When I get to heaven — and I know it may sound presumptuous for me to say it, but I live by grace and believe in amazing grace — when I get to heaven, I certainly want to see the Lord. But I want to see dear members of family and friends, those who have gone on before, the many people I want to sit down and have some conversation with. Of all the biblical people, aside from the Lord himself, when I get to heaven, I want to meet Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene, who was one of the people, one of the women, who followed the way and teachings of Jesus and who probably provided much of the funding for his movement. Mary Magdalene, who with some of the other women and only one of the male disciples, stood with his mother, Mary, at the cross as he died. Mary Magdalene, who, even after he died, on that Easter morning, got up with some of the other women early in the morning, before the day had begun, in the dark, got up to perform the rituals of love to anoint the body of Jesus in his grave.
I want to ask her, “Mary, tell me what got you up that day. Tell me what got you to go to the tomb early in the morning when it was dark, and you could barely see. Why did you get up and go to anoint his body? Mark’s Gospel says that you and the other women said to each other, you knew that Jesus had been buried in that tomb that had been provided by Joseph of Arimathea, with Nicodemus’ help, but a large stone had been rolled in front of the doorway, into the tomb. And one of the women said to the other, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us?’ You knew the stone was there. You knew you couldn’t move it. And yet you got up and you went anyway. Mary, tell me your secret.”
I suspect she probably will say, “Well, we didn’t know how we were going to roll away the stone, but we loved him, and we got up and went anyway. It was hard because it was dark, but we loved him, and we got up and we went anyway. Those roads could be dangerous at night, but we love Jesus, and we got up and we went anyway. Who will roll away the stone for us? We did not know, but we loved him, and we got up and we went anyway. And let me tell you what love can do for you. When we got to the tomb, the stone had already been rolled away. And we shouted our hallelujahs, and shouted our hallelujahs. He is risen.”
Last year in March, on March 13th to be precise, another Mary Magdalene, her name, Barbara, Barbara Clementine Harris, bishop of the church, a voice of love, and justice, and compassion, a voice of deep and profound faith, first woman to be consecrated a bishop in Anglican Christianity, died and entered eternal life. This was early in the pandemic. Fortunately for us, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas had worked with Bishop Barbara to make sure that her memoir was completed, and they completed it. She gave it the title from the words of a gospel song that says, and I quote:
Never let your troubles get you down
Whenever troubles come your way
Hold your hands up high and say
Those words characterize the life of Bishop Barbara: hallelujah anyhow. In spite of hardship and difficulty, hallelujah anyhow. In spite of injustice and bigotry, hallelujah anyhow. In spite of war and violence, hallelujah anyhow. And that, my friends, is the spirit of Mary Magdalene. That, my friends, is the tenacity of those who would follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his way of love. In spite of hardship and toil, hallelujah anyhow. In spite of the fact that this Easter is the anniversary of the assassination and the martyrdom of Martin Luther King, Jr., hallelujah anyhow. In spite of the fact that these are hard times, hallelujah anyhow.
Our work goes on. Our labor for love continues. We will not cease, and we will not give up until this world reflects less our nightmare and more God’s dream where there’s plenty good room for all God’s children. Hallelujah anyhow.
When I get to heaven, I can’t wait to hear Mary Magdalene and Bishop Barbara tell me he’s risen. Hallelujah anyhow. Amen.