It was grand to meet with our friends on Easter Sunday morning. What followed was a time of worship in which several of us brought a contribution.
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!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
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 realise 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.
Mary of the Tower.
1. When Jesus rises from the dead on the first Easter Day the first person he reveals himself to is Mary Magdalene.
2. Mary and Jesus were very close friends – although I am not inferring a sexual relationship.
3. Mary is a disciple with equal status to the male disciples.
4. In Jewish society women would have been the property of their father, husband or brother. Mary is very unusual for the time – in travelling around the country with Jesus – obviously she is independent, and a woman of means – and therefore of relatively high status.
5. Her name Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala could be translated as Mary of the Tower. Perhaps this is associated with fishing? Towers were used as lighthouses on the lakeside because of night fishing. Small tower-like structures were used for drying fish. Perhaps Mary was a successful business woman?
6. Luke ch8 records that Mary had seven evil spirits cast out. Does that mean she had suffered from a mental illness? Or does it suggest a physical illness and the seven demons represent a particularly severe illness?
7. In the Luke 8 passage Mary is mentioned along with Joanna, Suzanna and other women who support Jesus and the disciples financially. They are all well to do, independent women of means, and have all been cured of illnesses.
8. Mary is named as present at the crucifixion. All four gospels name her present. John names her as the first person that Jesus revealed himself to after his resurrection.
9. In the early church she would have had a position of status, probably an apostle because she was a close friend and disciple of Jesus and a witness to his resurrection.
10. Then comes the slow but deliberate downgrading of Mary in particular and women in general in the Christian church. At the same time there is the gradual deification of Mary, Jesus’ mother. She becomes the Virgin and eventually the perpetual Virgin, whereas by the late 500’s AD Mary Magdalene is identified as a whore. This all comes about because the church becomes obsessed with sexuality as the root of all evil. This is used to subordinate and disempower women, and to justify an all male clergy which traces its authority back to the all male twelve disciples, so only men can be priests/ministers. These changes are also linked to the branding of theological differences as heresy, making orthodoxy very narrow. Mary Magdalene came to represent the repentant fallen woman, the repentant whore. She can then be represented in Renaissance art naked!!!
11. So let’s dish all this invented rubbish about Mary, about prostitution and sex. Instead let’s see her as an independent woman of means who supported Jesus financially and who became a special friend, a disciple, and later an apostle, who was there with him at his death, and who was the first person to whom he appeared when he rose from the dead on that first Easter Day.
We shared a liturgy from Cheryl Laurie holdthisspace.org
The resurrection was first discovered by the friends of Jesus who stood in grief outside his tomb.
Resurrection turned despair into life. It was discovered again by a group of Jesus’ disciples who had known the loss of all they had known.
Resurrection turned fear into hope. It was discovered again by black South Africans when apartheid was dismantled.
Resurrection turned injustice into liberation. It was discovered again by the people of East Timor who fought for independence.
Resurrection turned oppression into freedom. It’s been discovered again whenever someone has found the space to love after being hurt, has found the courage to begin again when it seems life has ended. And that gives us faith to believe resurrection will happen in Palestine and Israel.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in Iraq, Syria and Guantanamo Bay. We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in refugee camps in Europe, in Laos and detention centres in Maribyrnong.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in the systems that crumple and oppress.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in the lives we know are shattered and the hearts we know are broken.
may the resurrection come.
may the resurrection come.
What is the Easter story all about? Forgiveness, grace, love and resurrection.
Many people, places and situations require some or all of the above.
Write an Easter message or prayer for them in an Easter card.