What We’ve Made of Christianity
The Easter service was lovely, it really was. My favorite person was in church, and she tootled her fingers at us during the passing of the peace. And yet it wears me out, what we’ve made of Christianity.
Today, the Gospel reading on the most momentous day of our religious year began with Mary Magdalene. Early in the morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She does it in all four gospels, an incredible uniformity rarely seen in the Gospel tellings. I waited for some recognition of this. That while, as the priest said, all the boys were hiding after the killing of their Lord, Mary was out and about, going to the tomb. I wanted him to at least note in passing that the boys were scaredy-cats, but she wasn’t. In fact, she stayed at the tomb, returning after telling the boys about her discovery, determined to continue her vigil. I wanted it told that, because of her faith, she was there to greet the risen Lord when NO ONE ELSE WAS.
The Story of Christianity We Tell
In our Biblical tellings, Eve mothered humans before authoring their downfall. Mother Mary birthed and raised our redemption. Mary Magdalene midwifed the resurrection and our salvation. Yet in what we’ve made of Christianity, Eve is the snake’s accomplice, the amazing mother a Virgin, and Mary Magdalene a prostitute. The intention it takes to twist the story that way. Jesus did everything he could to crumble the patriarchal society into which he was born, including right up to this very moment when he WAITED until the boys had left before revealing himself to Mary Magdalene.
What kept going through my mind as the priest talked was the compliment a friend gave a mutual friend: he doesn’t take offense even when it’s intended. I can’t live up to that standard. I take offense when none is intended.
The Taking of Offense
My priest wasn’t intending to be offensive when he said “they” went to the tomb early in the morning. When he said “the disciples” were in hiding. When he said “they” didn’t know where “their” Lord had been taken. When he chose to not hold up Mary Magdalene as the greatest example the Gospels have of faithfulness. When he didn’t make her the counterpoint to the bumbling, confused, scared boys. When he chose to ignore that it was a woman’s faith, her tenacity, her perceptivity, her relationship with Jesus that gave us our witness to the resurrection.
I wanted an acknowledgement that it was incomprehensible that we had denied women—the first to preach the resurrection—the right to stand in the pulpit. What I wanted, what I illogically was waiting for, was an apology. For what we’ve made of Christianity. For what the church did to Mary Magdalene. What it did to us. To me.
But the children adding flowers to the cross was lovely. And the hymns were wonderful, my favorite of all liturgical seasons. The Holy Spirit swirled with the words: welcome happy morning! Christ is risen, and we announced it in church this morning. A truly lovely service.