Thoroughly Modern Mary

No matter how hard we try, it’s difficult to dislodge Mary of Nazareth from her traditional December spot on the calendar or from our fairy tale notions of the halo-crowned woman on Christmas cards. Even though the Protestant Reformers maintained a high view of Mary post-Reformation, their spiritual progeny haven’t fared as well. We’ve lost a lot because of our unease with and false impressions of the mother of Jesus when she deserves our admiration and has a lot to teach us.

It’s also difficult to dislodge the story of any woman in the Bible from being “just for women” when, contrary to such false perceptions, the Bible isn’t divided up into men’s and women’s sections. All of it is for all of us.

LOGOS has managed to do both in their new series Mary: Devoted to God’s Plan. Not only do they break Mary loose from traditional perceptions, seasonal restrictions, and holiday caricatures, they bring her forward into the present with surprising year-round relevance, re-establishing her as a wise mentor for both women and men on the journey with God.

The series covers the full sweep of Mary’s story—from the moment the angel’s news of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy shatters the teenage Mary’s expectations of a simple life with Joseph to her becoming one of the resurrected Jesus’ disciples waiting in Jerusalem for the coming of God’s Spirit. In between, the study tracks the relentless adjustments Mary must make as Jesus transitions from a child to a man bent on doing his Father’s will and into her unspeakable suffering at the foot of his cross.

Instead of the unflappable and serene maiden in the manger scenes with whom we find it hard to relate, we encounter a real human being who wrestles with God’s purposes and ponders to understand Jesus, just like we do. Yet, young, vulnerable, and alone as she is when God calls, she responds with a risk-it-all brand of faith that raises the bar for all of us. The series highlights how God’s plan conflicts with Mary’s and how she repeatedly embraces his purposes, despite the cost.

Isn’t that precisely the same struggle we all face?

The Mary study is designed for small groups or for sermons. It has everything you need to lead or follow the series. It comes with introductory videos to pique a viewer’s interest, first class power-point slides, and well-written study material. (In the interest of full disclosure, as well as a matter of enormous pride, my nephew Miles Custis co-authored this series.)

I was personally challenged and encouraged by this study.  Here’s my endorsement:

The study of Mary: Devoted to God’s Plan is not for the faint of heart. Take this study seriously—embrace the young teenager Mary as your role model—and you have embarked on a journey that requires courage and self-sacrifice and may mean standing alone. An unflinching determination to follow Jesus comes at a price, so proceed at your own risk. But know for certain that when kingdom issues are at stake, holding back will cost you more.

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