Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Feast of Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdelene… 

         Did you ever notice there are so many Mary’s in the bible—in the same way there are so many Kathy’s here at St. Stephen? 

         Just as our Kathys likely can trace the origins of their names back to the famed Greek Martyr Kathrine of Alexandria and Kathrine the Great of Russia

…so too these Biblical Marys are named after Moses’ sister, Miriam. (name changed in the greek)

         Eventually Miriam is best known for singing about her people’s triumph over the Egyptians, singing about freedom once her people had arrived on the other side of the Jordon River… but before that

         Miriam was, born during a transition of power in Egypt

—when the old Pharaoh, who had an agreement with her people passed away

—and a new Pharaoh, who saw them as objects instead of subjects
—means instead of ends
—born into a world souring and curdling and coming apart
—she was born free and became a slave.

         And apparently slavery wasn’t debasing enough—Pharaoh and his people saw Miriam and her family as undesirables, as a different species even
—they worried that they would reproduce faster than native born Egyptians, so they had Hebrew babies killed.

         Eventually they came for Miriam’s little brother, so they sent him down the river, he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, Miriam finagled a way to be close to him, and keep an eye on him, and keep his identity hidden.

         (Think about it, the courts have required that the 102 immigrant children under the age of 5 we’ve detained and separated from their families be returned to their families by the 10thof this month. The administration replied they would return 59 of them, and only 4 were returned on time, and as of today only 16 have been returned at all… the deadline is way passed and no one cares and no one is doing anything about it…

         I imagine a modern day Miriam would get a job at one of those Tender Age Facilities and watch her little baby brother to make sure he didn’t get lost in the system.)

         So, Miriam, by hook and crook, ensures her brother survives… and in so doing she is ensuring that the song of freedom she sings on the other side will happen….

         Think of who she is at this time, 
-She is the only person who knows Moses is alive, 
-the only one who can still hold out hope, in such a hopeless time.

—within her heart she holds the hope of her people, 

she herselfis the whole liberated people of God

—in that hope she has already made it to the promised land… 
to sing on the other side with tambourine and all.

Who wouldn’t name their little girls after such a heroine!

         And so was named Mary Magdalene—Mary of Magdala, a town identified as being two towns away from Jesus’ home base, Capernaum… 

         Now, when I was over in Israel we passed by Magdala, it was hardly a town, there was a gas station there, and that was it. Our tour guide suggested to us that Magdala had always been that way,

a backwater on the sea of Galilee. 

But when you read Josephus you know it was a prosperous port town
—when archeologists dug up Capernaumthey found huts, when they dug up Magdalathey found a Jewish Synagogue and a Greek horse track 
… and according to historical records there was a rebellion against the Romans there in the 50’s.

All that to get a sense of where Mary came from
—a place where Pagan and Jewish culture stood by each other and where there were people zealous enough to rebel against Roman rule.

         I could certainly imagine a woman of that background in the company of Jesus’ crew

-she’d get Judas and Simon the Zealot and their anti-Roman attitudes,

-she’d understand the awkward position Levi, sometimes called Matthew, who was a tax collector for Rome found himself in caught between empire and neighbor, just tryin’ to do his job,

-the various fisher men were all just two harbors away from her…

         Mary was oppressed by 7 demons, and was healed by Jesus
—so she knew what it meant for Jesus to heal you, to remove those things that oppress you so that you might be whole.

         Out of gratitude she responded by following after Jesus and using her money to support the ministry of Jesus, bankrolling his
healing of the sick, 
preaching good news to the poor, 
being the Kingdom of God in the midst of people desperately in need of such a Gospel! 
That was done on her dime.

         Then, when he was arrested, when he was taken up to Golgotha and tortured and executed on a cross—everyone fled…
except Mary and a few other women like her. They looked on, and saw their savior, our savior, die.

         In the same way, they followed after the body, and found where he was buried.

         Then, when it was proper to do so, they didwhat needed to be done, they went to prepare the body.

         And that was when she witnessed the most amazing thing in human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

         She is the first witness to the resurrection

—she seesthat he is raised, but more than that, she tellsother people

—for that she becomes known as the Apostle to the Apostles, she’s sent outto tell them the good news! 

He is risen!

         (Now, at Learning, Lawn Chairs and Lemonade we’ve been looking at the question “What is Church” in a variety of ways, and this last week we looked at some ideas from a book What Christianity is Not
—it concluded that Christianity is “When Jesus is proclaimed and experienced as Crucified, yet Lord and Prophet”that is Christianity)… and by that definition Mary is the first Christian, she’s experiencing and preaching that Gospel!

         That moment when she hears Jesus 
say “Miriam” 
say “Mary” 
-she is the totality of Christianity. 

         That moment when she tells people 
“I have seen the Lord” she is Christianity

—the Gospel spreading

—the first preacher of the faith!

         For those first few minutes she, like Miriam before her, is the whole liberated people of God

-that hope is hers, 

-the resurrection hers

… and thank God, ours as well, 

that message passed on, 

we too can experience Jesus as Crucified, yet Lord and Prophet, 

we too may preach that truth to others, 

ponder it in our hearts and hold onto that hope at all times!

He calls us by name!

Like her, we too may say “I have seen the Lord.”