7/22/12—Maturing in wisdom and age

Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. Luke 2:52 CEB

Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles

Jesus and Mary Magdalene by Bruce Wolfe in the Mission Santa Barbara
Jesus with Mary Magdalene by Bruce Wolfe in the Mission Santa Barbara

Every July 22nd the Episcopal Church commemorates Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles. This year her commemoration is moved to Monday, July 23rd.

Misidentification of Mary as reformed public sinner achieved official standing with a powerful homily by Pope Gregory the Great (540-604).
Henceforth, Mary of Magdala became known in the west, not as the strong woman leader who accompanied Jesus through a tortuous death, first witnessed his Resurrection, and proclaimed the Risen Savior to the early church, but as a wanton woman in need of repentance and a life of hidden (and hopefully silent) penitence. Interestingly, the eastern church never identified her as a prostitute, but honored her throughout history as “the Apostle to the Apostles”. Read more at Mary of Magdala– Apostle to the Apostles
Mary Magdalene looking to the Risen Christ
The Gospel narratives give a prominence to women in the Jesus movement unusual in ancient society; this culminates in the extraordinary part which they play in Matthew’s, Mark’s and John’s accounts of the human discovery of the Resurrection. All three evangelists make women the first witnesses to the empty tomb and resurrection of Jesus; this is despite the fact that in Jewish Law women could not be considered as valid witnesses. The most prominent named woman, first in all three accounts, is Mary Magdalene (‘from Magdala’ in Galilee). She was a close associate of Jesus in his public ministry and has continued to arouse a set of variously motivated fascinations among Christians throughout the ages. Some overexcited modern commentators and mediocre novelists have even elevated her (on no good ancient evidence) to the status of Jesus’s wife.
(MacCulloch, Diarmaid (2010-02-25). Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Kindle Edition. Search word: Magdalene

7/20/12—Maturing in wisdom and age

Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. Luke 2:52 CEB

The wisdom of a Lutheran Pastor …

Note: The House for All Sinners and Saints is in Denver, CO.

As far as we know, all the House for all Sinners and Saints folks are safe, but many of us had friends and loved ones who were at that theater last night who are quite shaken. Kyrie. Let us pray for all those involved including the shooter. It’s one of the less pleasant elements of the Christian faith, but loving the enemy was not a suggestion.
–(The Rev.) Nadia Bolz-Weber (on Facebook)

After the killing in Aurora, CO our bishop wrote …

The horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado rightly brings us to our knees in prayer. Our emotions are myriad: shock, sorrow, anger, and disbelief. While we pray for those who have died, their families, and indeed the perpetrator and his family, we should pause to question the culture of violence that is pervasive in our country.

Guns, violent films and video games did not commit murder yesterday night; a very disturbed individual did. However, it is not a remarkable supposition to think that a contributing factor to this senseless massacre is the lethal combination of available guns and the relentless presentation of violent acts. The latter makes violence seem incidental and inconsequential.

As followers of the prince of peace, we must redouble our efforts to stop senseless violence before it happens. We can go a long way as a society by having sensible gun control and by saying no to entertainment through violence. This will not bring back the victims of this dark moment, but perhaps it will prevent others.
—The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes Bishop

Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me

Jesus said “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40

This verse is important because it explains the nature of the apostolic office on the legal principle governing a Jewish emissary: “A man’s agent is like himself.” It deepens the religious basis of the apostolate by deriving it ultimately from God himself in a cascading succession mediated by Jesus, who is himself the apostle of the Father.  New Jerome Biblical Commentary (NJBC)

In the Outline of the Faith in our Book of Common Prayer we tell the world and each other what we believe about ministry and ministers (and you will find the basis of these expressions in the scriptures we use, like the verses in the Gospel this Sunday):

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church

The Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 855

In the light of our Gospel reading today and what we say about ourselves:

  • • The mission of the church is presented in terms of relationship, not dogma; as a church we are to restore “all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
  • • This mission is pursued as a community, not as independent contractors;
  • • However, since the Church is composed of various individuals, “all its members” are responsible for ministry so that the Church can carry out its mission (of building and restoring relationships);
  • • Lay persons (by far the majority of members in the Church) are ministers (in fact, lay persons are the first-named ministers);
  • • “The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ….” Here, a further commentary on Matthew 10:40 may be quite instructive

Expanding on the notion that we are “to represent Christ,” (whether a lay person or ordained) each of us is not just an ambassador, but “like [Jesus] himself.”

“Whoever welcomes you,” Jesus said, “welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Mt. 10:40). The disciple, wherever she or he might be, actually “embodies” Jesus as a Kingdom-bearer.

Jesus was big on the concept of “agentry.” That is, he believed strongly that the disciple who went out in his name was not just a “representative,” but, in fact, an extension of his own being and authority. In other words, when the world encountered a disciple of Jesus, they were encountering Jesus himself.

To borrow from the well-known passage—and to amend it slightly—we, the agents of Christ, are “the way, the truth, and the life” to the world. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health … until death do us part. Jesus is judged through us, by how the faith flowers or fades in us.
“Postscript” in Synthesis, June 29, 2008

This raises some intriguing questions for us. Assuming that the statement about embodying Jesus wherever we might be is a true statement (and biblically sound), and accepting that we are ministers restoring all people to unity with God and each other:

  • What gifts of Christ do you “embody” as you minister? (Remember: lay persons “bear witness to [Christ] wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them,”)
  • Do you “feel” like “an extension of [Christ’s] own being and authority”?
  • How are you working to be a better “extension” of Christ’s being and authority?
  • When “the world” encounters you what do they learn about Jesus (since you “embody” and have been given the authority of Jesus as you go into the world)?

It is humbling to understand that we have been invited by God “maker of all that is, seen and unseen” to know Jesus Christ. It is exciting to understand that we have accepted this invitation. It is humbling to understand that Jesus, the Son of God, has chosen us and sent us out. It is a challenge to our creativity and discipline to live up to and into this ministry. It is necessary to come together often to confess that we have not lived up to our end of the covenant, ask forgiveness, receive forgiveness and be fed to go back into the world to be the disciple that Christ knows us to be.

Believe that God has indeed “gifted” you for this ministry.

Believe that God has “graced” you in ways known and yet to be discovered so that you may “embody” him (God’s love, the Good News) in the 21st century places you live and work and play in.

Believe that you make a difference as God’s beloved child.