letting go of shame: meet Mary Magdalene
Taking time out from the Gospel of John for two weeks to prepare our hearts for this year’s Easter experience: Journey of the Cross…come walk with us…week one…
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8:1-3 | ESV
“It was very important to us to do two things at the same time. One was not to do anything, which contradicted the letter of the text. And the second was, wherever we could, without contradicting Genesis, we wanted to break expectations. So we went very deep.” ~ Ari Handel, one of the writers of this year’s Noah. While many clearly believe they did not succeed, the challenge Ari describes with the story of Noah in Genesis is the same one we face when telling the story of those who surrounded Jesus as friends and followers. We want to be true to the text and in doing so engage our imagination.
There’s so much we don’t know about Mary Magdalene – and much that we generally assume. Traditionally we assume she was a prostitute, that she was the one who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, the one saved by him as he doodled in the dirt and everyone else wanted to stone her for adultery.
Perhaps, perhaps not.
We do know she was a troubled woman – even a possessed woman (with seven demons, no less) as well as perhaps a woman of means, judging from the comments in Luke. She was also among the women who never ran away like all the men did. And – though it wouldn’t have mattered to that male-dominated, patriarchal society – she was the first one to see Jesus after his resurrection; hers was the first name, the first word spoken by the resurrected Lord of all.
Each character we meet this week has something to let go. Something that desperately needs to be released, to be dropped at the foot of the cross, left at the feet of Jesus.
Perhaps “shame” would have been at the top of Mary’s list.
Shame fed by a feeling that all were watching her,
making a list of her flaws and parading them.
Shame at being totally out of control (seven demons!).
Shame at being judged insane, unstable, unacceptable, unlovable.
And Christ spoke her name.
He speaks yours and mine, too.
When have you felt shamed, condemned, rejected by others? How much of that shame are you still carrying with you? How can you let it go?
Lord, let me hear your song over me, over all creation: “Neither do I condemn you.” Let that chorus of grace release the shame that can enshroud me, break the chains of habits and hang-ups that bind me, lift the judgment that can drown me. Let me breathe the air of your tender mercies today, and exhale peace. Through Christ.