Will The Real Mary Please Stand

What do the following films and plays have in common?

  1. Jesus Christ Super Star
  2. The Last Temptation of Christ
  3. The Passion of the Christ
  4. The Da Vinci Code
  5. Risen

Obviously, they are all stories about Jesus. But they have something else in common, or should I say someone else. They have a character from scripture that people know a lot about. Or at least they think they do. Her name was Mary.

The Seven Mary’s

There are seven women named Mary in the New Testament, some are mentioned prominently, like Mary the mother of Jesus. They can be difficult to identify, like the Mary in Romans 16:6. Who was she?

Historically, there isn’t much information on them. And some of the information we do have may not be accurate.

Another Mary

There is another Mary often mentioned in scripture, more often than many of the apostles were. She was Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene. Now, quickly, think about everything you know about her. She was…

  1. a sinful woman.
  2. a prostitute.
  3. the woman who washed Jesus’s feet in Luke 7.
  4. the woman caught in adultery in John 8.
  5. the woman who married Jesus.
  6. his lover.
  7. the mother of his child.

Pop Culture

Almost everything we think we know about Mary Magdalene comes from the movies, plays, and art, such as Da Vinci’s painting of the last supper, and many others.

TINTORETTO_-_Magdalena_penitente_(Musei_Capitolini,_Roma,_1598-1602)_-_copia
A painting depicting Mary Magdalene, 1591

Some Facts

Facts are irritating things as they often interfere with the truth, or the truth as we see it. Senator Moynihan of New York is credited with this quote:

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Some Facts From Scripture

  1. Mary Magdalene was never identified as a sinful woman.
  2. The sinful woman who washed his feet was unnamed.
  3. The woman caught in adultery was unnamed.
  4. Mary was never identified as a prostitute.
  5. She was never identified as the wife of Christ.
  6. Or as his lover.
  7. Or as the mother of his child.

Seven little facts about Mary Magdalene, all of which were wrong, or at least unsubstantiated in scripture. Sadly, most of what is believed about her comes out of Hollywood.

Some Biblical Facts

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her. She was one of several women who traveled with Jesus and his apostles supporting their needs from her funds. She was the first, or one of the first, to see the empty tomb, she was the first to tell the apostles that Jesus had risen. She was the first person the resurrected Jesus appeared to. She stood at Mary’s side, the mother of Jesus, throughout the cross and burial.

Sometimes opinions and myths shape our understanding of truth.

To Close

 Mary Magdalene was a significant person in the Jesus narrative and was someone Jesus called to serve in his ministry. She was well regarded and respected in the early church. She wasn’t the whore often depicted in paintings and films. 

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

Shalom

Book Ends: Framing Our Lives

I’m a big fan of book ends.

They aren’t a hobby, I’m not a collector, and I don’t have a cabinet displaying my collection. I just like them. They do a good job of doing what they were designed to do.

book ends
Not my book ends, but close, really very close.

Book Ends

They can be made of wood, metal, or stone. They can be ornate or plain. They come in all sizes, colors, and textures. On second thought, maybe I’ll start collecting book ends. But, probably not.

A Different Kind

 The apostle Peter, like all of us, had his struggles. He was at times proud, egocentric, and presumptuous. He was famous for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

He and I could have been twins.

From John 1:42

 “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.’”

Then, from John 21

 “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

 “Again, Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’”

 “A third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’”

When Jesus spoke to Simon the first time, he used his formal name and said that his name would change to Cephas. Simon would become a Rock, known in the Greek as Peter.

When Jesus spoke to Simon for the last time, he used his formal name again and asked a question three times. But having denied his Lord three times, Simon wasn’t ready to become the Rock, and so he gave answers that were less than Jesus was looking for. Or maybe not, maybe Jesus was pleased that Peter, at last, had demonstrated humility.

Book Ends

Jesus and Simon began and ended with, “Simon, Son of John.”

When Mom was upset she would say,

“Richard Neil Fyffe come in here right now.”

Odd that they called me Rick unless something was wrong, and there was always something wrong, and then it was my full name. Why do parents do that?

Simon was weak sometimes, but he eventually became the Rock. He strengthened his brothers after the crucifixion, organized the replacement for Judas, kept the disciples together in the upper room, and was the key speaker on the day of Pentecost. He became the man Jesus had envisioned.

To Close

Book ends. They frame the outside edges of whatever’s in the middle. What are you on your way to becoming? How is Jesus shaping your life? Can you see it?

I’m a big fan of book ends.

Shalom

Feeling Blessed

I’m blessed every day in so many ways.

But this morning I’m appreciating my blessings a little more than usual.

On Retreat

I’m writing this blog from my room at Camp Allen, a Christian Retreat and Conference Center about an hour outside of Houston. It’s beautiful and the accommodations are fine. The bed was a little stiff in the way that a concrete slab is a little stiff. But I slept well, woke early, and rose to write.

I’m here with our church’s elders, ministers, and spouses. We arrived Friday for dinner then had an evening of sharing our lives and getting better connected, what a blessing.

My Daughter

My daughter and son-in-law live in the down town Houston area. They are young, urban professionals and think that coming to our house in the suburbs is a two day drive with a hotel stay. She texted me this week to say that she thinks about her Mom and Dad everyday and that she loves us, what a blessing. 

