Friday, August 3, 2012

Joanna, Mary, and Salome, Myrrhbearers

Commemoration of Joanna, Mary, and Salome, Myrrhbearers
Friday, August 3, 2012

The Lord be with you

Today, in the LC-MS, is set aside as the Commemoration of Joanna, Mary, and Salome, Myrrhbearers. This commemoration is an adaptation of the day celebrated in Orthodox Churches on the third Sunday after Easter (the Sunday before the Ascension of our Lord). This gives me a chance to explain where all of the “new” commemorations come from in the LC-MS. The committee who put together our liturgical calendar obviously consulted the many liturgical calendars used today, and throughout time, in selecting the “new” days. Many, but not all, of the new days come from these sources. They added to this a review of the history of the LC-MS and included a few key individuals on our liturgical calendar, like Friedrich Wyneken (May 4) and C.F.W. Walther (May 7). Generally speaking, these are names that do not appear on other calendars. This is a common practice in liturgical churches.

The celebration of these ladies on the third Sunday after Easter makes sense when we consider the name given them, “myrrhbearers.” This refers to their act of bringing myrrh to the tomb of Jesus Easter morning to anoint the presumably dead body of Jesus. However, celebrating them in the middle of summer also makes sense, and accents that trying to anoint the body of Jesus was not the only service these ladies rendered to the Lord.

These “faithful women,” as they are sometimes called, faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry. There were a number of women who provided this humble service besides these three, including the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Susanna, Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus).

On Easter morning, Joanna [the wife of Chuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Luke 8:3)], Mary [the mother of James (the son of Alphaeus)] and, Salome [the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56)], with the other women, rose early to bring their spices to the garden tomb. They came, in spite of the fact that they did not expect to find the Lord alive. They came, in spite of potential danger to anyone who might associate with Jesus. They came in one of the darkest hours of their life, when faith seemed unreasonable and despair seemed the rational response. They came.

It is easy enough to have faith when everything seems to be going your way. You see with your own eyes blessings pouring down upon you. But in the dark night of despair, when all seems to be against you, when your best efforts fail, then clinging to the Lord is hard. That is when faith is truly tested. The faith of these ladies remained true in just such a time and they can be an inspiration to us when we struggle in dark times. They carried the spices of death, but they found life. They found life because they went to the source of life, Jesus. We find life and hope at the same place, the resurrected Jesus.

As I said earlier, these ladies didn’t just join the band of disciples following Jesus. They had been with him since his days in Galilee. They had served the Lord and his disciples for quite some time. This was not flashy service. It was everyday sorts of things. Yet these faithful women have been honored in the Church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord. Most of us serve in this way, humbly. Our names will never appear on a liturgical calendar. But we should remember that the word “humble” is used to describe our Lord (Matthew 21:5), the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:48) and St. Paul (2 Corinthians 10:1; 12:21). While fallen human nature exults the proud, the arrogant, the conceited, and we even teach people how to be more so as we encourage them to be more self-confident and self-assertive, the Lord exalts the humble and opposes the proud (Luke 1:52; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 3:8). Therefore these humble servants of the Lord are also an inspiration to each of us to serve our exalted Lord in all humility.

Prayer: Mighty God, Your crucified and buried Son did not remain in the tomb for long. Give us joy in the tasks set before us, that we might carry out faithful acts of service as did Joanna, Mary, and Salome, offering to You the sweet perfume of our grateful hearts, so that we, too, may see the glory of Your resurrection and proclaim the Good News with unrestrained eagerness and fervor worked in us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rose and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Other appropriate prayers include:
  • For a humble spirit
  • For strength during dark times
  • For the proud, that they might repent
  • For those facing dark times, that they may find their light in Jesus
  • For the Church at large, that we might share the love of Jesus with our humble service to others

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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