What follows is an abridged transcript of the worship service I wrote for the Cazadero Adult Spirituality Retreat on Sunday, 14 June 2015. The theme of the retreat was “Jesus: the Man, the Myth, the Legend.” This was the first worship service I ever wrote from start to finish.
Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey,
Whomever you love, however you live,
Whatever your faith or lack thereof,
Whichever deities you believe in or disdain,
You are welcome here.
I was excited to see that in the camp curriculum there were passages from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. First, it’s an uncommon, non-canonical text. But also, Mary Magdalene is very important to me. To me, she’s one of the greatest of the disciples as she was one of the few who had the courage to approach the tomb on Resurrection Sunday. Her faith had such a profound effect on me that when I was ordained a Wiccan priest, I chose the priest name Antinoë Magdalene partly in her honor.
The passage in the curriculum starts with a final message of hope and instruction from Jesus before he leaves his disciples.
4 The Savior’s Farewell
1When the Blessed one had said these things, he greeted them all. “Peace be with you!” he said. 2“Acquire my peace within yourselves!
3“Be on your guard 4so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here!’ or ‘Look over there!’ 5For the child of true Humanity exists within you. 6Follow it! 7Those who search for it will find it.
The following was excluded from the curriculum, but I have access to the seminary library!
8“Go then, preach the good news about the realm. 9[Do] not lay down any rule beyond what I determined for you, 10nor promulgate law like the lawgiver, or else you might be dominated by it.”
11After he said these things, he departed from them.
There’s a couple of noteworthy points here. Jesus tells his followers to preach the good news, but to avoid laying down any laws. It seems he’s saying be loving and righteous, but not dogmatic.
The selection continues with Mary offering comfort to the other disciples after Jesus has departed. They weren’t too keen on carrying on Jesus’ ministry, knowing how the local authorities treated their leader.
5 Mary comforts the other disciples
1But they were distressed and wept greatly. 2“How are we going to go out to the rest of the world to announce the good news about the realm of the child of true Humanity?” they said. 3“If they did not spare him, how will they spare us?”
The previous verses were left out of the curriculum; it started with verse 4:
4The Mary stood up. She greeted them all, addressing her brothers and sisters (kin in the Spirit), 5“Do not weep and be distressed nor let your hearts be irresolute. 6For his grace will be with you all and will shelter you. 7Rather we should praise his greatness, 8for he has prepared us and made us true Human beings.”
Okay, so I changed the phrase “brothers and sisters” to “kin in the Spirit.” I’m trans, and my ministry will be gender inclusive.
Here, Mary seems to advising the followers of Jesus to stay strong, and have faith in what they’re going to do. A literal interpretation of Mary’s words might suggest that the disciples wouldn’t face the same persecution and martyrdom that Jesus did. Well, we know this isn’t true and that several of them were killed for their ministries. A different reading could be that his followers will be “sheltered” in that they will know what they’re doing is right even if those in power don’t appreciate it. We see this in the #BlackLivesMatter protests and in the quests for trans rights and marriage equality in our society.
The selection ends with Mary describing a vision she had.
7 Vision and mind
1She said, “I saw the Lord in a vision 2and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’
3He answered me, ‘How wonderful you are for not wavering at seeing me! 4For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’
The next three verses were excluded from the curriculum, and it appears that verse 7 was fragmented in the source material.
5I said to him, ‘So now, Lord, does a person who sees a vision see it with the soul or with the spirit?’
6The Savior answered, ‘A person does not see with the soul or with the spirit. 7Rather the mind, which exists between these two, sees the vision…'”
What really struck me about the end of this selection, (the part that for whatever reason wasn’t included in the curriculum) was that Jesus seems to say that one’s own ability to reason shouldn’t be cast by the way side. It seems to go against some of the key ideas put forth in some religious circles.
Here we seem to have Jesus saying that it’s not enough to follow and preach the good news. Rather, it must be understood at the intellectual level, too. It’s like the concept of grokking from Robert Heinlein’s book Stranger in a Strange Land. To grok something was to understand it with every fiber of one’s being. As is said in that book, “That which groks is god.”
But what’s also said in that book book is, “That which groks is god. Thou art god.”
Our theme for this camp was “Jesus: The Man, The Myth, The Legend,” hence the name tags that say “The Man, The Myth, The Legend.” or, “The Woman, The Myth, The Legend.” Mine says, “The Trans, The Myth, The Legend.” Being a gender equality activist I’d change the theme to The Being, The Myth, The Legend. We are the church, we are the body of Christ. With that in mind, we are called to grok the Being, Myth, and Legend that was Jesus, to embrace that with every thought, word, and action of our lives.
In doing so, others will grok, too.
Please pray with me: We came here as our own Beings. Help us, GOD, to write our own Myths, the scriptures that will describe our lives, so that our lives and love will be the stuff of Legend. In the Names of GOD, amen.
Call to Communion:
On that Legendary night, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his followers saying, “This is as my body which is to be broken.” After supper he took the cup and said, “This is as my blood poured out for the world. Do this in memory of me.”
What is the difference between Myth and Scripture? Point of view, really. Myth says Jesus’ body had to be broken and his blood had to be spilled so that the world would be redeemed. When he said, “Do this in memory of me,” did he mean for us to celebrate the Eucharist to remind ourselves of this sacrifice? Or, did he mean for us to be willing to take up our own crosses even to the breaking of our own bodies and the spilling of our own blood? Perhaps. We do this in memory of how he showed us to live.
Communion is offered here to all, regardless of what you might or might not believe. Take the bread, dip it in the cup, and eat. If you do not wish to partake of communion, please cross your arms with your hands on your shoulders and I’ll ask if you would prefer a blessing.
Come and partake as you see fit in this blessing, fashioned from the foundations of the world.
We came here this weekend to honor and celebrate Jesus, the Being, the Myth, and the Legend, in each of us.
Let us go forward, Being our own Persons, Writing our own Myths, and Living our lives in such a way that the Legendary love of Christ is shared with all whom we encounter.
In the Names of GOD, amen.
Source for the Gospel sections above:
King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press. 2003.