From Lutheran preacher and my Patheos blog neighbor Nadia Bolz-Weber. This is one of those times when I sat there and said to myself, in awe and wonder and envy, “Man, I wish I’d written that.”
I had gone to New Orleans with an idea for a sermon on Mary Magdalen – a sermon about who gets to speak in the Bible and who gets to be named and blah blah blah.
And just as I was about to ditch it all and go with the regularly assigned reading for today I went back and again read this story of Mary Magdalen at the tomb and realized, given the violence and terror thrust upon our community this week, that maybe Mary had more to say about it than I could. I decided again to borrow strength and voice from her. So were I a pastor who titled her sermons this one would be WWMMP – What Would Mary Magdalen Preach?
I think Mary would not shy away from naming the darkness and despair of an event like Friday’s massacre. She was familiar with darkness after all– Luke tells us that it is from Mary Magdalen that Jesus cast out 7 demons. Then having been freed from her demons she followed Jesus and as the text tells us, even supported the ministry from her own pocketbook. And at the end it was Mary Magdalen who did not deny Jesus nor betray Jesus nor high tale it out when things got rough but she with just a couple other faithful women stood at the cross. And after Jesus died, it was Mary who came to his tomb, as we are told, while it was still dark.
My Bishop Allan Bjornberg once said that the Greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty although these are all beautiful in their own way. The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up.
And in some ways Mary Magdalen is like, the patron saint of just showing up.
Because showing up means being present to what is real, what is actually happening. She didn’t necessarily know what to say or what to do or even what to think….but none of that is nearly as important as the fact that she just showed up. She showed up at the cross where her teacher Jesus became a victim of our violence and terror. She looked on as the man who had set her free from her own darkness bore the evil and violence of the whole world upon himself and yet still she showed up.
I think St Mary Magdalen, were she your preacher, would be braver that I. She would not shy away from the dark reality of innocent people slaughtered while it was still night. She would show up and name the events of 2 days ago exactly what they were: horrific, evil, senseless violence without a shred of anything redemptive about it.
And I think that were Mary Magdalen here she would have very little tolerance for the platitudes and vapid optimism of so much overly-churched Christianity. Those are simply luxuries of people who’ve never had demons. But equally would she abohor nihilism or the idea that there is no real meaning in life – ideas present in so much of post-modernity…that too, is a luxury but it is one of those who have never been freed from demons.
I think she would show up and tell us that despite it all despite the violence and fear that it’s still always worth it to love God and to love people and always, always it is worth it to sing alleluia. For surely the devil hates the sound of it.
It gets better. Read it to the end. This is a preacher with gifts and grace, and she knows how to use both. Some Easter, I’ll have to steal this!