Scripture gives us little information about the retirement of Mary the mother of Jesus. By retirement, I mean her life and work after the resurrection of Christ. In my particular context as pastor at Christ the King Lutheran, retirees are a potent force in the church and larger community. Many of CTK’s members claim to be more active in their retirement than they were before. I agree with them. Retirees get things done. I believe that the same was true for Mary. Our last glimpse of her in scripture is the mention of her in Acts, where she is among the faithful awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
Just as Mary mothered Jesus through his terrible twos, contrary adolescence, and into adulthood, she is among those nurturing and tending the young church.
While scripture has little else to say about Mary’s retirement, Christian tradition offers us additional stories about Mary’s adventures following the resurrection. In fact, there is such a rich store of extra-biblical legends about Mary that they sometimes bump against each other. There are multiple sites which all claim to be the location of Mary’s last decades of life, her death, and her bodily assumption into heaven: two in Jerusalem, one in France, and one on a mountain near Ephesus, Turkey. As pilgrims we visited this last location: the House of the Virgin Mary located at the top of Mt. Koressos.
Whether Mary spent her retirement in Jerusalem, France, or on top of a mountain in Turkey is anyone’s guess. What matters is the tradition of adoption that inspired Anne Katherine Emmerich to dream Mary all the way to Turkey. “Woman, here is your son…here is your mother”.
Even before the Holy Spirit was tearing through Jerusalem setting everyone’s hair on fire, the church has been about creating family in the face of loss. At the foot of the cross, John was there for Mary to cling to as her son hung in agony. Mary was there for John weep with as he watched his friend dying by inches. Jesus saw this sharing of pain and sanctified it from the cross: “Woman, here is your son.”
The House of the Virgin Mary honors this kind of love, the love of people who have been placed, drawn, or even thrown together, and are richer for it. For instance, Mary’s House is a unique holy site in that it is visited and cared for by both Christians and Muslims, since both faiths honor Mary.
You see as pilgrims, bus-mates, and friends, we, my parents, my roommate, all of us on this trip, are bound to each other, commended to each other as Mary and John were commended to each other. Placed, drawn, and even thrown together we are richer for each other. The care and kindness we offer each other is more than mere courtesy. It is the same kind of love Christ sanctified from the cross and the same love which is honored at Mary’s house: the love of people who have adopted one another in the name of Jesus and in honor of his mother.
Ancient Corinth is dominated by the Temple to Apollo which sits above the town center. Below sprawl the remains of shops, colonnades, and even the bema, or speaking platform, where the Apostle Paul was once accused before the proconsul Gallio.
Paul was a resident of Corinth for some time. He worked in the city as tentmaker alongside fellow believers Aquila and Priscilla. He spent time in the local synagogue, going there regularly. The spirit of God even urges Paul to continue to stay in Corinth, sharing the gospel of Jesus. For a time, a year and more, Corinth is home to Paul.
And Corinth like any city, town, or village was a chaotic mixture of sin, grace, and redemption. Paul’s words were heard by many: sailors just in from the sea, prostitutes plying their trade, Jews, God Fearers of various backgrounds, Roman officials, Greeks, and soldiers.
As Paul walked through this town, now little more than rocks with a history, he encountered humans at their best and their worst. Beggars extended their hands to him, Roman soldiers shoved past him, prostitutes beckoned him, slaves hustled by, and Believers, coming from any and all of these groups, greeted him with thanksgiving.
Just as God planted Paul in Corinth for a time, God plants us too and bids us flourish for the sake of the Gospel. We may also have misgivings about the place of our planting. Perhaps it is somewhere that disappoints us or frightens us. Maybe the place of our planting is not what it used to be or should be. Whatever the place of our planting, God is the one who put us there and God is the one who puts us to work enriching and renewing a tired, cynical, and despairing world.
Rarely is the place of our planting what it should be, but that is the very reason that God plants us there. We are not spectators to the coming kingdom of God, we are involved, rooted in God’s saving work.
Paul’s time in Corinth shows us what it is to claim the place of our planting. Jesus’ life on earth does the same. We are invited to love the soil where God has placed us, care for the people growing up around us, and claim the community God has given us to tend. This community will not be perfect. It may even be a place of disappointment, frustration, and discouragement. However, we have the assurance that this will not always be so. God is at work renewing and recreating our world and we are involved: in our homes, in our towns, in the places of our planting.
About the Blog
In this season of plague, flood, fire, hungry cats, and Advent, we invite you to reflect on the words (such clever words!) of the Prophet John in the book of Revelation.
Perhaps you have encountered the #Liturgisaur on Instagram or Facebook. He is a small, green, pants wearing, one armed dinosaur who makes the rounds in Gladwin County and beyond, highlighting the various ministries of Christ the King Lutheran Church.
A church of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Like us on Facebook.
Christ the King Lutheran Church
600 S. M 18
Gladwin, Mi. 48624
Pastor Emily Olsen