Strengthened by grace, helped by faith – Mary from Magdalene

Sermon: Mary Magdalene

John 20:1,2,11-18 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

MENTORS; DEAD OR ALIVE

I am sure that you and I would not be here without solid mentors of the faith – both alive and already with the Lord. We Christians have always remembered those who have gone before us in the faith so that we learn from them. We say….”Our churches teach that the remembrance of saints are to be commended to us so we may strengthen our faith and see how they experienced grace and how they were helped by faith. (Kolb, AC XXI:1, p58) On the other hand, Lutheran’s have never prayed to or invoked the help of the saints of the past. As Luther said when talking about the problem of his day in putting way too much stock in saints, “We have everything a thousand times better In Christ” (SA:25, Book of Concord, Kolb, 2000, p 305) Mary Magdalene is one of those people of the New Testament that is worth remembering. Many see her as a deranged woman suffering from being possessed by demons, while others view her as a fallen woman, even a prostitute. While the facts of Mary’s life are sketchy, one thing is perfectly clear: Mary Magdalene loved Jesus, and Jesus loved her. In fact, her story will forever remain entwined with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because she was the first person to see him resurrected that dark morning near the tomb. Mary is named “The Magdalene”. So she comes from Magdala, a thriving city on the coast of Galilee about 5 kms from Capernaum. We know nothing of Mary’s family, whether she was married, or her age. It seems from Scripture that Mary seems to be a woman with few family obligations, and so, a woman free to follow Jesus in his traveling ministry.

Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code aside, Mary’s story is large. It is one of a person being moved from demon-possessed person to devoted disciple. Mary had been possessed by seven demons. Seven is a big number. Mary was in a lot of darkness and trouble: spiritual, physical, psychological – maybe bouts of serious mental illness. Whatever darkness she was in, Jesus cast this out and freed Mary by his powerful Word (Luke 8:2). As a result, Mary became a committed and faithful follower of Jesus in his new community. She showed great love and devotion to him and her new community. Along with other women, Mary gave both personal and financial support to the ministry of Jesus, following him from place to place in his mission.

A leading woman in ministry Mary seems to have become a leader in the small Jesus’ community. She is mentioned fourteen times in the gospels, along with other woman, of which she is always named first. Mary is also mentioned alone five times, and in these she is always connected with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:9; John 20:1, 11, 16, 18). It is very clear that Mary responded to Jesus with her resources, her time, her gifts and skills. She was moved from lost, alienated, alone and unwell to faithful friend and co-worker in the good news of Jesus to her community. Her thankfulness for the new life and hope Jesus gives was not the thing that sustained her in faith. It was the resurrected Jesus who helped her keep responding in love, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “You are God’s children. He sent Christ Jesus to save us AND to make us wise, acceptable, and holy…” Faithful friend Mary Magdalene was a faithful friend. She was among the last at the cross to witness Jesus’ death and was the last to leave his tomb after night had fallen. She came back in the pre-dawn light that first Easter morning to honour Jesus by anointing his body with spices and perfumes. So, she was the first to visit the tomb on resurrection morning and the first to carry the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus honoured her As she honoured Jesus with her life, he honoured her with a new life and message to tell! Jesus commissioned Mary to be the first messenger of His resurrection. It was her job to “go to the others, I will ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God” (John 20:17). You and Mary? “There’s Something strange about Mary!

She is our story and we are hers. Jesus has reached into our very being and resurrected us and saved us from the hopelessness and alienation the Evil one manufactures. Our resurrection from this happened first in your baptism and every day since. We are thankful like Mary and we respond to the good news of Jesus like she does. We live in the new community where we give, we love, we praise, we act, we support, we pay, we work, we travel with him. And like Mary, it is not only her thankfulness that keeps us faithful and alive in the light of Jesus, it is him. He is the one who sustained her in her new life too. Us too. He both gives us that life and keeps us in that life, like he kept Mary. Friend, you can see in Mary’s life, how much Jesus Christ can do for a person. In Mary you can see not only learn what Christ can do for us, but what we can do for Him in grateful response with his sustaining power at hand in his powerful Word. In Mary, Jesus surely shows how women are to be regarded among God’s people: Valuable, respected partners in the work we all share of sharing the love and hope of Jesus with everyone. Mary Magdalene is a worthwhile mentor. She was Strengthen by grace: helped by faith. She was given much and loved much and was given a community with whom to love much, serve much and follow much. So are we. In the name of Christ Amen

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Spend some time reading through the following references to Mary Magdalene noting down your questions and the things that “grab” you about her story…

References to Mary of Magdala During Jesus’ MinistryLuke 8:1-3: Afterward [Jesus] journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.References to Mary of Magdala During the CrucifixionMark 15:40: There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. Matthew 27:56: Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. John 19:25: But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.References to Mary of Magdala After the CrucifixionMark 15:47: Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid. Matthew 27:61: And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. Matthew 28:1: Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. Mark 16:1: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. References to Mary of Magdala At the ResurrectionJohn 20:1: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. Mark 16:9: Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. John 20:18: Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. Luke 24: But at daybreak on the first day of the week [the women] took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.

Share your summary of who Mary was, who she became and the general picture you get f her….

How is your story like hers? How is it different? Spend some time sharing your thoughts on these two things….

We sad Mary shows us just how much Jesus can do for a person. Describe what Jesus di for Mary.

We also said in Mary, we see how much a person can do for Jesus and with his community. Describe what you see her doing with her community for Jesus’ mission.

If you tell a new person to St Petri what Mary helps us see about our congregation and mission, what would you say?

If you could tell a person who is disconnected from the church and from a living faith in Jesus about Mary Magdalene and what her story might mean, what kind of things would you say?

How do you see yourself in Mary’s story?

PRAY Thanking the Lord for all he’s done and asking him to sustain us all we doing in his community at St Petri in his mission…..

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