Sermon for August 30th: Mary Magdalene: A Story of Transformation

Last Fall I preached a series of sermons here at St. Margaret’s about ‘Bible People you Might Not Remember’. These were not the ‘stars’ of the biblical stories; they weren’t the people who would have gotten their names up in lights in movies. They were the ‘ordinary people’ in Bible times, the people who were only mentioned a few times in the scriptures. But their stories are still interesting and compelling, and there’s a lot for us to learn from them about how God uses folks just like you and me in his plan to share his love and his message with the world.

Well, I had a lot of good comments about that series, and since there’s no shortage of Bible people to talk about, I thought I’d have another kick at the cat this Fall. So for the next six weeks we’re going to think about ‘More Bible People You May Not Remember’. And we’re going to start today with the story of Mary Magdalene.

Now, I must admit right off the bat that Mary Magdalene is hardly unknown these days. Thanks to Dan Brown and his bestselling book The DaVinci Code, pretty well everyone knows – or at least thinks they know – that Mary Magdalene was secretly married to Jesus, that they had children whose descendants are still alive today, and that there is a secret society, the Priory of Sion, that exists to protect those descendants and preserve this story. And because everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, especially if it involves taking a kick at the Catholic Church, these ideas continue to thrive in our popular culture, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of historians think there’s absolutely no evidence for them.

I’m not going to spend any time today going through the various theories mentioned in Dan Brown’s book; it would take a good hour just to examine them all, and I don’t think you want to sit here for an hour while I do it. What I want to do instead is simply to examine what we can actually know about Mary Magdalene from the pages of the New Testament, and then ask what her story has to say to us today as twenty-first century followers of Jesus.

Read the rest here.

One Hundred and Fifty-Five Years of Sharing the Gospel

Mark Russell has a wonderful story on his blog about his meeting with Sister Lily Thursh (aged 103) and sister Elsie Thrush (aged 98). Both have been commissioned evangelists in the Church Army for over three-quarters of a century; both knew the founder of the Church Army, Wilson Carlyle, and both continue to have a passion for the gospel and a joy in sharing it. Here’s a quote:

I asked them why they had joined Church Army. They told me their stories, how they had been inspired by an early film of Church Army, they watched Evangelists working with children orphaned in the First World War, they saw other Evangelists working with young women who were pregnant outside marriage and had been thrown on the streets by their parents, and they knew they were being called to help. Elsie said her life had been “an adventure” and although they never felt able or confident in each new post, they knew God would give them what they needed. Lily said her strength always was that she loved God, she knew he loved her, and she wanted to share his love with others.

And again:

Their energy and sheer life was infectious, I found myself sitting in the presence of two saints, and the world is a better place for their being alive. They told me story after story of people they had met, and shared God’s love with. Each of them had travelled with the forces in the 2nd World War and had been to Africa and India. Even now at their advanced age they are still sharing their faith with the staff in the residential homes where they live, and take an interest in the young staff who work there. They told me Church Army needed to root everything in prayer, and I was told on no uncertain terms, Church Army Evangelists were not to be “imitation curates!” I have met people 50 years younger with less life and optimism! I loved it so much, I stayed over an hour longer than scheduled!

Give yourself a boost by going over to Mark’s blog and reading this whole story! I hope that when I’m that age (if I make it!), I have half the joy and enthusiasm for the Gospel that these two sisters obviously have!