Stop. Close your eyes. No wait! Open your eyes and read the next sentence. When I say the words Virgin Mary what image pops into your head? Close your eyes now so that you can the picture can take form in your mind’s eye. For many, the picture will be of a young woman, swathed in blue and white holding the baby she named Jesus close to her breast and gazing placidly upon his visage. She may be an anthropomorphism; a stained-glass window come to life. She is, for many Protestants, an important component of the gospel story but a role player at best. The two-dimensional figure that we come to know around Advent each year fades into the background soon after Christmas. Scot McKnight, in The Real Mary, seeks to bring her out of the background of the nativity scene and bring to the reader’s attention numerous dimensions that are often dismissed in the Evangelical community.
The mention of Mary beyond the role of Jesus’ mother in many Evangelical circles can cause shoulders to rise and eyes to narrow as people steel themselves for the expected challenge to the deep chasm they have scratched out between themselves and the Catholic (capital C) church. McKnight brings us a different perspective to ponder, that of an unknown young woman from a backwater town called to an extraordinary task in giving birth to the Lord. But the story does not end there as the blue thread of Mary’s life weaves its way through the entire ministry of Jesus. She learns what it means to follow him, how difficult and challenging it is, and McKnight helps us to discover how much we are like Mary in that respect.
A many faceted Mary emerges from the pages of this book. We are invited to narrow our Bible study to those passages in which Mary is featured and each adds a brush stroke to the character that evolves. She is not the passive young woman we often picture but in total, a bit of a radical, following Jesus from His birth until he gives up His spirit on the cross. During their years together Mary as mother is often able to perceive the uniqueness and likely the divinity of her child, perhaps more intimately and sooner than the others who surrounded him. She comes to know that the Messiah expected and the Messiah realized are much different.
The immense value of this small book is its combination of popular presentation of scholarly material combined with devotional possibilities spread throughout the book. Mary should not be feared by Evangelicals. McKnight touches on the divisive lore that surrounds Mary in the Catholic teaching and helps to clarify many that have been misunderstood by the Evangelical church. Perhaps Mary can be added to the many scriptural events and people that we utilize to teach an uncompromising and immediate affirmative is necessary to any call of God. To quote Scot, “As Kathleen Norris has said so well in her own reflections about Mary, “When I am called to answer ‘Yes’ to God, not knowing where this commitment will lead me, Mary give me hope that it is enough to trust in God’s grace and promise of salvation.””
A Warren Zevon album, even just a song, can certainly make you reflective in the cold depths of winter. Before the world knew that Warren would soon be gone, many spoke well.
Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed is prompting his readers to read along and discuss Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways and I was moved to join the discussion. Hirsch tells the story of moving a moribund body backwards in time and tradition to a Church in which all participated, all were held to account, and all were so significantly countercultural that their lives became attractional, living invitations to other to follow Christ with them. Our church set out to do this and it has been quite an adventure. As we set forth, some found themselves too attached to the 10/90 model and dropped off. Others challenged the map we were following, slowing the mission but not stopping it. Meeting people where they are rather than demanding that they join us where we want to be is the most spiritually satisfying thing our group has ever done.
18 year old Addie Kubisiak sits in a Douglas County jail this morning, insulated from the bitter cold outside, but colder inside as she faces the consequences of a decision she made in the past (story here). Though the details about the birth and subsequent death of her baby have yet to be reported, her actions that followed and resulted in her arrest and being charged with first degree murder should reflect back on the Church with the intensity of the glare of the sun reflecting off of the icy snow. The abortion industry will point to the enormous shame and stress of the apparently secret pregnancy as justification for even greater access to their services.
Where were we? Babies do not spontaneously appear. A gestation period of nine months gave us more than adequate time for a follower of Christ to love as we are loved. How does a troubled woman like this fail to gain our attention? Is it possible that the circle she ran in was totally bereft of Christians and their influence? The Church, especially those among us who adhere to the missional ideals, must apply ourselves to countering the historic judgmentalism that shunned people rather than loving them. All it would have taken is one Christian to come alongside this woman and shown her love and acceptance while supporting her through the trouble she was facing and we might not have been following this story today.
Where was I…
The red words of the Sermon on the Mount pose an incredible challenge, don’t they? Platitudes or a way of life for followers of Jesus? Read the article here. With the high regard for scripture that exists in the missional church, the Sermon on the Mount demands that we be counter cultural since nearly every verse runs in opposition to the modern world into which we’ve been sent. Though we use many cultural accoutrements to reach our community, eventually we are confronted by the One that we follow with demands that cannot be softened by candles, video, or louder praise music.
Lunching with my Barnabas (cf. Acts 4:36) yesterday reminded me of his value in my life. Walking the difficult, sometimes lonely road of mission church planting must not be done alone. The ups and downs, temptations and triumphs all need to be shared with someone other than your spouse. A true Barnabas is one who can speak into your life about these things and not just about them. It is a person whom you have total trust and respect in giving their words gravity and weight in your soul. Though the time we get to spend together one on one is short, its infusion of encouragement is immeasurable. Don’t walk any path in life alone…find your Barnabas.
Should this technically be called a reunion, even making concessions for the deceased? Who cares, it’s the Florida Guitar Army, the only band to take the stage of the Oakland Coliseum after an earthquake made the lighting truss swing like a first grader, the only band with enough cool to bring back the twin drummer setup…