Friday, July 22, 2022


Image by Rico Lee

My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
(Psalm 49:3)

When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).
(John 20:14-16)


Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
(Philippians 2:5-7)

Then Mary wept, and answered him:

“my brother Peter, what can you be thinking? Do you believe that this is just my own imagination, that I invented this vision? Or do you believe that I would lie about our Teacher?” Of this, Levi spoke up: "Peter, you have always been hot tempered, and now we see you repudiating a woman, just as our adversaries do. Yet if the Teacher held her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Teacher knew her very well, for he loved her more than us. Therefore let us a atone, and become fully human, so that the Teacher can take root in us. Let us grow as he demanded of us, and walk forth to spread the gospel, without trying to lay down any rules and laws other than those he witnessed.” When Levi had said these words, they all went forth to spread the gospel.
- from The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, translated by Jean Yves Leloup

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding God established the heavens.
(Proverbs 3:19)

Left: "St. Mary Magdalene - RLMAM", by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM (2016);
Right: "Wisdom" by Titian (1560).

Today, as we begin a new devotional journey, we return for a moment to where we left off at Easter, with the witness of Mary to the resurrection of Jesus. How can this profound encounter, around which our faith revolves, also teach us something about the holy figure of Wisdom? In the Hebrew Bible, Wisdom is a model of God's yearning for our wellbeing, in contrast to the more intellectual learning that comes from studying the laws of the Torah. Wisdom is prized as a virtue, alongside justice and kindness. In some books of the Apocrypha, Wisdom is an aspect of God and Wisdom is God. Why were the ancient biblical writers so preoccupied with this figure? And what does Wisdom mean to us today? Where do we turn, in scripture and in our lives, to find it? These questions will frame our journey in the coming weeks.

In the decades after his death and resurrection, Jesus came to be thought of as an embodied form of Wisdom (something we will come back to later). In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says that God is the "source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God". The Gnostic writers of the second century were preoccupied with the knowledge they felt lay in each of us as we contemplate his teachings. Some of this is expressed in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Although this gospel was not included in the canon of New Testament literature, it offers a window into what the early life of the disciples may have been like, as they tried to pick up the pieces and go forward into the world with Jesus' message. The reading above describes a dilemma we all can relate to. Mary has been sharing private teachings she experienced from Jesus, with Matthew (Levi) and Peter. Peter is reluctant to believe her that they are real teachings. "Do you believe that this is just my own imagination," Mary says, "that I invented this vision?" We can understand the tremendous burden Mary must have felt as she relayed her news on the morning she encountered the risen Jesus, and this gospel suggests that the burden might have followed her for years. Though the disciples believe her, and have their own encounters with the risen Jesus, they may not have always believed everything Mary says. Sometimes we ourselves hear helpful guidance or encouragement in prayer, that we find hard to share with others. We may 'know' or 'feel' God's presence in specific life moments in ways that are difficult to convey.

As we journey over the coming weeks backwards and forwards in time with Wisdom, we will explore the various transformations that the figure of Wisdom expresses in the bible, alongside our own very human ways of searching for understanding. In the meantime, at this starting point, and inspired by Mary whose feast day is today, we can ask ourselves, what does it mean to become ‘fully human’, and also to embody, as Paul suggests, the “mind of Jesus”? How can we have both deeper self-knowledge and the 'mind of Christ' as we seek to share the good news in our world?

Image by Dualiti Photos

LC† Wise Ones and Wisdom Seekers is a project of Lutherans Connect, supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the Centre for Spirituality and Media at Martin Luther University College. To receive the devotions by email, write to The devotional pages are written and curated by Deacon Sherry Coman, with support and input from Pastor Steve Hoffard, Catherine Evenden and Henriette Thompson. Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter. Lutherans Connect invites you to make a donation to the Ministry by going to this link on the website of the ELCIC Eastern Synod and selecting "Lutherans Connect Devotionals" under "Fund". Devotions are always freely offered, however your donations help to support extended offerings throughout the year.  Thank you and peace be with you!