Proud to be a Mary, yet….?


I love my name.  My mother was christened Mary, but nicknamed Molli.  Her mother was also a Mary.  I almost inherited the exact same name.  But influenced by memories of past trips to Italy, my mother chose Maria for me.

Why do I like Maria/ Mary?  Mary is the wiser of the two sisters.  You remember Martha, the worker-be gal, the matriarch of the family who complained to Jesus?   Mary never seems to notice how rudely older sister Martha chastises her to Jesus.   Instead, focused on Jesus’ words of life, she does the “….one thing (that) is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

I like to think of myself as a Mary, especially with my name.  I pride myself in not falling into the trap of legalism, the of American Christian women.  Instead I read, listen to podcasts, meditate, and feast on spiritual food.

But recently, I have been caught up short by how all that might just be selfish.  I’ve been reading a book entitled, Unsilenced, by James Boccardo.  James offers compelling reasons and methods for sharing the good news with everybody.  He puts to rest the notion that one has to befriend someone first before engaging with them about death and eternal life.  By reading this book, I have come to see how much like a modern Paul this young man is. (Under 30/came to Christ after college/works an 8-5 job in the field of finance, earning a degree in theology)  His whole reason for getting out of bed each day is to be able to talk about Jesus to everyone he meets.  He doesn’t go out of his way to do this.  He doesn’t plan missionary days.  He just talks to people whether he is paying for gas, encountering the mail man, getting his car repaired, buying a cup of coffee.  He is ALWAYS thinking Jesus.  And he doesn’t beat around the bush.  With every stranger he meets, he asks a version of, “So, do you ever think about what happens to you after you die?”

The book is worth reading.  He makes it sound easy.  After all if our job is to sow seeds and God’s job is to provide the growth, what is frightening in that?  Yet, when I think of changing my life to make Jesus my ‘all-in-all’, my ‘raison d’être’, I am confronted by my selfishness.  When I am out and about, whether walking, at the gym, or commuting, I am listening to podcasts about God, French or logic.   Or I’m reading while waiting, giving off flashing vibes that communicate “Do Not Disturb”   It’s all good ‘Mary-esque’ content but it’s still feeding my desires.

Yes, I do like my name.  But I know that God is calling me to do more than soak in and absorb.  He wants me to risk trusting Him that there is more joy in telling others the glorious story of freedom and life everlasting than in swimming in my comfortable but Dead (spiritual) Sea.

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace”– or whose faith is it?

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First some context : Here is the tail-end of Jesus’ remarks in Luke 7:50 to the Pharisee who invited him to dinner      Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

I’ve been learning about what faith is and what it is not.  In the above story one could commend the woman for having faith.  After all, Jesus refers to it as HER faith.  Something she possesses.  But did she originate the faith?  Should she be praised for something that she stoked, nurtured and exercised in seeking out Jesus?

What would we think of a person who enters a marathon in a wheel chair and completes it entirely thanks to someone who pushed him?   Would we say, “Congratulations!  Your fast finish has qualified you to place!”

No, we would clearly see that his finishing the race was entirely due to this other person.

So it is with the faith of the ‘sinful’ woman.  This pistis (Greek) or faith was given to her by God.  That is what regeneration is, what being born again is all about.  It’s when God opens our eyes and ears and deposits faith in our soul.  Then we can see the need and feel the compelling desire to repent; then we can feel safe in approaching Jesus.

What is remarkable is that since WE ourselves don’t generate this faith, we don’t have to fear losing it.  It is a gift placed in us by God. Furthermore, He deposits the Holy Spirit in us, to assist our use of that gift.  If you have faith no bigger than a tiny seed, it is enough.  Imagine nuclear power and the miniscule fission process that spontaneously occurs.  But the outcome is huge.  So it is when God makes us alive, gives us faith and provides the Holy Spirit as a helper.

I’ve been meditating on Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17.  He commends the disciples as those whom the Father gave to him and men who obeyed God’s word.  We quickly think of Peter and his denial of Jesus and the brothers James & John who were concerned about their right-hand positions in the Kingdom and the fearful group in the boat faced with the threatening waves.  Do these actions qualify as obeying God’s word?   Of course not.   So what could Jesus mean?

I think Jesus is referring to the fact that the disciples retained their faith.  They continued to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, God’s son.  Their actions didn’t always comport with the behavior one would imagine of a proper disciple.  But in God’s book, they were men of faith and that is the grid through which He judges us.

But….it’s a rigged system!  We can’t possibly fail!  God gives us faith.  He gives us supernatural help, guaranteeing our success exercise of it.  Finally, He commends us for keeping this faith.  It’s a win-win situation!

There’s a verse in Jeremiah 31: 6b where God promises His people that, “…. your work will be rewarded……”    We have the best deal possible.  What God requires of us, we can’t possibly fail to do, because His constant resources, although invisible, are a guarantee that we will please Him.  On top of His approval, He will also reward us.

The supreme work we are to do for God is to believe Him, to exercise the faith with which He gifts us.  All else is subsumed underneath that raw trust.  We have to get the order correct.  Believe, rely on Him and do what He commands, trusting that He will enable us to please Him.  We can’t measure the outcome and determine if we have pleased Him, if we have exercised faith ENOUGH (whatever THAT means!).  But we can trust that what warms His heart and makes Him rejoice and beam as a proud Father is our toddler-like stabs at faith. Picture Him applauding us for walking in faith while our hands are being held by the Holy Spirit.  Selah!

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