Friday, March 28, 2008

Three Things Mary Magdalene Did

“Mary,” Jesus says to her. And in one word he tells her all she needs to know: Despite the worst that the emperor’s violence could do to him, the power of God at work in Jesus Christ is proving itself strong and true, God is still casting down the mighty from their thrones and raising up the lowly. And Mary is still entirely known and perfectly loved by the very same Jesus to whom she has entrusted her life, her future, and her past.

Whatever we think we know about Mary Magdalene, we think she had a past, the kind that people these days explain into microphones. If Mary previously had looked for love in the wrong places, what passed between Jesus and herself gave her the experience of being entirely known and perfectly loved. With him, she had no explaining to do. The dignity he saw in her caused her to understand herself.

In this Easter morning that we spend together, I hope that you will have some moment in which you hear Jesus call you by name. And that you will recognize in his voice the One who knows you entirely and perfectly loves you.

“What are you looking for?” he may ask, inviting you to do your part, opening yourself, naming as much as you know of your own truth so that he may name to you the fullness of his truth, show you your place at his table, cause you to feel the dignity of bearing God’s image, and call you to the mission for which you’re matched precisely by your past and your gifts, and more precisely yet by the grace he gives you.

Will he say to you what he said to Mary? “Do not hold on to me…” He may, if you’ve outgrown a Jesus who hasn’t kept growing, as you have, one that you’re clinging to because he’s familiar, though you’re not altogether sure he knows your name or has much to say. Jesus, the one who promises you the truth that shall set you free, may say, “Trade in that bobble-head model of me and clear the way for a relationship…”

And will he urge you to “Go to my brothers and sisters,” as he did Mary?

Could that mean, “Stop trying to navigate life all on your own. Find the circle of people, build the friendships, invest in the community that feeds your spirit with truth, that has vision and mission worthy of your time and passion”?

The world in which we live needs the a building-up of human brotherhood and sisterhood. Our one world, torn apart by opposing empires committed to forces of terrorist violence and to forces of counter-terrorist violence, will be in agony until the peaceable power of God is built among us. We who believe that this reconciling and respectful power is to be found in Jesus Christ have vision and mission that deserve our time and passion.

Mary Magdalene shows us how to respond. Though Jesus has gone so far away, Mary will not leave him. To embrace the whole world, Jesus has died the death of a criminal. This has shocked and distanced most his disciples, that such a death should come to such a man, but Mary will not let what she doesn’t understand separate her from him. Jesus has gone far from the circle of his friends—but she was once far from that circle, too, and his was the love that drew her in and knew her as a whole person.

As he would not lose her from that circle, so she now will not lose him. She must learn what has become of him, she must find him. Notice that she does not recognize him when he appears near her. Her Jesus is growing. The circle he is drawing now will take him into all the world, and he needs her to find her place among the apostles who will take his Word into the world, who will be his hands and feet, his voice and his compassion to make the peoples of the world one in God, free in God.

The first thing she did was to seek Jesus. Had she not done that, she’d have had no evidence that he could still call her by name. The second thing she did was to let him grow, from the teacher whose voice and touch she knew, into the light of the world whose voice and touch she would carry to the world.

This Easter Day, I hope that in our time together you will find evidence that Jesus knows your name. I hope that you will feel encouraged to keep seeking him and to recognize how he is with you. That you will catch glimpses of how your relationship with him might be growing, and leave here with a fresh, even surprising, sense of how your gifts and passions fit his mission in this one world that so needs his peaceable power.