LAST OF LENT COURSE
You were invited to share with Christine and I and follow “Lenten Reflections on thirteen Lesser reported followers of Jesus” We chose Seven out of the Thirteen to follow leaving six. So today we would like finish with the stories of just two of the six of Rosemary Powers insights of those who were in the background of the Passion of Jesus. www. Ionabook.com
Mary of Magdala & Joseph of Arimathea appear as witnesses in all four Gospels In Joseph’s case it was because he gained Jesus’ body from Pilate and buried it. He comes in at the end with this public gesture, in John’s Gospel accompanied by Nicodemus with their spices. Legends grew around Joseph of Arimathea, including the story of the Glastonbury Thorn, planted by him in England.
Joseph of Arimathea like Caiaphas had followed the impact of Jesus’ teaching, His healing, and His insistence that some things were the fulfilment of the law, not the opposite. He belonged to the Council, the Sanhedrin, that Caiaphas headed. He was a Pharisee who believed in the Resurrection, which Caiaphas and the majority as Sadducees did not. What was it in Jesus’ preaching on love in this life, and a heart for the core of the Law, delight in life, fullness for all, that made one eager to have Jesus removed, yet this Joseph was a follower, though a fearful, secret one until the end? Was it Jesus’ gift of telling stories with laughter and depth and warnings to the wealthy, his being an outsider who had learnt his skills by another path, his spiritual depth? Joseph of Arimathea was a wise man who was a quiet convert who demonstrated his love of Jesus, respect towards the disciples and all followers of Jesus.
So we now we hear the story from the lips of Mary of Magdala. ‘He came to my lakeside town and looked at me. Me, the turbulent, unmanageable, frustrated one, felt all the acceptance I’d never met till then. At last my gifts had a place, and my faith was not in vain. I followed him on the road. Me, the clever, emotional one, with Joanna to make us prudent, Susanna to remind us of stories, and Salome to keep us respectable. Seven demons released from me as I was given my right to my gifts! He knew the years of suppression, the infantile roles with no place for my soul. And he released me. There were others with other gifts, better gifts. I heard of the Gentile woman who mouthed him, laughed with him, got what she wanted from him; the woman who had to draw water at midday, who argued with him; and little Mary from Bethany who saw further than any of us, all the way to the cross.
‘Be a good Jew,’ he told me, ‘use your gifts to the utmost. God gave women gifts as good as men’s. Take yours and use them, fill the world with love and witness. You’ll be crucified too. They’ll take your name from you, mock you and make you small in the eyes of the world. You’ll be rolled into one with prostitutes and madwomen. But not in my eyes.’ He said: ‘Come follow me.’ ‘I was there with him, as close as we could get, as he rolled in torment, hearing him when he could speak, seeing how he gave, even at the end. I saw him die. I heard the officer take heed of his goodness. I saw other hanged men dispatched from their misery at last, to keep the Sabbath pure. Then we buried him. Hastily but decently, honouring the body of the best of Jews, who hung accursed on a tree and to us was the heart of love, and our hope and light. All extinguished.
We asked why God had let this be done. And how do we live out his teaching when this was done to him by his world? Have we courage enough for the cold years ahead? Among such a mix of
people with conflicting claims and threnodies? (threnody is a wailing ode, song, hymn or poem ) We were the witnesses. When two or three are gathered in my name. But what had we witnessed? How the bravest can die well? We kept and wept the Sabbath, the coldest Sabbath, recalling all he had taught of acceptance, freedom, welcome into the heart of the Creator. We were left clinging to bare, chilly faith of the mind alone where the spirit lay buried in the tomb. Love casts out fear, we knew. Those days had not prepared us for hope. We went in the dark to evade danger where we could. Like him, we stepped aside where needful. The tomb lay open, robbed.
We were dismayed, afraid of the new message. Then coming to meet us, where we were, stretching our hearts, came the story. ‘Do not be afraid. Peace I give you, my peace I bequeath you. Go, tell the others. Share the good news. I will be with you wherever you go, till the end of time.’
‘I was there, the leader, my demons dissolved in the sunrise. His choice of witness and apostle to the Twelve. The story we told was no cold faith. It went to soldiers, slaves, and struggling folk, in the courts of the rich and them at home comfortable. We talked of hope, of people power that can change the world, and how Spirit-filled in common life we could confront all trials. As silently, as certainly as Jesus.’
We give thanks …
For the risen Christ, casting out all fear, bringing new life on the first day of the week. For the gifts that God has given, to people of every creed and colour and people and nation, to male and female, rich and poor. For those who have the courage of leadership throughout the world, who seek to make it a place where all can exercise the fullness of their humanity.
We pray …
For those whose lives are limited by the actions of others, who are held in the grip of poverty, debt, illness, and the contempt of others. For those who grieve, for their loved ones who have died, for the loss of fullness in their own lives. For those who have given up, through addiction, overwork, bitterness, that they may hear rumours of hope and find it blossom in their lives. For the sadness of our world, with wars and rumours of war, for the tomb of the hidden wars and its scars globally physically, mentally and spiritually. Be among all who seek to move to find freedom and fullness. That Easter may come in our lives and the life of our common world.
Time for own prayers ———Lord’s Prayer
KEEP SAFE ….KEEP PRAYING……Peter