July 22, 2008
Today is the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles” who first proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus to Peter and the Beloved Disciple. For me, the day began with Matins and the Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral before catching the bus to the University of Kent where the Lambeth Conference is meeting.
The words from John’s Gospel continually amaze me: “She turned and saw Jesus, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus only after he calls her by name. At first, she thought she was addressing a stranger, a gardener: “Sir, if you know where they have taken him….” Instead, she herself is addressed by the risen Lord she knows and loves who appears to her in a form she had not quite expected.
What a gift it is to have this lesson to help frame the events of today. In so many ways, the Lambeth Conference is an extended family reunion. Our days at the VTS booth are spent offering hospitality and sending greetings, to long-known family members and to distant relatives whom we are meeting for the first time. In both cases we are blessed whenever we can recognize something of the risen Christ in one another.
How do we become proclaimers of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our own day? Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge the profound mystery at the heart of every other person – even the one I thought I knew well. In the risen Christ, every one is a new creation. The bishops of the Anglican Communion are meeting one another anew in “indaba” groups (“indaba” is a Zulu word that means “respectful encounter”). And here, at the VTS booth, we are encountering new and old friends from all over the Communion for conversations that take us more deeply into the meaning of the risen Christ.
So without knowing what the day will bring, I wait expectantly to be delighted by the stranger who is the friend in Christ I haven’t yet met.