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Homily for Mary Magdalene

In the lectionary, we honour Mary Magdalene today and she is right up there in my list of favourite saints. Here is a little homily Ive penned for our morning service at Little paxton:

Sermon on Mary Magdalene for July 22nd Holy Communion at Little Paxton Church

There is something about Mary’s  story which make me feel that she and I  are “ on the same page”

Now I hope having heard this that you aren’t going to ask why is the Vicar so taken with someone who some say was  of ill repute?. Well, the truth is, she wasn’t a prostitute, although for many centuries in the church at large that is how she has been cast. Hymn writer Charles Wesley  in fact penned a hymn with the line “ Ye Magdalens of lust “   The great  Wesley was wrong – there is nothing in scripture to support this or anything like it.  Let me tell you a little about what we do know of Mary and then I will tell you why she is so special to me..

She came from Magdala.  Magdala was a prosperous city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee , halfway between Capernaum and Tiberias.  The city flourished, thanks to the fishing, fish-curing, and shipbuilding industries, not to mention trading.  The city was populated almost exclusively by Gentiles; almost, but not quite, for Mary was Jewish.  Jesus, we know, rarely ventured into Gentile territory.  Then how did he and Mary meet?  We don’t know for certain just how or where or when.  Most likely Mary, a prosperous businesswoman, met Jesus as she travelled about on business.  We know she was prosperous, since she was one of the well-to-do women, Luke tells us, who financed the band of disciples and supported our Lord himself.

We know from a passage in Luke that Mary had been healed by Jesus – he says that  seven demons  had been cast out of her. Seven is the biblical symbol for wholeness or completeness- so we might say she had suffered from a full complement of disease of some kind. It may have been spiritual, it might have been psychological – her illness may have led to acting inappropriately in some way – we simply do not know. But after Jesus had healed her, like so many people we read of who Jesus made whole, she determined to follow him. John tells us that she was among the women who had journeyed to Jerusalem with Jesus for the last time.

So here is my first reason for liking Mary. Her story reminds me that in whatever ways  we may fall short of how God wants us to be, God’s love in Christ is always there ready to forgive and cleanse us. But the new beginnings which God gives us are new every morning  and the story of Mary, whose life was dramatically turned around by Gods forgiving love in Christ is a reminder to me of the new start we can make moment by moment.

Secondly, I like Mary because she reminds me of how  fundamental women are in Gods plan of salvation and the work of His church. We know Mary was special to Jesus and his followers. Her faithfulness to him extended to her watching by the foot of the cross  when he died. She was the first disciple to discover the empty tomb on Easter morning. She was the first disciple to see the risen Lord Jesus – she was the first sent by Jesus to tell the men folk the good news of the resurrection. Because of this, in the early church she was called “ Apostle to the Apostles”. Given that the evidence of a woman in a court of law in Jesus’ time was regarded as dubious, how odd that God choose a woman to tell such news of  resurrection to men!  For me she is a figure of great encouragement and hope and bravery.

Thirdly, I like her for her stickability – if that’s a word. She journeys with her beloved Lord to Jerusalem being part of the team looking after the travellers’ needs.

StMaryMagdalen

Mary Magdalene before candle light. Georges de la Tour.

She is there when he dies. And then, after  witnessing all that traumatic suffering she probably accompanies him to his resting place in the  garden, and later comes back to anoint his body. She sticks with him right through to the end – and beyond. Such is her simple devotion to him. It isn’t always easy to stick with situations that are difficult and painful. It is easier to run away and let others get on with the business. In family life, in work life, in church life often situations can arise where it might feel easier to jump ship. But  holding on in a difficult situation, seeing something through whether it is someone’s illness, or a major situation of change and disruption is often what God wants us to do. Mary gives me a strong role model for holding on in there when things get tough.

Finally,  – Mary reminds me that despite the darkness and confusion we might have to travel through at times, new opportunities in Christ are often around the corner. We need to be prepared to be surprised. I have a book mark standing on my desk which runs “ I dwell in possibility” .

God seems at times to ask the oddest people to do surprising things. On paper, Mary was not the strongest candidate in background or gender or temperament to be the first apostle to the apostles.  But this business of being called seems to be in Gods hands, not ours.

He is always there to forgive and cleanse us of our sins. He is there, whether we are men or women, to affirm us in our ministry and delight in our devotion to Him. He is there to help us stick around  in situations which at times may feel unbearable but which o need our ongoing presence. He is there through our times of bewilderment and grief  and confusion – and he is there always to remind us that we dwell in possibility.  He is there, as with Mary, to spring new challenges on us when we might be thinking I’m okay where I am.

Think about Mary Magdalen today – God’s beloved one. Imagine yourself to be in some of the situations that Mary was in.  Imagine God calling you his beloved one. Be open always to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new ways of being called.

May God grace and mercy be with you always. Amen.

July 22, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. Thanks Paxtonvic what beautiful thoughts so well painted for a Saint’s Day that many of us are unable to celebrate. (not politically of course; but because we have no Vikkie/Vicar)
    Thank-you.

    Comment by Wingy | July 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for you kind comments, Wingy. I think blogging is definately personal therapy!

    Comment by paxtonvic | July 22, 2009 | Reply

  3. Cool sermon RD, and for one of my fav saints- I really want Mary meeting JC in the garden read at my funeral.

    Comment by Allrevedup | July 22, 2009 | Reply


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