p-present to his em-empress.
And I only sh-sh-show it now to you under g-great d-duress!”

“A-and s-see.  No one can s-sample it.  Th-this adds to its worth.
I’m sure there not another like it a-anywhere on earth.
This f-flask - it has no opening – no st-stopper, lid or spout.
Once this jar is broken…ALL it’s contents will flow out.

And that adds to its value too!  Behold, the opulence!
The pad, the wrap, the jar – Ma’am, it’s truly o’er the fence!
It can’t be used time and time again. All others are but stunts!
This is for those who would give their ALL.  You can use it only once!

Teardrops filled her eyes this time.  But, her lips curve in a grin.
For she knows her beloved Master has forgiven ALL her sin.
Now, she desires something to show her gratitude.
Yes…this was what she was looking for – that was certitude.

In her mind, she’s already bought it - a bargain at any price.
But still, she had to ask him.  To know would be very nice.
Her heart is now also beating at a rate it has never pulsed.
She’d gone in search of treasure.  She was thrilled with the results.

“How much is this container?  Tell me, Sir, the cost!”
Omar tried to wet his lips.  But his saliva now was lost.
In a voice that is just a whisper.  He stutters the amount.
“Ten Thousand Dollars, Madam. I cannot give discount!” 

Then, he watches in stone-cold silence as she reaches in that fold.
(And thus is born a story whose telling grows not old.)
She brings forth the clinking money, with just a bit of flair.
They pile up on the counter.  “I’ll take it.  It’s all there.”

Golden coins glow in stacks of ten, with the imprimatur of Caesar.
He simply had to bring this out.  It was the only way to please her.
The transaction now completed. He nods.  She wraps the jar.
She tucks it all safe in her robe.  He thanks his lucky star!
She leaves the shop.  The sun is up.  None guess the gift she carries.
A treasure in an earthen vessel! A vendor yells “Got berries?!”
But she goes home. She bides her time.  She plans and plots and schemes.
The moment that she’s planning for fills her thoughts and dreams.

Then, she hears – oh joy! – her Master will be reclining and dining near.
She discovers - to her wonderment - His love cast out her fear.
She fixes up her hair and she buys a special dress.
It’s at the home of Simon.  Yes, she does know his address.[1]

The evening comes. She makes her way to the Master’s beautiful feet.
SMASH!  That jar, now shattered! Get a whiff of the myrrh soaked sheet!
Her tears drip down upon His toes.  His ankles get kisses discrete.
At last…she has given Him her ALL - her gratitude, at last, complete.

[1] A nod to Ellen White’s comment in Desire of Ages, page  566.6  “Simon had led into sin the woman he now despised.  She had been deeply wronged by him.”

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