The Other Mary

Marys at TombI’ve never thought much about her—“the other Mary”—as New Testament writer Matthew portrays her. But yesterday’s Easter sermon reminded me:

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

Matthew doesn’t take pains to describe her with words like faithful, seeking, grieving, author, teacher, witness. Just other. Some say that writers Mark, Luke and John name her in more detail, but Matthew seems content with other. We know that the goal of this former-tax-collector-now-disciple is to identify Christ as King, as Messiah in his Jesus story. Could it be that he wants us to take our proper other place before the King? After all, we are all other in comparison.

As yesterday’s preacher surmised, when the other Mary looked back on this Resurrection Day, she probably cared not one whit if she didn’t receive an honorific. To follow her loved Savior as other was enough.

I suspect there is not one of us who doesn’t at some time think of missed opportunities, cancelled dreams, unfulfilled expectations. We may go to our graves as other. But going to the grave is exactly what this Mary did—not her own place of burial, but the tomb of One to whom she had committed her own opportunities, dreams and expectations. And because of that, she heard the voice of an angel. She was filled with both fear and joy. She ran in obedience. And the risen Jesus met her and The Magdalene and gave the women both comfort and a mission: Do not be afraid. Go and tell…

We others have lives to live, a Savior to love, a mission to accomplish. We willingly join the Band of Others.

On the Way to Easter

Holy WeekConfused. Exhilarated. Perplexed. Sad. Angry. Doubting. Victorious. Indignant. Despairing. Faith-filled. Questioning. Busy.

Do any of these words describe you on this first day of Holy Week? As I carefully re-read the gospel writers’ accounts of Jesus’ disciples and friends in the days before his entry into Jerusalem (celebrated yesterday as Palm Sunday in churches around the world), I saw myself. In fact, I could apply a number of those adjectives on an hour-by-hour basis some days!

In his book The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan describes God this way: …the God who is surprising, dangerous, mysterious, alongside us though we fail to recognize Him, then disappearing the minute we do so… God doesn’t always make sense of our sad or bland lives, our calamities and banalities, but (he) keeps meeting us in the thick and thin of our lives.

No better description of this week before the cross: thick and thin. And all the adjectives above sink deep into our souls if we are honest. But as we blindingly race with anticipation toward Easter with its chocolate, new clothes and hallelujah choruses, we’re tempted to ignore the reality of the days before the cross. Few of us take time to grieve with the weeping woman of Bethany, recognize Peter’s stubborn-yet-misplaced faith, face our own unanswered prayer in the bewilderment of the disciples.

Many years ago I celebrated Easter less than two weeks after standing at the grave of our son. Never was the shout of “He is risen!” more meaningful as I exclaimed the promise through tears. Never did I need—or experience—God-produced faith more deeply than in that small assembly of people who walked alongside us during the bleak, dark days. Never were the words “Though he slay me, yet I will trust him” wrung out of me with the thundering force that I would experience only rarely in the years since.

In your own walk toward Resurrection Day, do not miss following Jesus this week. Closely examine both his human grief at what lay ahead and his astounding belief in his surprising, dangerous, mysterious, loving Father. Imagine the quandary of the disciples as they find a donkey, prepare a meal, submit to foot washing.

A very practical way to experience Easter anew is to place yourself in the Holy Week story as literally as possible. Substitute your name for those found in the gospel accounts. Your name instead of Peter’s. Become Pilate. (Or his wife.) You are Mary the Mother or Mary the Magdalene. Turn into Thomas hiding behind a tree near the cross. (My own imaginative place for him!)

On your way to Easter, don’t miss Holy Week.

I’m the Apple of His Eye

They sat side by side at the café table. A little girl, hair messily pulled into a ponytail, pink winter jacket unzipped on this unseasonably warm winter day. Her daddy’s dark hair such a contrast to the blondness of the girl. Each had a bagel spread with strawberry cream cheese and between bites conversation flowed.

I could hear the girl relating tidbits of information from a recent project she presented in the classroom and her daddy intently listening. Occasionally he asked a question, pausing respectfully to hear her answer: “How did you feel about standing in front of everyone?” As only little girls can do, she rolled her eyes while replying, “Oh, Daddy, it was a snap.” When she named friends at a birthday party, Daddy asked, “Oh, was that Megan or Kathy?” He was genuinely interested in the events and people of the girl’s life. Through all the time I observed them, I never saw the father’s eyes swerve from his daughter’s face as she talked. He was totally “in tune” with this child who had little in common with his education, career or life outside these moments. They were totally “with” each other.

It was clear to me that the little girl was “the apple of his eye,” a term meaning one adored above all others. This phrase was used frequently in English literature, and David records these words in one of his psalms: Guard me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings; David obviously secure in God’s love. The café conversation I overheard left no doubt that the little girl was cherished, loved, respected, esteemed. And the way she leaned into her daddy spoke volumes about her trust in him.

Does this experience describe my relationship with God? My conversations with him? Do I freely share with him the events and people of my day, talking friend to friend? Do I “lean into” him, listening for his responses? Can I imagine his eyes gazing into my own? His ears hearing not only my words but the motives and feelings beneath my words? In a world that devalues me, surrounded by busy onlookers who seem to ignore my presence because the next-best-thing (or person) is just around the corner, can I accept that he sees me as the “apple of his eye”?

During this week—the week before The Week when we walk sorrowfully with Jesus toward the cross—take time to imagine, pray for, seek this intimate relationship that is so freely offered by that same Jesus. Dwell as the apple of his eye.

My Thoughts Exactly

As I thought about what to write today (actually I was avoiding writing, a non-activity other word people can identify with), I viewed the blog of a very good friend. And so today, with a hearty AMEN, I simply direct you to: