Monday, July 23, 2007

Sermon - St. Mary Magdalene - John 20:1-2, 10-18

St. Mary Magdalene
John 20:1-2, 10-18
July 22, 2007

As you’ve certainly noticed from our bulletin, today we observe a saint’s day in honor of Mary Magdalene. Like Christians throughout the ages, we look back to these people of God, especially from the New Testament, as examples of God’s grace shown in people’s lives, and as examples of faith for us to follow.

We don’t worship the saints, or look to them for any blessings – that is reserved for God alone. Nevertheless, there is something to learn from them about how our Lord deals with his people. And so we consider Mary Magdalene today, not for her own sake, but for how her story leads us also to Christ.

So who was Mary? What we know about her from the New Testament is this: she was a follower of Jesus. He had cast 7 demons out from her. Along with other women who accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem, she witnessed the crucifixion. She also was among those first witnesses to the Resurrection. After seeing Jesus’ body missing at the empty tomb, she went to tell Peter and John (and is sometimes called, therefore, “apostle to the apostles”). She then, apparently, returned to the tomb and there met two angels, along with Jesus himself, as we see in our Gospel reading today.

Many other traditions surround Mary, however. Many think of her as a former prostitute, though Scripture doesn’t say this, because Pope Gregory suggested this in a famous sermon. There is an ancient document known as “The Gospel of Mary” which the Christian church has long since rejected as false teaching.

More recently, the popular novel and movie “The DaVinci Code” suggests Mary was much more than a follower of Jesus, but his very wife. The idea is that Jesus and Mary had a child together, and that Jesus’ bloodline can be traced down into the kings of European history, and perhaps even continues today.

But all of this nonsense is a huge distraction from the most important thing to know about Mary – she was sinner forgiven by Christ. Just like you and me.

Not a gospel writer, but a gospel receiver. She was among the first to hear and see the good news that Jesus was alive! Like Mary, we too are recipients of that news. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, not only on Easter, but on every Sunday (or, Lord's Day). But also like Mary, we can and do tell the news as we have the opportunity. She went to tell Peter and John. Perhaps we have chances to tell family members and friends, witnessing and answering of the hope that is within us. “What makes you tick?” Someone might want to know... and an opening to share your faith in Christ appears. “What are you doing this Sunday?” and an opportunity to invite your family member to church arises.

No, Mary was not Jesus' wife, but like all of us she was part of the Bride. Yes, Jesus does have a bride, and that is his church – the whole people of God. People who fall at his feet in worship and praise for all the good he has done us.

Like us, Mary was set free from the power of the devil. For her, it was a direct exorcism by the Lord. For most of us, it was at the baptismal font, where we “renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways” and there our Lord cast out (or washed out) from us all sin, death and power of the devil. Like Mary, we belong to a new Spirit – the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ.

And like Jesus spoke to Mary, in the garden, calling her by name – so he has called each of us by name in Baptism, applying his grace and mercy in an individual way.

No, Mary was not the bearer of Jesus' bloodline, but she was, like us, saved by his blood. For at the cross Jesus shed his blood to make us all children of God – members of his divine bloodline by grace through faith. We become part of his family, and receive blessings untold through that saving blood.

And that same blood, along with his body, is offered even today. For the fruits of the cross are not merely seasonal. Jesus body and blood are here for you today, just as Christ is present in bread and wine for Christians all over the world, from every nation and tribe. And Jesus Christ will be here for you in Word and Sacrament next week, and the week after that, and for your whole earthly life. His forgiveness never ends. His blood never fails.

And on your deathbed, you will still be able to turn to Christ and know that the one who rose from the dead promises you a resurrection. So like Mary, who saw our risen Lord in the Garden, we too will meet him face to face.

Mary Magdalene reminds us today of our status as sinners forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ. Like her, we have seen the Lord and know his goodness. For just as Jesus loved Mary, so he loves us, and grants us the same promises and blessings. Give thanks to God for Mary Magdalene, who like all the saints, points us to Christ our savior, by whose blood we are saved. In His Name, Amen.

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