Most of Lent I’ve spent finishing the manuscript for a book I have written. It is finally finished. As anyone who writes, or undertakes a project that consumes much of your days and nights, a kind of void ensues. There does come a sense of loss along with a sense of job well done. What once filled your days, your thoughts, your every waking hour, is now no longer yours in many respects. It’s for those who will read it. But because of the subject matter I suspect I will never entirely be finished with it. Because it has become important to me that we get the story (of Christianity) right. And we haven’t yet.
So this week I have been doing things that have gone undone during the writing. Like cleaning house. Cleaning out closets, throwing things away that I no longer need or can use. Or that fit! I’ve started thinking about what annuals I’ll plant in the garden this year.
We are one week away from Good Friday. And I woke up this morning thinking about other things that needed to be discarded, things we have outgrown in a spiritual context. Outdated ideas that no longer speak to us, no longer serve our journeys to new life. No longer fit the life we live today.
This thought conincided with something that has been sticking my craw for some time. Its been gaining purchase in my thoughts for a while now.
During a bible study class there was a woman who said she has read the bible through three times. Great. One of the points I make in my writing is that we need to actually read the biblical text in context and see what it is saying, rather than taking bits and pieces, a sentence here or there, the way we have with St. Paul, and misreading them. Later in the discussion this same woman referred to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. Whoa! No she wasn’t. And I said so. Really? Was the woman’s incredulous reply. No where in the scriptures does it say Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. No where.
This idea came from Pope Gregory I, aka Gregory the Great in the 6th century. He was wrong. But this notion has persisted throughout Christendom and beyond for centuries. I have never heard one person from the pulpit discredit this error. This sin done to women and to the gospel in the churches. A few weeks later a man made the same observation. Again, I tried to right this misunderstanding of a woman who was one of the most devoted followers of Jesus and to whom he first appeared at the Resurrection.
My point: How much more have we believed of the gospels that is not true. In spite of the fact that the woman had ‘read’ the bible, evidently she, like many of us, has been reading it with the overlay of church teachings that considerably miss the mark. How much more have we gotten wrong about our faith?
We need to right this wrong because it represents the great injustice that has done been done to women and to reading the stories of the scriptures more carefully.
So while you do your spring cleaning, you can throw this one out.
I for one am going to follow this woman through Holy Week, to the Cross, and to the Garden because this was one woman who got it right, while all the men ran away.