My Friends

I have great friends, not many, but they are enough. They are enough in the way that warm maple syrup covers the whole pancake. The way that a cool, sunny, Houston morning in February is an absolute pleasure. They provide a wonderful sense of belonging and connection, what a blessing.

 To Close

I could go on, but won’t. I’ll close with this. Garfield the cat once said:

“Ah, Christmas, it isn’t the giving, it isn’t the getting, it’s the people.” 

The Christmas season has passed, but I like the sentiment. My friends and family are more than what I get or give. It isn’t about that, it’s about the people, the bonds of caring and mutual acceptance.

god lending a hand

The true joy of life is the people.

Shalom

The Half Pipe, Someone Had To Do It!

Snowboarding in the half-pipe.

My Past

It’s not that I’m old or past my prime or out of touch. It’s just that back in my day, before cell phones, color TV, and breakfast burritos, the Winter Olympics was about skiing, ice skating, and curling. That’s about it. 

Today’s Olympics

In these modern winter games are sports and competitions that I used to think of as hobbies and kid’s activities. Just the same, last night I watched Shaun White win the gold for the third time in four Olympics. It was exciting to watch, amazing to see, and incredible what those guys could do on a snowboard.

Grandma

My maternal grandmother gave me my first skateboard. It was in the 60’s and I was maybe eight years old. I think it was a Christmas present.

skate-party-wood-decks
Not my skateboard, but very, very close.

Skateboards were all the rage. We didn’t think we were skiing, we thought we were surfing, just like the Beach Boys. But watching the competition last night, I heard terms and phrases that came right out of the skateboard culture. It was cool.

Fun?

You bet it was. I skateboarded everywhere. Every time I hit a small pebble it was like putting on the brakes and I would be launched off the board and onto the sidewalk. This was before knee pads, elbow pads, and helmets. I was always banged up, missing skin on my knees, and bruised. We were idiots. Maybe that explains some things. But I loved it.

We built ramps to jump and set up all kinds of little race tracks. It was summertime in Phoenix, Arizona and we wore denim cut offs, with no shoes or shirts. And no sun screen.  We were idiots. Maybe that explains some things.

To Close

I congratulate Shaun on his amazing achievement and want to say good luck to our whole Olympic team. You guys are doing great.

But 55 years ago, my two friends and I were paving the way for your success.

Just saying.

A Game of Simon Says

Simon said, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 

What an awesome thing to say, it was fearless and fiercely loyal.

Then Messiah said, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”

Sifting was done by repeatedly beating the wheat with a stick. The process loosened the outer husks so they separated from the wheat. Then, it was tossed in the air so the wind could blow away the chaff.

winnow
The sifting process: are the wheat or the chaff?

Jesus was saying that Satan was going to, metaphorically, beat Simon with a stick to see what he was made of, to see if he too would just blow away. 

Simon said, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Messiah said, “Peter, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

I Believe Peter

He was willing to die for his Rabbi. Here is the evidence:

“Then Simon, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant,”

That happened in Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. But then, it all changed.

“Put your sword away.”

When he had to surrender his sword and watch Jesus go willingly with the soldiers, his world turned upside down.

“You are not one of his disciples are you?” the girl asked Peter. “I am not.” 

The fearless apostle became a frightened betrayer. Simon was being sifted, that was the first of his three denials.

Was he chaff or was he wheat?

For Us

We relate to Simon. We can fearlessly defend our Lord and we can fearfully deny him. It’s about the situation and how Satan sifts us. But here’s the question,

Are we chaff or are we wheat?

To Close

Jesus also said to Simon Peter:

“But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” 

Jesus knew Simon would deny him.

He also knew Simon would return and help his brothers.

What Does Jesus know about us?

Shalom

Betty: A Force of Life

Betty Davis was a member of my church and her funeral is tomorrow morning. She was a force of life! And she will be missed.

My Top Ten Favorite Things About Betty

  1. She and Ed got married at 16 and ran off to California.
  2. She called him “Cowboy”
  3. Did babysitting for months to buy him the guitar he wanted.
  4. She loved Hallmark movies.
  5. She was a red head.
  6. Made Oreo Cookies and Ice Cream a food group.
  7. Got her hair done every week, until Ed died.
  8. They lost their two sons in 1974 and 1981, but chose to live happy anyway.  
  9. Ed and Betty opened their home and their hearts to everyone all the time.
  10. Her house was a safe haven for many kids, a home filled with joy. 
  11. She loved her Lord, her church, and her family, and everyone was family.

Okay, that’s eleven things. But the list could go on and on. She leaves a legacy of faith, family, and fortune; not the kind that fills your bank account, but the kind that fills your soul. 

Pink lemonade, turkey sandwiches, coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie, every kind of cookie, cold milk, soft drinks galore, and of course, the Oreos and ice cream. These are only some of the things Betty kept in her home so everyone who came to her home would always find their favorite snack.

To Close

Her funeral service will be packed, probably standing room only. She lived a full and purposeful life. She overcame great adversity and gave great advantage to so many others. She was happy.

Betty Louise Davis

1935-2018, she was 82 years old

She is with the Lord