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Was Mary a Deacon?

Lately I’ve been wondering if Mary, mother of Jesus, would have been installed as a deacon if there was a CRC church at that time? I’m a big fan of how thought experiments can help us be more curious and explore the mysteries of our faith.  At the heart of my wondering, I would not focus on issues of Mary’s  place in the culture but focus more on her heart and her actions. And leaning into the CRC’s position and commitment to ecumenism, I think we can learn (or at very least appreciate) some things from our Catholic and Presbyterian siblings' understanding of the role of the deacon in our church families.  

As we consider the stories of Mary from the Gospel of Luke, I think about words from David S. Apple, from 10th Presbyterian Church. Doing ministry will and should change you; if you know the good news and have it, you should live and share it. As you read some of this list… think about both deacons and Mary.

  • The most important task to be available, to show up, get closer to people.
  • Do not fear what others think, ultimately you are only judged by one, God.
  • The role of deacons is to encourage, equip, delegate, motivate, mobilize.
  • Raise up leaders, mentor others, model the action you want to see.
  • Deacons, ordained or not, are the whole body, servants to others, modeled after Christ, with hearts of diakonia [service].
  • Ministry of mercy and service is to be done by the whole church (Romans and Corinthians 12).
  • Develop gifts of liberty, all things belong to God, things that we have are not our own. Things to be held in common, with mutual concern for each other.
  • We should model the joy of service, with a zeal and passion for others.
  • We should share time in people’s pain and hurt.
  • Ministry is for the Glory of God.
  • Prayerfully walk into places of poverty, trauma, brokenness, with the leading of Jesus the Savior and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As described in the Children of God Storybook Bible, by Desmond Tutu, Mary started with some doubt and fear, but was soon reassured that the Holy Spirit would be with her every step of the way. She was overcome with joy and her heart sang. As ‘big D’ and ‘small d’ deacons in the CRC, we can rest in those promises as well. Mary then proclaimed that God is good and set out to share in God’s plan. It was not an easy journey, she even lost Jesus once and every parent knows that is one of our worst nightmares when it comes to big crowds! But Mary was humble, faithful and steadfast even to the point of weeping at the feet of Jesus on the cross, with some other women, as all others had left. She stayed with him until the very end.2 What an inspiration and model for us!

Richard Rohr weaves together different spiritual traditions and elements of sacred mythological text to help people in their search for God and purpose. The Bible and stories of Mary and Jesus can be a conduit. Rohr points out that Mary is actually our first bodily human connection to God.  This reality  should then allow us to see the gift of Jesus and in turn receive the gift of Christ (the expression of Jesus/humanity/love in all of us). 

Mary is an example of missions, listening, receiving, being a willing vessel, a space for creation and expression in right relationship. Not coming with all the knowledge, answers or power but being a willing servant.

It is a divine two step dance of action and contemplation.

On the spectrum of Great love to Great suffering, and everywhere in-between, we can see evidence of our creator, the movement of the spirit and a connection with each other in the great mystery of each day. Richard Wagamese considers this thought experiment… “Even if I’m wrong, there’s worse ways to live than stopping to thank the mystery for the mystery.” 

I started with a thought experiment but I want to go back to Rohr so I (and hopefully we) do not just get stuck in thought. 

“We are converted by new circumstances much more than by new ideas. Or as I like to say, we do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking. What converts people are real life situations. What changes people are confrontations, looking at something they don’t want to deal with straight in the face, or looking at life from a new vantage point. Stand in another pair of shoes looking back at yourself. It is essential for human empathy. It is necessary, or we remain largely narcissistic and trapped in our own ego and culture. We have nothing to contemplate - until we have acted and moved beyond ourselves and outside of our comfort zone. We will see everything through mere self-interest. It is a divine two step dance of action and contemplation. An art form to perfect until eventually you are busy acting with full-conscious union with God, and you are contemplating while holding, carrying and transforming the pain of the world within you.” – Rohr

Mary made that choice, exemplified those qualities and stepped onto that dance floor. Now it is our turn to join in…

Special thanks to Melissa Van Dyk and Bev Sterk for blogs and comments on the CRCNA network that helped lead me down this thought rabbit trail and to my next book from the library… Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by Joanna Weaver.   For further thoughts on this check out this article.

Photo provided by the author.

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