We Anglicans believe that there are 4 major parts that make up the sources of our faith. We have reason, where we think about our faith, what it means and critically evaluate it. We have tradition, a tradition that links us back to that night when Jesus shared bread and wine with His followers. Every week we talk about being “an apostolic church” and that is what that refers to. We have experience, where our own life journey tells the story of God’s love for us, how the things that we encounter form and shape the way that we see God’s hand in the world around us. Lastly. We have scripture, where the words that are written in the Bible teach us how to be, how to live with each other and give us valuable lessons on what God wants us to be. Therein lies the way that we can fulfil our fullest potential. These are the ways that God reveals himself to us.
In the Scripture that we read every week it seems as though many of the lessons teach us how not to be, it shows us that if we are to grow we should learn from the mistakes that others have made before us.
And the case I want to discuss today is the disciples. It has to be said that they were a pretty disfunctional bunch, needy, jealous, constantly getting things wrong. Many times they were so busy trying to outdo each other that they failed to notice what it was that Jesus was trying to tell them. Their ability to constantly get things wrong is really quite impressive.
Now during my curacy I have spent a lot of time thinking about what leadership looks like. I have studied it in college, had seminars on it and have been asked, as part of a group, about Biblical models of what a good leader should be.
In these sessions, all the usual candidates have been put forward but we weren’t allowed to put forward Jesus’s name because that was considered to be too easy. But we had Moses, King David, Solomon, Simon Peter, someone even jokingly said Pontius Pilate and Herod. There is no doubt that they were leaders but not necessarily ones that I’ll really be looking to emulate in my life of ministry you will be pleased to know. None of these answers are wrong, but they all seemed to be missing some elements. They were all male for a start, but also they were all strong, confident, powerful. But the Bible also teaches us that there is another way to serve and lead.
I would like to put forward Mary Magdalene as a biblical leader, a leader with startlingly different qualities than any of the others. For so long she has been treated as some kind of dumping ground for all the scandalous behaviour that has been attributed to women in general, but some women in particular.
She was treated poorly by all…….except Jesus. He healed her and showed her kindness and she adored him. Her adoration of him gave her the qualities that made her the Apostle’s apostle and she is unusual in that she is mentioned in all four of the Gospels. It wasn’t accidental that she was the first person to witness the risen Christ. Her adoration meant that she stayed true after all the others had fled through fear. Her adoration gave her the strength to persevere and to do what others were incapable of or reluctant to do.
Jesus loved her, a woman without status and that is key. If we want to emulate that we need to put ourselves in her shoes and do likewise. I mean, how interested do you think he is in our posturing? In our social standing? Our sense of status does not matter one iota to him. He loves us all, with abundance and abandon. His love overflows regardless of who we are. His presence heals, he gives us hope, he gives us new eyes to see and new hearts to love. He doesn’t care for colour, class or creed, it is the contents of our hearts that matter. And we could do a lot worse than try to emulate Mary Magdalene. Adore him just as Mary did, that is where true humility comes from. Our faith comes from love, if we adore him it balances our relationship with each other. It all begins with adoration. “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” are as nothing if we adore him.
That is the sign of a true leader, where you do not expect the consequences of your actions to be for your own reward but for the love and service of others. Mary led and served for our Lord as much if not more then any of the other Apostles, and for that we should venerate her and emulate her
Rev'd Mark Nelson