Hinduism. Isha Upanishad 17
Now my breath and spirit goes to the Immortal and this body ends in ashes; O Mind! Remember. Remember the deeds. Remember the actions.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
MESSAGE – “For All the Saints”
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing to you our rock and our redeemer.
On this Sunday, we finish our stewardship campaign of loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’m grateful for those who have shared with us already their messages of spirituality and mercy and justice. Today, we are emphasizing the mind portion, focusing on our faith studies and education at First.
As I was reflecting on the importance of small group education and faith studies, the one image which immediately came to mind was the image of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. It is interesting how Mary responds to seeing Jesus. At first, she assumes him to be the gardener, someone who took her friend away. However, when she recognizes it is in fact Jesus, her response: “Rabbouni” which means teacher, shows the way she thought of Jesus. Her response was not, “My Lord and Savior”, it was teacher, rabbi. For Mary Magdalene, Jesus was a friend but also someone who she learned from.
Thinking too, the early disciples were in fact a small group, a group of twelve named young men, however I firmly believe there were others, like Mary Magdalene who served a larger role. These early disciples of Jesus followed him where he went but also asked him lots of questions. For me, I find the Gospel of John’s depiction of the disciples to bring out their humanity the most. It makes them real people, who had many questions and concerns. For example, when Jesus completed miracles at the wedding in Cana or on the hillsides in Galilee, the disciples asked questions. And Jesus taught. Jesus allowed them a space to try and make sense of all he was teaching. Jesus used different examples of teachings to show the power of who God is.
It is no wonder, Mary Magdalene called Jesus teacher, because this was a faith studies group. It was a group of people looking to do life together, to learn from each other and ask questions. A place for them to grow.
And this message of having a place for people to question and grow is something, we here at First take to heart. While COVID-19 is challenging for us in the church, we cannot be together right now. The many small groups and faith study groups have been adapted to address our changing climate. For example, the Boomers class, one of our largest faith studies classes, have adapted to becoming the Zooming Boomers, using Zoom video conferencing to complete their classes. I got to sit in on one of these Zoom classes, even though I myself am not a baby boomer. (If anything, I am a Millennial-Z’er, because I fall right in between being a millennial and Gen Z) However, from this class I was grateful for the opportunity to grow and to hear from the experiences of others. During this small group I got to know some of the members of the congregation better and hear about their passions, and the life experiences they’ve lived. We were talking about our careers and why we’d felt called to those careers. A simple conversation, however, the opportunity to share with one another is something we often do not get on Sunday mornings. I’ll admit the worship service can only go so far, but those small groups to learn are what create authentic relationships. A space where we can come together.
As I’ve crashed the Boomers class, I’ve also seen book studies, as some of us from First and Clair Memorial Church have read the book The Color of Compromise which talks about racism and the role the church has played. I’ll say this book challenged me. It forced me to recognize the role the church has played in perpetuating negative stereotypes. But then also to think about how I should respond as a Christian, especially one who feels compelled to lead in the church. I can only grow through engaging my mind, while also having a place to question. A vulnerable space, where I can admit I’ve messed up, but also have that small group to go alongside me. To journey with each other and know we all are doing the work to engage both our minds and our faith.
And I feel, this is the view Mary Magdalene had of Jesus. He was someone who led the discussions and allowed for questions. To Mary he was that teacher. He was someone those around could learn from. However, the amazing thing about this teaching was it pushed the disciples and followers of Jesus into action. The New Testament is filled with the stories of Peter and Paul travelling all around to share this wisdom, to continue to teach and continue to create a beloved community. While Mary Magdalene is not mentioned in these stories, I imagine she too lived this out in her life. I believe that deeply because for myself Mary Magdalene is for myself a teacher, a guide for me.
As a young female pastor, I look to Mary’s witness that Easter morning. She was the first to proclaim the resurrection. When I feel discouraged or become down on myself, asking can I do this, I look to her reminded that I have that voice. I can proclaim good news and share it with others. For me she is the teacher and Saint I hold dear in my heart.
Especially on this All Saint’s Day, we are reminded of those who have gone before us, the teachers and the guides who have set the path for us. The trailblazers who carried the light of justice for us. We remember the partners we shared our lives with, the parents, and friends. We remember them knowing their memory lives on. Mary Magdalene did not expect to find an empty tomb that Easter morning. She expected to bury her teacher and friend. Yet, I think even if that were what she expected, she would have never forgotten the lessons learned from Jesus. She would have remembered all the parables and miracles she witnessed. But on that Easter morning Mary learned the most important of Jesus’ many teachings: resurrection is real. There is life after death. All will be restored in this new creation. And even us today, we have those who have gone before us, continuing to guide us, continuing to support us. Continuing to be examples for us to learn from.
I love using Instagram. It is one of my most used apps, I like discovering photos and artwork from various artists. One of my recent favorite artists is Kelly Latimore. Kelly is an iconographer, meaning he makes icons, or draws images of Saints. Oftentimes, when you see images of saints, it is the saints of old, those from scripture. But Kelly takes modern figures, those of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Marsha P. Johnson, and Maya Angelou. He draws Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as immigrants crossing the border. His images are ones which capture who sainthood is, something on going, how we continue to have the cloud of witnesses who go before us and guide us. One of my favorite pieces of his is titled, “The Saints of Selma”
It shows those marching to Selma, joined at the hands, standing up for the rights of all people. These are the Saints who have gone before us. And whose mission is being remembered today.
And so, we all remember the Saints, the guides, the teachers who show us the hope of resurrection, the hope of love and peace. Those who show us to seek justice, to build authentic relationships with one another, those who allow for the space to question and grow together. For all of us who continue to grow, in our minds, may we know the Saint of past, present, and future are teachers of loving with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.