We had an excellent time this past Monday with Scot McKnight and about 25 others out at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Park Ridge. The first half-hour we spent mingling and connecting with all the new faces. Having up/rooted on a totally different side of the city brings a lot of new people out of the woodwork. Among many others, I was especially excited to connect with John Armstrong from Act 3, Nanette Sawyer from Wicker Park Grace, and Helen Mildenhall from Conversation at the Edge. I also enjoyed meeting Michelle Van Loon, an author and playwright who actually named one of her books after up/rooted!
Pastor Fred was making some excellent coffee on his church's espresso machines, and there was a full spread of Christmas cookies and other snacks provided. After we filled up our plates we migrated from the lobby to the back of the sanctuary which was set up with round coffee-shop style tables. As we were there to discuss Scot's new book, The Real Mary, we began with some opening thoughts from Scot about the book and why he wrote it. He says he consistently gets the question of why a Protestant would want to write a book about Mary. He responded by asking why evangelicals are so afraid of Mary.
Much of his comments and the subsequent Q&A revolved around the Magnificat, Mary's song recorded in Luke 1:46-55. He suggests that, in contrast to the passionless, pensive, pious, passive, ponderous... Mary that we see in Christian art and popular conception, the Magnificat actually paints for us a picture of Mary as a woman with fire in her eyes. She was a woman who longed for justice and liberation for her people, and agitated for the overthrow of the established political and religious order. Her words were revolutionary, and it is likely that she had a huge influence on Jesus and his brothers/cousins (e.g. James, John, etc.)
One of the more interesting points that came out, however, is that Mary had to undergo a transformation in her own faith in her son, and her expectations for what the Messiah was supposed to be and do. She believed that the Messiah would lead a violent overthrow of the Romans and reestablish the political kingdom of David. When Jesus started deviating from this script Mary began to fear that he had lost his mind, and even showed up with his family to "intervene" in his ministry at one point. However, as Scot reminded us, later on we see Mary at the foot of the Cross, and Acts 1 portrays Mary as part of the earliest gathering of believers at the day of Pentecost. Obviously she had to go through her own process of re-discovery in her faith. As an emerging Christian whose own faith has undergone a radical transformation in recent years, I can really identify with and take inspiration from Mary in this regard.
The conversation naturally got a little bit into the controversial aspects of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views of Mary. I think the comments were very respectful of differences for the most part, as was Scot's own book in the chapters where he discusses these issues. We also talked about the implications of Mary's example and role in the early church for women in ministry in the evangelical church today. Helen asked the best question of the night when she wondered what would happen to women in evangelical churches who have the same fire in their eyes that Mary did. Though it of course depends on the particular church, sadly the answer often turns out to be that they are squashed, forced out, or otherwise supressed.
We also asked what benefit Mary can have for us as Protestants. What can we learn from her? How can she inspire us? Scot and others gave us some great suggestions. I would open that question up to all of you as well. What has (or could) Mary do for you? Feel free to talk about it here.
BTW, several others have written reviews of the event already as well, including:
Check them out!
We haven't decided yet on the time, location or theme for our next up/rooted gathering in January, but I'll let you all know as soon as we figure it out.