Ironically enough, I finished a book this morning that wasn’t about the middle but instead about the margins. Sean Gladding’s Holy Week book, A View from the Margins: Stories from Holy Week was my book throughout last week and into this morning. Each day of Holy Week was a different story from someone on the margins of the Jesus stories and their possible different perspective on what was taking place. It spoke so deeply to me throughout the week and was a reminder for me about the importance of de-centering myself and my experiences and to try to see not only Scripture but life in general through the eyes of others, especially those who are on the fringes, the edges, the margins. This is so vital right now when it is so easy to simply keep looking through the same perspectives day after day and not doing the work of trying to understand through the experiences of others. I cannot recommend Gladding’s short book enough for encouraging and challenging us to have a wider openness to understanding, learning, and growing.
That’s why I am going back to the photo I shared a few days ago but with a B&W edit this time. The other day this photo spoke to me of the unexpected cross that I was not expecting as I was walking up those stairs. Today, however, it speaks to me of how Jesus wasn’t at the center but at the margins. Jesus didn’t try to be in the middle but he was outside of it, speaking into what was taking place, and seeing and hearing and knowing those on the margins. That’s where we as a church need to be as well. Not trying to “fit in” but instead to stand outside of where we are and proclaim something different, something transformative, something healing, something liberating.
Sean gave me permission to share the story from the Easter chapter – reflecting through the eyes of Mary of Magdala.
You’re a heartbroken, fearful woman, making your way through the dark, narrow streets of Jerusalem before the sun rises. You carry spices and oil to anoint the body of your friend. One final act of love for this man who has changed your life.
How long had you lived with those voices in your head, voices that plagued you night and day? How many countless hours had you spent wandering the streets of Magdala in dialogue with beings no one else could see? People shunned you, threw insults – and the occasional rock – at you, fearful that they might end up like you. You, with your ragged clothing, unkempt hair, your arms bloodied and scarred from the constant clawing of your fingernails.
There are few more marginalized than those oppressed by the demonic.
But then came that oh, so wonderful ‘before and after’ moment – the day when you met Jesus, who liberated you from your oppression, and restored you to sanity, to your family, and to your community. Jesus, whom you have loved and followed, a faithful disciple, determined to see others experience the same liberation he had given you. But now you are utterly bereft.
For Jesus is dead.
Humiliated. Brutalized. Dead. His body lying cold in a stone tomb.
You can still scarcely believe it, but you are determined to offer one final act of love to the man who set you free. So, you and a few of the other women make your way through the dark streets, walking in silence, tears blurring the outline of the cobblestones as you somehow manage to keep placing one foot in front of the other.
As you enter the grounds of the cemetery, you realize you will need help to roll away the stone that sealed the tomb in which Jesus’ body has been laid. But as you walk through the garden and draw near, you see that the stone has already been rolled away. You hesitate, and then stride forward, going into the deeper darkness of the tomb. As your eyes begin to adjust to the darkness, you suddenly realize there is no body lying on the stone bier before you. The tomb is empty. Who has removed Jesus’ body – and why?
You run back through those same streets to tell Peter and the others, who immediately take off running themselves. You follow after them, but you’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally. You stumble back to the garden, alone. You walk up to the tomb, but you cannot enter. You stand outside, weeping. Then you gather yourself, and slowly walk into the tomb once more.
Through your tears and in the strengthening light of early morning you see two figures in white – but clearly not Peter and John. One stands at the foot, the other at the head of the place where Jesus had been laid.
“Woman – why are you weeping?”
You reply, your voice shaking, “Because they have taken away my Lord…” You glance down at the spices you’re surprised to find you’re still carrying, then continue, “and I do not know where they have laid him.” You hear a sound outside. You turn around and walk out, to find a man standing outside the tomb, who asks you the same question as the others:
“Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”
Supposing him to be the gardener, you say, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” You don’t even stop to ask how you will carry his body, or where you will go. You just cannot stand the thought of him being abandoned here. Your eyes well with tears once more, and you begin to turn away.
You know that voice! You spin around…and there he is! Jesus! Alive! But, how…? “Rabbi!” you cry and throw yourself into his arms. Jesus says gently, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.”
And then he is gone. For a moment you just stand there, stunned. But then you find yourself running back through the streets once more, tears streaming down your face. But now they are tears of joy! You burst in on the disciples, startling them, and proclaim aloud,
“I have seen the Lord! And he told me to tell you this…”Gladding, Sean. A View from the Margins: Stories for Holy Week (p. 45-47). Kindle Edition.