Sermon Audio: "Mary: Surprised by Hope to Carry the Gospel" by Suzanne Burden

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The secret is out: I love preaching on women of the Bible. Preparing to tell their stories feels like a great excavation project, where I am uncovering pieces of their stories that are often untold. And, woven throughout their narratives is the beautiful picture God is weaving, of women and men joined as allies, side-by-side, to advance his Kingdom.

Nowhere is this more true than in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as told through the gospel of Luke. Listen in as we explore Mary's story through Luke—most likely told to him by Mary herself, as she marvels at how God could use such a simple girl for such an amazing task as carrying the Messiah. Filled with hope and a challenge for each of us to make room for the Gospel ourselves.

And watch a one-minute video clip of Mary in "The Nativity Story" here.

Your turn: How does Mary's story inspire you to make room to carry the gospel? What insights have you gained from her example?

Suzanne Burden is a pastor, writer, and friend. But  most importantly, the Beloved of God. She speaks on a variety of topics, including: Women of the Bible, Allied: God's Intentions for Men and Women, Apprenticed to Jesus, and Run Hard, Rest Well: Restoring our Souls through Four Biblical Rhythms of Rest. Contact her here.

We are the women of the Holy Week

The LilypadMary Magdalene, the one released from seven demons, lingers in the garden weeping, her tears watering the soil.  She is known as the "apostle to the apostles" in Church history, and for most of us, she appears to be the female headliner in the story of Holy Week. We witness her tears of deep sorrow, her unawareness that she kneels moments away from her commissioning as the first evangelist to spread the news that He is Risen, just as he said.

Our hearts will jump as her heart leaps for joy!

From Reclaiming Eve:

"It wasn't the empty tomb that gave Mary Magdalene hope again; it was the voice of the very much alive Jesus that made her physically jump for joy. And the fact that he appeared first to her signaled a dramatic departure from relationships as usual. For as a women in her culture, Mary Magdalene held few rights. She would never hold up as an official eyewitness to anything in court. She was likely aware that the pious male Jews thanked God regularly that they were not born as women. She knew her place, and her place would always be second.

Apparently Jesus did not get the memo. After what historians point to as the pivotal events in all of human history—Christ's death and Resurrection—Jesus chose to appear not to his circle of male disciples, but to a female disciple who loved and served him faithfully. And he told her to immediately tell the 12 male disciples. What is so terribly ironic in all of this is that none of them believed her (Mark 16:11). Yet Mary would go down in history as the "apostle to the apostles"—the one chosen by Jesus to spread the good news" (p. 112).

But why, Lord, we ask? Why appear to a woman whose word would not immediately be trusted?

All of the women of Holy Week, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, the ones last at the cross and first to the tomb, remind me of something about all of the daughters of Eve.

They brought the very thing we women are afraid to show—our neediness—to the feet of the humble rabbi. Demons were released. Insecurities erased. Religious foundations shaken and reset by the inbreaking Kingdom of Jesus.

These women sat at his feet. They felt his touch, simple and pure. Scandalous though it may have been, they dined with him—some of them supplying his food out of their funds—receiving back immeasurably more than they gave. Freedom from sin, release from shame—the teaching he offered them, filled with life, when they became his disciples.

At the cross their hearts broke in two, but the Life-giver, the Grave-robber, was already knitting them back together again. They came broken, needy, desperate. They left amazed, restored, and capable of doing exactly what Jesus asked of them. Released to lead in loving God and neighbor. Lifted up to resist injustice and free the oppressed. Taught so winsomely to teach others to become his disciples.

And don't you see, we are the women of the Holy Week. We need demons rebuked. We suffer from insecurity and inferiority and shame. What we need is a Savior, a lifter of our heads. The abused ones, and the disregarded and marginalized ones, and the seemingly healthy ones, too, the young and the aging, the vibrant and the dying. Like the women of the Holy Week, we come needy and walk away whole, no matter our circumstance. And we women know, this is too much freedom to keep to ourselves. It is Holy Week, and Sunday's coming, and we must go and tell.

Mary Magdalene, the one released from seven demons, lingers in the garden weeping, her tears watering the soil. 

Our hearts will jump as her heart leaps for joy.

Watch a video short of Mary Magdalene's story here. How do the women of Holy Week point you to freedom and wholeness in Christ?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!” — Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

Audio sermon: Naomi's story (Ruth 1-4) by Suzanne Burden

sessionsA few weeks ago, on the first Sunday of the year, I had the privilege of preaching a sermon on the book of Ruth at Fairhaven Mennonite Church. In the sermon's first moments, I began by lifting a scarf over my head, and delivering a dramatic monologue from the perspective of Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law. (Which made one guy think I believed I should only speak in church with my head covered. True story.) The sermon contains:

  • Naomi, whom scholars call the female "Job"
  • clinical depression
  • homelessness, hunger, great loss and marginalization
  • a faithful woman who felt God was her enemy!

Most of all, though, it's a story of reversal: God's hesed (Hebrew word for loyal love) follows his people, no matter what comes. Grab your Bible, turn to the book of Ruth, and enjoy!

[audio mp3="http://suzanneburden.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Naomisstory.mp3"][/audio] See the amazing painting "Whither Though Goest" here. Be sure to check out The Gospel of Ruth—Kindle edition only $3.99— a fantastic resource by Carolyn Custis James that I consulted in my study. You won't regret this surprising look at how God raises up his daughters alongside their brothers to build His Kingdom.

Your turn: Can you relate to Naomi's story of bitter disappointment or surprising reversal? How are you tracing God's hesed—or lovingkindness—toward you these days?

Looking for a speaker at your church, conference or retreat? Contact me here to inquire.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.