This is a sermon I gave at an ecumenical service in 2010.
“A Tale of Four Marys”
April 2, 2010
Central Lutheran Church
When I was asked to speak on the three Marys, I have to be honest that nothing was immediately coming to mind. What could I say about these women? And then I realized something: my mother was also a Mary. My mother, born 76 years ago in Canonvanas, Puerto Rico was given the name Maria, Spanish for Mary. Her name reminded me of a time when I was in pretty bad shape. I had just moved to Minneapolis a few months earlier and came down with the flu. That flu turned into pneumonia. My parents were back home in Michigan and Mom kept asking if they should make the 13 hour drive to Minnesota. Well, when you are having trouble breathing, and you can’t keep anything down, you want your Mommy. And I wanted my Mommy. Mom and Dad came to Minneapolis in the dead of night during an icestorm and took care of me. What I remember most of that time was on a Sunday night when I had a temperature of 105 and was in and out of consciouness. Mom was wondering how to get the fever down and I remember telling her to pray for me, which is what she did.
A few days later, I was admitted into the hospital. The thing that I treasured most were the nurses, both male and female who took care of me. The doctors for the most part would come in, assess the situation and leave, but it was the nurses who made sure I was doing well, and when I finally got my appetite back, they were able to give me tons of orange juice.
It was remembering the Marys in my own life that I realized the importance of Marys of scripture. We know a fair amount about Mary, the mother of Jesus and a little bit about Mary Magdalene, but nothing about the other Marys. What we do know is that Mary of course, took care of her son, while Mary Magdalene was a women who helped finance Jesus’ ministry. And we know that the women were going to tend to Jesus body after Passover ended.
Even though these women don’t have a big role in Scripture in the same way that Peter or John has, their role was not any less important. They were the living examples of the servanthood that Jesus was asking of his disciples and of all of us.
It was the night before at a meal in an upper room that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Peter was shocked that Jesus would stoop to such a lowly task. But Jesus told him that this is what it means to follow him; they have to be servant like him. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the Marys were there, but I’d like to believe they were since they were a part of his ministry. I have to believe they got the message. The next day, when most of the disciples had fled, it was those women who stayed with Jesus at the cross. Even though it seemed pointless to do so, they were there with Jesus in his last hours. That’s what a servant does; stay with the dying, tend to the sick and clean dirty feet. The men were a little slow in getting it; the women understood it.
On this day that we remember Christ’s death, we have to do more than simply remember the agony and the pain, but we must also remember what Christ was while on earth. As the second chapter of Phillipians says, Christ didn’t take his role as the Son of God for granted, but became a servant and was obedient to death, even death on a cross. The women, understood. They lived it out. One has to wonder if Christ learned servanthood from them or visa versa or maybe a little of both.
Please understand, I am not making an excuse for “keeping women in their place.” My strong Puerto Rican mother did not raise a son who disses women. What I am saying is that women, both in the Bible and today, tend to understand what it means to be a servant to our sisters and brothers more than we men can.
My mother (and my father) were willing to drive 13 hours in bad weather to take care of their adult son . Jesus had a mother and an aunt and countless other women who were there at the cross, standing by Jesus in his darkest hour.
That servanthood. They Marys got it. Do we?