The grit in the oyster: Easter message from the Methodist President

In her Easter message, the President of the MethodistConference has spoken of Mary Magdalene and the manymisunderstandings about her story. Imagining what Mary Magdalenewould say to us if she were alive today, the Revd Ruth Gee tellsthe 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, orunvarnished it is too much...I was with him - with himright to the end - the bitter end."

At the end of her message, the Revd Ruth Gee challenges usto hear the good news of resurrection afresh this Easter. "Perhaps(Mary Magdalene) would challenge us to live as those who know thatGod's love extends to all people," Ruth says. "Perhaps she wouldask us to listen the voices of those who struggle to be heardbecause others regard them as unworthy." 

The full message follows: 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, MaryMagdalene 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 tous? 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. Butfor many that is not enough, or unvarnished it is toomuch.

So I, Mary of Magdala - Mary Magdalene - have become manythings.

I have a name and I was with Jesus. He healed me, herestored me. Some talk of 7 demons - a good, complete, holyimperfect number. I was troubled - a great load was lifted from meand I followed him.

They have assumed many things about my demons and, wantingmore than my name, more than my discipleship they have wovenstories around me, wrapped me in their own ideas and fears andprejudice.

I became prostitute - a more comfortable image for them -dressed in scarlet, a modern-day Eve (she too was laden withassumptions and fears). The fallen woman - well, I was fallen likeyou but do not try to name my sins for your comfort.

To some I became weeper and foot-washer, disturber of thefeast.

I would have washed his feet I would have let down my hairfor his comfort but that was the service of another - I would notdeprive her of it, that unnamed other Mary - she has her parttoo.

I became extravagant anointer of feet or head - reprimandedand remembered, surrounded by the sweet smell of abundant love.That was not my part - not then. Though I am myrrh-bearer my jarwas unbroken.

Remove the layers, woven from the imagination andsupposition 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 bitterend.

I waited through the long hours leading to thecross.

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 thecertainty of the ritual. Anticipating the final service, theanointing.

I went to the tomb where certainty was stripped from me andthe 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 theend, myrrh-bearer, commissioned, apostle to the apostles.

But the plain truth is too much for some - the grit in theoyster.

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 wouldchallenge us to hear the good news of resurrection afresh thisEaster. Perhaps she would challenge us to really live as those whoknow that God's love extends to all people. Perhaps she would askus to listen the voices of those who struggle to be heard becauseothers regard them as unworthy.

Perhaps, Mary Magdalene would say these things. But mostof all, most importantly and most urgently, I believe she wouldsay, "Christ is risen!" She was healed, accepted and commissionedto share the good news - so am I - so are you.

Will you accept the commission? 

Come share our Easter joy
That death could not imprison,
Nor any power destroy,
Our Christ, who is arisen!
(Fred Pratt Green)