Dear Friends in Christ,
NO, she was not a prostitute, nor was she a notorious sinner. Mary Magdalene was a follower of Christ from whom seven demons came out (Luke 8:1-3) and who must have been one of the wealthier disciples of our Lord --- for she, along with other women, Joanna and Susanna, provided for him and his disciples “out of their own resources.”
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Mary is regarded as the equal of an Apostle. She is the first one to whom Christ spoke after his resurrection and she is the first to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!” She is the apostle to the Apostles. Without her love of the Lord and the desire to tend to his remains, the disciples might have left the Upper Room without learning of the meaning of Easter.
Women, especially strong women, are not often the subject of sermons, Bible study, or discussion, but they should be. Just this week we commemorated Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Bloomer, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. All of these women lifted up the lowly; risked their lives for equality and justice; and, knew in the core of their being that things needed to change.
Oftentimes women are the conscience of the community and are the volunteers and workers who dedicate themselves to so many causes. My daughter is such a strong woman. I could never do what she does. As a pharmacist at Johns Hopkins, she deals with the sickest children in the world. She faces COVID-19 daily, and comes home; she then cooks dinner and teaches her two children. She is tough and I have so much respect for her. She also takes time to go to the gym, exercise with the kids, and work for the betterment of her community. I don’t know how she does it!
When women were finally permitted their rightful place in the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church, I was totally against female Priests let alone Bishops. I was furious and walked out of a church the first time I saw a woman in the pulpit. In my mind it was not “meet right and so to do.” I was angry at my Church: I was angry at God and I WAS WRONG… and I eventually married one of those female priests. My pride, my image of God and of Christ were threatened by female clergy and again I was wrong. In time, my vision of God, Christ, and His Church broadened. Having female priests makes the Church a fuller representation of the Body of Christ. My best friend is also a female priest. I was a fool and I still am, at times.
When my daughter had leukemia, the Rev. Josephine Taylor, our new Priest, ministered to our every need and Jennifer’s well-being, travelling the two hours to DC a couple of times a week. Jennifer adored her and so did I. Her pastoral care, theology, and genuine kindness opened my eyes, my heart, and released me from my stubborn point of view.
For too long women have been under-represented and under-appreciated in the Church, although more women worship regularly, volunteer more often, and do most of the Church’s ministry. The five women mentioned in this letter are stalwart examples of intelligent, strong-willed women, filled with the Spirit and with zeal to love their neighbor as themselves and to demonstrate to men the rightful place of women in the Church and the world.
Mary Magdalene’s following, funding, and weeping for her Lord demonstrates how we should and can do the same. Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman were leaders in the antebellum period of our history. Both enslaved, one became a street corner preacher and cared for the homeless in New York City, while the other became the “Moses of her people,” leading many to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer both attended the Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton accused male clergy, who often interpreted St. Paul incorrectly, for the oppression of women and led the fight for women’s suffrage. Stanton was condemned from the pulpits across America for her “Turkish trousers” which dealt the tight-fitting corset (even though they caused health risks for those who were pregnant) a death knell. Of course, all of these women did far more than the little bit I relate here but their lives demonstrate how the oppressed lead us to a new understanding of who Christ is calling us to be.
In the words of Amelia Bloomer, “certain passages in the Scriptures relating to women had been given a strained and unnatural meaning.” She also said, “The same power that brought the slave out of bondage will, in His own good time and way, bring about the emancipation of woman, and make her the equal in power and dominion that she was in the beginning.” Take a look at the nations whose head of government is a woman. The last I looked, they had dealt with the COVID crisis far better than the men.
Today I salute the women of Trinity Episcopal Church, Apalachicola, and the world, as they strive to open the eyes of “all men” so that we may truly see the face of God in one another.
Praising all creatures of our God and King …
I am your servant and Christ’s,
PS and unrelated:
If you would like to worship at 8 am on Sunday,
already attending one of the two services, please let her know
which service you would no longer attend.
Should there be sufficient interest, I may add another service.