Thursday, September 23, 2010

Truth and Trivia

The Euphrates river, 55 mph, the Pecan State -- these things have an odd commonality.  Want to take a wild guess what it is?  Each is a representative of an answer, given with pride and confidence, that proved to be inaccurate.  Whoops!

I had my Pecan State moment while studying the last chapter of "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World."  The author started talking bout the well-known story of Mary and her alabaster jar, anointing Jesus' feet with oil at dinner.  She identified Mary as the sister of Martha...and my catch-every-little-thing radar went crazy.  Everyone knows that the alabaster box Mary was Mary Magdalene!  I've heard the sermons, I've listened to the song.  This is one Biblical fact I knew.

Armed with my righteous indignation, I waited for Bible Study night.  And when we got to this chapter, I asked if anyone else found this passage interesting.  My best friend spoke up.  She said, "It seemed off to me.  So I looked it up, and it turns out that it was Martha's sister Mary."

Look it up?  Why didn't I think of that? I was just ready to dress the author down for her obvious mistake.

But indeed, there it is: "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12:1-3)

Mary, Martha, Lazarus.  The family trio that is at the center of several of Jesus' most relational moments.

I immediately thought of a commercial that's been on the radio.  A reporter is talking about a new salad or something that features pecans.  The restaurant in question gets their pecans from Georgia (apparently Georgia is a treasure trove for pecans).  The reporter is talking back and forth with some pecan farmers, and at the end of his spiel he says, "And that's why I call Georgia the 'Pecan State.'" ::pause:: A farmer replies, "But Georgia is the 'Peach State.'"  The reporter, ::a little uncertain:: "Well I call it the 'Pecan State.'"  The farmer, ::you can just see the flat look and possible eyebrow raise:: "Well...that's weird."

When did Christian pop culture get the Mary's mixed up?  (And when did I start letting pop culture dictate the things I take as truth?)  Is it because Luke says this woman "lived a sinful life," so obviously he must be talking about Magdalene?  Whether or not it makes sense or a good sermon or a moving song, that's kind of mean when you think about it.  But however the seed got planted, it's grown to be the pervasive opinion.

As a side note: I think there's something beautiful and profound about the Alabaster Box song if you swap your mental picture from Mary Magdalene to Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Because really don't know all of her back-story. We know that Jesus had a very special relationship with this family.  But we -weren't- there when it started.  We don't know the scars that Mary carried.  Those answers and mysteries are between Mary and Jesus alone.

Name the river that runs through Baghdad:  the Euphrates  the Tigris
In the movie Speed, what was the minimum speed at which the bus must travel:  55 mph  50 mph
What is Georgia's tag line: the Pecan State  the Peach State
Who anointed Jesus' feet with expensive oil: Mary Magdalene  Martha's sister Mary

Thank you to my best friend for reminding me that instead of gloating in my "rightness," sometimes it's a good idea to check the facts.  When something seems off (and even if something seems right), it's always good to go back to the source instead of relying on someone else for the truth.

Can't you imagine me as that little reporter?  "And that's why I call her Mary Magdalene."  "But it was Mary the sister of Martha."  ::a little uncertain::  "Well I call her Mary Magdalene."  ::eyebrow raise:: "Well...that's weird."

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