18 April 2014
The grit in the oyster: Easter message from the Methodist President
In her Easter message, the President of the Methodist Conference has spoken of Mary Magdalene and the many misunderstandings about her story. Imagining what Mary Magdalene would say to us if she were alive today, the Revd Ruth Gee tells the story of Jesus's crucifixion: "I have a name and a story, precious to me - and to him. But for many that is not enough, or unvarnished it is too much...I was with him - with him right to the end - the bitter end."
At the end of her message, the Revd Ruth Gee challenges us
to hear the good news of resurrection afresh this Easter. "Perhaps
(Mary Magdalene) would challenge us to live as those who know that
God's love extends to all people," Ruth says. "Perhaps she would
ask us to listen the voices of those who struggle to be heard
because others regard them as unworthy."
The full message follows:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…(John 20:1)
Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the empty tomb, the first to be commissioned by the risen Christ. What can we, today's disciples, learn from Mary Magdalene? What would she say to us? Perhaps it would be something like this…
The grit in the oyster - that's me.
I have a name and a story, precious to me - and to him. But for many that is not enough, or unvarnished it is too much.
So I, Mary of Magdala - Mary Magdalene - have become many things.
I have a name and I was with Jesus. He healed me, he restored me. Some talk of 7 demons - a good, complete, holy imperfect number. I was troubled - a great load was lifted from me and I followed him.
They have assumed many things about my demons and, wanting more than my name, more than my discipleship they have woven stories around me, wrapped me in their own ideas and fears and prejudice.
I became prostitute - a more comfortable image for them - dressed in scarlet, a modern-day Eve (she too was laden with assumptions and fears). The fallen woman - well, I was fallen like you but do not try to name my sins for your comfort.
To some I became weeper and foot-washer, disturber of the feast.
I would have washed his feet I would have let down my hair for his comfort but that was the service of another - I would not deprive her of it, that unnamed other Mary - she has her part too.
I became extravagant anointer of feet or head - reprimanded and remembered, surrounded by the sweet smell of abundant love. That was not my part - not then. Though I am myrrh-bearer my jar was unbroken.
Remove the layers, woven from the imagination and supposition of others, and what is left?
You are left with me, with Mary of Magdala
I was healed.
I was with him - with him right to the end - the bitter end.
I waited through the long hours leading to the cross.
I stayed at his feet as he died.
I followed him to the tomb and saw him laid there.
I prepared spices and ointments - finding my comfort in the certainty of the ritual. Anticipating the final service, the anointing.
I went to the tomb where certainty was stripped from me and the first glimmers of truth were revealed in the dawn.
I was commissioned.
I was not believed.
The simple truth: I was healed, accepted, with him to the end, myrrh-bearer, commissioned, apostle to the apostles.
But the plain truth is too much for some - the grit in the oyster.
Healed, accepted, commissioned.
That is the truth.
That is immeasurable - that is precious.
I will fight for it.
Perhaps this is what Mary would say. Perhaps she would challenge us to hear the good news of resurrection afresh this Easter. Perhaps she would challenge us to really live as those who know that God's love extends to all people. Perhaps she would ask us to listen the voices of those who struggle to be heard because others regard them as unworthy.
Perhaps, Mary Magdalene would say these things. But most of all, most importantly and most urgently, I believe she would say, "Christ is risen!" She was healed, accepted and commissioned to share the good news - so am I - so are you.
Come share our Easter joy
That death could not imprison,
Nor any power destroy,
Our Christ, who is arisen!
(Fred Pratt Green)