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The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, NY.

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Presbyterian Church (USA)

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Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, NY


Dr. Scott Black Johnston: There's Something About Mary

December 11, 2011

 

A few years ago, I led a church trip through Turkey. We were following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, retracing his evangelistic journeys through the area.

One sunny afternoon, our group ascended a hilltop near the ruins of Ephesus. Arriving at the summit, our guide for the day informed us that we were there to view "The House of Mary" - the home of the Madonna during the last years of her life.

As we walked through the chapel on the site, a parishioner asked me, "Scott, is there any historical evidence that Mary ever lived here?" Raising an eyebrow, I scoffed.

I must have set off an alarm of some sort, tripped a skepticism meter. Because before I could take another step, a priest swooped down on us from a nearby alcove and shushed me.

"All right," I thought, "I'll keep quiet. After all, Mary is your deal, not mine."

For centuries that is more or less how Protestants have dealt with Mary. We have stood at a distance, watching our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters honor her image, extol her virtues, and pray for her mercy.

We may wonder in private about all those "Hail Marys," but that's as far as it goes. After all, she's your deal, not ours.

More and more though, I think we've made - I've made - a mistake. Of course, we should respect other Christians' piety, but we shouldn't shy away from Mary. She's too important. She's too compelling.

Mary stands at the heart of this holy season.

The final leg of our journey to Christmas always begins with Mary - a poor, pregnant teenager who takes counsel with angels. True, this is the place in the story where modern, scientifically minded people often get hung up.

But I wonder if, in obsessing over biology, we miss the point.

Tell, me good readers, what does Mary mean to you?  How do you relate (or not) to the mother of Jesus?

[Taken with permission from Scott's blog, Sharp About Your Prayers.]


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