Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:4
A prayer for the Feast of Mary Magdalene, observed today
Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
An Episcopal priest named Robert Morris speaks about the commonplace and frequently unnoticed ways that people rise above their loneliness and fear as “ordinary resurrections.” He points out that the origin of “resurrection” is the Greek word “anastasis,” which, he notes, means “standing up again” and as he puts it unpretentiously, “We all lie down. We all rise up. We do this every day.” The same word, as he notes, is used in Scripture: “I am the resurrection and the life.” But in an afternote directed possibly at fellow members of the clergy, he observes, “The Resurrection does not wait for Easter.”Jonathan Kozol, Ordinary Resurrections
This morning, think of someone who is, for you, a spiritual hero.
For me, Martha comes to mind. We were in seminary together. She was a successful, Ivy League trained lawyer in New York, very much at home in her native Upper East Side. She left that to pursue ordination in the Episcopal Church, a move that probably only a few would consider upwardly mobile. Not too long after ordination, she accepted a call to lead a congregation in the South Bronx, a place that had all kinds of challenges. Decades later, she still leads that community with grace and strength and courage, a church and a school offering a community center.
Her work drew the attention of Dr. Jonathan Kozol, a Harvard educator who has written a number of books about the plight of poor children in our nation. He admits he is not a particularly religious person, but he began to hang around this church in the South Bronx and he got to know many of the children.
His earlier books that could be totally depressing gave way to a couple books that spoke of the inspiring promise unfolding in this church, under the leadership of Martha. One of those books is entitled “Ordinary Resurrections.” In it, he describes what he has learned from these urban children, what he has learned about hope. He notes that the word “resurrection” in Greek is “anastasis” which really means to stand again. And he notes the ways in which resurrections happen all the time, as you can read in the excerpt above.
At heart, we are an Easter people. We center our calendar around the Feast of the Resurrection (a.k.a., Easter). But as the New Testament says, because Christ has been raised, we also can be raised. Resurrections, even the most ordinary resurrections, can come to us. How have you experienced resurrection? When has a dead end become a threshold?
All of this brings me to another saint we can remember this morning. Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. She is often mentioned in the gospels, and comes up a lot in church history, often disparaged because many in our tradition have not been able to make sense of the truth that probably the most faithful of all the disciples was a woman. For those who still imagine that women should not have voice in the church, we must acknowledge that she was the first person to preach about the resurrection. If she had not gone to the tomb and witnessed the resurrection and proclaimed that good news to the disciples, those disciples might still be in the upper room, locked behind doors, figuring out how to move forward, working on a strategic plan.
Jesus’ resurrection became a threshold for all the disciples, including Mary Magdalene. His resurrection, celebrated on this day when we remember Mary Magdalene (read the story of her witness in John 20), is celebrated every Sunday. It invites us to a life of ordinary resurrections.
And that is good news worth proclaiming when the politics of our day may seem like a dead end, when many of our churches seem in desperate need of new life, when health crises and broken relationship and debilitating loneliness seem like a big stone locking up the tomb of our lives.
Resurrections can happen. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, they can happen today, in your life. Believe it to be true. Give thanks for saints who demonstrate that possibility, because we need to see what that looks like in real life. And live this Monday, July 22, in expectation that the God who raised Jesus from the dead can do a new thing in your life, in our church, in our big and beautiful and broken world.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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