Romans 16:1-16 & Mark 14:1-9


In “The Five Love Languages” Gary Chapman talks about five different ways in which we give and receive love. Words, Touch, Time, Gifts, and Acts of service. For some of us words are most important in the expression of love, especially words of affirmation, encouragement, and building up. For others it is touch – holding hands, hugs, a hand on the shoulder that most deeply express love. For still others it is spending good lengths of time with the person they love.

For yet others the giving and receiving of gifts, not necessarily of great financial value, but those given with significance and thought, that show love. For others it is the things that someone does in service – the washing up, the ironing, the fetching and carrying, that express love.

Of course the categories aren’t cut and dried, and we’re all a bit of a mix of them, but it can be a helpful way of enabling people to think about the way in which they express and receive love. It can be particularly fruitful for couples who love each other, but express and receive it in different ways.

If one’s love language is time and the other’s is gifts then it’s a recipe for disaster. One doesn’t understand why the other one, who says they love them, doesn’t want to spend all their time together, and the other doesn’t understand why all the gifts they are giving aren’t appreciated. It’s like one is saying “I love you” in Russian but the other only knows Hindi. In order for their love to be truly communicated they need to learn each other’s love languages, and be willing to speak and hear in a language which is not their native tongue.

With all that in the back of your minds, I’d like to invite you to think about appreciation. What is your appreciation language? It’s likely to be the same as your love language, as showing appreciation is part of love. When you want to show appreciation do say something nice or give a gift? When someone says they appreciate something you’ve done, what makes it easiest for you to believe it – that the person spends time with you or that they give you a hug? Again, it’s probably a mix, but I wonder if you can work out what your preference is?

In our reading from Mark’s eyewitness account of the good news of Jesus, we heard a story of appreciation. The woman appreciated Jesus, and wanted to show that appreciation. She brought a gift, costly perfume, which she poured out on Jesus’ head in a profound act of service. She showed her appreciation of Jesus in her actions and with her gift. In John’s account of this episode, we read that she also anointed his feet, showing appreciation with touch as she wiped them with her hair.

Some of the others at the table were indignant, but Jesus isn’t, he’s moved, and stands up for the woman, appreciating her with his words, “She has done a beautiful thing …. wherever the gospel is preached, throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” And whilst we don’t read of it in this account, we know from John’s account of another meal at the same house that the woman, Mary, prioritised spending time with Jesus, listening to him, appreciating him.

So, in the breadth of Jesus and Mary’s relationship we see mutual love and appreciation expressed in words, touch, gifts, time, and acts of service.

We don’t often read out this list from the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. I chose for us to do so today because it seems to me that it models Paul’s appreciation. In this list of names we see some more things that are important in appreciation. It is wide ranging, it is specific, and it is public.

Firstly it is wide ranging – It includes men and women, Priscilla and Aquila, (with the fact that Priscilla’s name is first indicating that she was the more experienced minister), Jews (Andronicus and Junia, and Herodian) and Gentiles (Epenitus at least), rich people (Narcissus and Aristobulus are likely to have been prominent members of Roman society identified in other historical records of Rome at the time), slaves or ex-slaves (Ampliatus, Urbanus and Rufus are all common slave names). Every layer of society is represented, and Paul appreciates all of them.

So Paul is wide ranging in who he appreciates, and specific as to what he appreciates– these worked hard, these ones were in prison with me, this one is faithful under testing, this one was like a mother to me. You get the sense of a personal involvement, of a real knowledge of the people he’s appreciating, of shared experiences.

With this specific appreciation to this wide range of people, Paul goes public. He copies this email to the entire church. This letter is to be read out in their gathered meetings. As he mentions different churches that meet in different houses, it’s reasonable to suggest that either the letter was passed round to be read at their different meetings, or that, on occasion, everyone got together for worship and teaching, and on one (or more) of these occasions the letter was read out. It may even have been copied locally (no photocopiers but plenty of scribes in Rome) so that each congregation could have their own copy to read and study together.

As we’ve gone through this series, exploring different aspects of what it means to be a church that values celebrating, we started with the place of joyful worship, we went on to consider the importance of noticing what God is doing – so that we can celebrate it, we talked about being grateful to God, and then last week Nick helped us think about generosity.

His main focus was on the radical generosity of Jesus which went beyond giving things that he had, to the extent of giving his life, so that our relationship with God could be restored. Yes, we are to be generous with our things, our money, our time, but as Nick noted last week, many others do that as well. What is unique about the generosity in which we are called to follow Jesus, is that we are called to give away our wills, so that we can do God’s will, and we are called to give away our selves, as Jesus did. This radical generosity will be seen in all these areas of our lives, but it won’t stop there, it will go beyond it.

I appreciate that message that Nick brought for us last week. I appreciate Nick’s ministry among us and in Wellington. The difference he is making through the links he has in the community, through the Orbit project, and through the Wrekin Community fridge amongst others is significant.

I also appreciate the challenges he brings us, seeing things from a different perspective. The challenge he brought us last week about being more than our Sunday meetings, and the things he has struggled with about engaging with Sunday services, post Covid, I know resonated with people who were encouraged that he felt able to share those feelings from the front. I also know that some people were unsettled by what he shared.

He and I have been having some good conversations about it through the week, and I know that others have taken up his gracious invitation to talk about it with him as well. We are working together on discerning how, in light of this, Nick’s ministry in All Saints and Wellington might be shaped as it continues in future. We would be grateful for your prayers and generosity of spirit in giving us space to have those conversations well, so that we can all continue to flourish, and that the devil will have no foothold to get in and disrupt our relationships. Because, I deeply appreciate Nick’s ministry here, including the challenges he brings to us, and I want to see it continue and bear fruit.

There are many others who I appreciate here and at St Catherine’s. I know I’m not always good at showing that appreciation, and that when I do it is usually in the form of words of appreciation rather than the other four. I am continuing to learn the other languages, but I’m not a particularly quick study. When I was writing this, I did think about starting to read a list like Paul’s but I had two fears. On the one hand that the list would be too short and I’d miss people, or if I made the list long enough to include all the people I appreciate then we’d still be here tonight. So I decided not to. And, on further reflection, this is about a whole church way of being. It is part of moving beyond doing church towards really being the church, that we build a culture of appreciating, and expressing appreciation for each other in all we do. Not with self-satisfied back-slapping but with genuine encouragement and love.

So my invitation to us all is to consider the different ways in which we can express appreciation, with words, touch, gifts, time, and acts of service. Let’s see how wide ranging we can make our appreciation, beyond the people who are like us, beyond our usual circle. Let’s be specific when we show that appreciation, and let’s be vocal about it, as we notice what God is doing in and through each other, as we are thankful to God for those things, let’s be generous in our appreciation and joyful in the worship that goes with it, so that we can be a church that celebrates well together, and throws parties that draw people in and closer to Jesus.

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