God's Geek

Reflections and random thoughts of a geeky youth worker in North London...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mary Magdalene: the woman behind the myth

Oh it is August.. the time of year when youth workers are let loose to do talks in front of the adults! It was my turn last Sunday and I had a great fun. It was one of those times when I was given any topic at all to preach on and I chose... Mary Magdalene! (which will be no great surprise to those that know me well)

I have been really interested in her since I went to uni and this was a great chance to look at her character in more detail. I started off by thinking about the things that influence our belief sysyem and made the point that our faith is influenced by many things such as the Bible, Christian books, culture, media etc... I then looked at the biblical account of Mary Magdalene to see what we know of her from the gospel accounts (Luke 8:1-3 is interesting, as is the fact that she has a central role in all 4 death and resurrection accounts).

After establishing what is actually in the Bible, I looked at the way that she has been represented through the ages and why:
  • reformed prostitute
  • penitent sinner
  • the embodiment of the church
  • apostle of the apostles
  • wife of Jesus and mother of his child a la Da Vinci Code!

The aim of the talk was to compare what we think we know of Mary Magdalene with what we actually know of her from the Bible. Here, we learn that she was a woman of means who financially supported Jesus, someone who was cured of 7 demons and was one of the first to see Jesus raised from the dead - in John she is the first to talk to him and hold him. Church history (until recently) and popular films tell us (amongst other things) that she was a prostitute - which I don't believe is a fair conclusion.

Why is this important? Well, personally, I remember being genuinely shocked at uni when I looked at the Bible and found out that there was no written evidence that she was a prostitute. I honestly believed that it was a part of the biblical account. And whether people are bothered about the story of Mary or not, I think that it is important that Christians continue to think and reflect on the different tensions that exist within our faith. I believe it is so easy to accept things and assume that they are biblical or with a firm foundation when perhaps things are not as clear as they seem. Church history and tradition, the media, friends, maybe a powerful preacher, Christian books etc etc affect our beliefs in many ways and perhaps more than we think. This isn’t always a bad thing but it is something we should be aware of and we should keep returning to God through his son and spirit and word.

Anyway, this is not as lucid as the talk (at least I hope the talk was more lucid) but I wanted to share a little of this as it's really important to me. .. if you are interested in Mary Magdalene, I found a good website that as far as I could see had a fairly good academic foundation although it's not specifically Christian... http://www.magdalene.org

As always, feel free to add any comments etc etc


Blogger scottytoohotty said...

Cool ! Sounds very interesting. I am preaching for the first time (!) @ 6.30 this Sunday. I have chosen Psalm 40 and the sermon title is "Pop Culture and Psalms - Songs for a Post-Modern Age?". If it's any good I'm going to look into the possibility of either making it downloadable from St Tom's website or getting it on iTunes as a 'Godcast'. Watch this space...

10:34 AM  

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