A story of a woman of lavish love, many tears, abandon in worship and a world-changing experience. This sermon was preached at a mid-week service in the backyard of the rectory in Fort St John on June 22, 2020, though I feel this will be one of those sermons I am rewriting and rewriting my whole life through.
Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, a day of celebration and thanksgiving in the church for someone who was a profound gift to the global Christian community. So who was Mary Magdalene and what did God do with the life she offered him.
One of the most well known stories about Mary is the story of how she worshipped at Jesus’s feet, pouring out expensive perfume, breaking a valuable jar, annointing him for his death that was to come. Judas protested, saying that if it had been sold it could have fed a family for a whole year but Jesus rebuked him, saying the poor will always be with you to help. Worshipping Jesus is worth costly sacrifice, is something worth doing, and Mary shows us what that lavish love of Jesus looked like, weeping at his feet and proclaiming him the Messiah.
Others criticized her worship of Jesus as untasteful. She was a sinner after all. There was a time when Mary was beyond hope, beyond beyond beyond beyond BEYOND hope. She had had seven demons in her. But this was only a footnote in her story, in light of the gospel it did not define her, Jesus cast these demons out and claimed her for a saint. When others laughed at him for associating with a sinner like her he told them that she was to be an example to them of one who knows the joy of worshipping him, whose pride does not get in the way.
Mary was among those who financially supported Jesus’s ministry, and Jesus and his disciples were in her home. He taught there and Mary listened eagerly at his feet and listened. Her sister asked Jesus to make her come to the kitchen and help make food ready for him and his disciples but Jesus would not. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part, the part of one who hears God’s Word, and it would not now be taken away from her.
When her brother Lazarus died Martha went out to challenge Jesus, but Mary just wept, tears of not knowing, tears for her brother, tears for Jesus. When Jesus came she said honestly and vulnerably to him that if he had been there her brother would not have died. And she witnessed Jesus raise her brother from the grave.
That’s one of the main things I learn from Mary’s story, that sometimes silent tears are a good prayer. Sometimes we don’t know, we understand some things but not the whole picture, we can remind ourselves of what we know and cry in the face of tragedy accepting what we don’t know. Mary cries again in Jesus’s grave, going there to anoint his dead body with oil, she cries all the more seeing that his body is not there. She thinks she sees the gardener and demands he tell her where Jesus is, but then she sees that it is her teacher and her king risen from the grave.
Mary experiences first the resurrection of the Lord, she sees the conquest of the king, beholds the destruction of death, the freedom of sinners, the transformation of reality. She becomes a witness to this and proclaims it to the apostles, she becomes the first evangelist, and her testimony through the apostles and the power of the Holy Spirit becomes an important stone upon which God builds his church.
So on this feast of St. Mary may we ask to worship God lavishly offering him tears and treasures joyfully and freely, may we grow in our desire to sit at his feet and learn and may we behold the power of his resurrection and proclaim it boldly in our lives. Thanks be to God.