Thursday, November 30, 2017

As the semester draws to a close, we are busily working on final assignments.

Here is the final preaching that I wrote for my Foundations of Preaching course this semester. The scripture passage is the resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene: John 20:11-18. The focus of this preaching is Jesus instruction to stop holding on, which is a universal directive. NB: My sisters at home are the imagined recipients of this email, but I emphasize that I do not see them as needing this reminder any more than the rest of us need it. Jesus speaks his message all of us!

An email to the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, NJ

Dear Sisters,

I hope you’re all doing well. I could never thank you enough for the support you’ve shown me during
my first few months here in St Louis. Your cards, emails, gifts and, of course, your prayers, have meant the world to me. Thank you!

As you know, I am taking a class on preaching. This class has me thinking a lot about Mary Magdalene. She is, after all, a patron of preachers. So she’s pretty important for us in the Order of Preachers. One thing we’ve discussed a lot in my preaching course is that your preaching needs to have a message. So, what is the message Mary preaches? Her message comes right from Jesus, and of course, the fact that he’s risen is at the heart of it all. But I’ve been thinking about something else. For Mary to preach the resurrection, she first needs to follow the instructions Jesus gives her, and those instructions are, in themselves, a message. The first thing Jesus says to Mary once she recognizes him is “Stop holding on.” That’s the first thing! There’s no “Nice to see you, too”; there’s no “See, I told you I’d rise again!” He just gets right to it: “Stop holding on!” So this instruction must be pretty urgent. And it’s an instruction for all of us, not just for Mary. Not easy! We human beings like to hold on! It’s in our nature. Who can blame Mary for wanting to cling to the Risen Lord that she thought she would never see again? How joyous it must have been, just to lay eyes on him again, much less to touch him. Of course she wanted to hold on! I can tell you, as I spend this year almost a thousand miles away from home, there sure are things that I would like to hold on to, also.

Before I came to St. Louis, I received this statue
of a grieving Mary Magdalene as a gift from my
candidate director.

One: the beach. There is no beach in St. Louis! (And thank you so much for the photos you sent of yourselves having a great time at the beach last summer, while I was here in the hot city, pulling weeds. I wasn’t jealous at all!) I tell you, if I were in New Jersey now, even though the summer crowds are long gone, I would still be walking on the boardwalk, getting my hair blown by the wind, and staring at the ocean. The reason I love the beach is because being near the ocean does so much to deepen my relationship with God. All I need to do is look at the water, and feel that wind, and I know joy and hope, and I know that God is real. I could hold on to my beach time with all my might.

So, the ocean is one thing I need to stop holding on to. What else? My three nephews, ages 5 years, 3 years, and 10 months. You remember, at my reception ceremony in August, you all fell in love with these little guys. When one of them laughs, or when that 5-year-old godson of mine coos at the baby--again--I know joy and hope, and I know that God is real. I could hold on to my time with those kids with all my might.

What about you? Are there places or people or situations that you’re still trying to hold on to? A place where you once lived or ministered? A beloved godchild who’s all grown up and moved away? A loved one who’s gone on to Paradise? Maybe a situation that has to change, for everyone’s good, but you just don’t want to give in to that change? There is so much that we’d like to hold on to, with all our might.

There’s good news, though, thankfully!

The good news is that when Jesus tells Mary to stop holding on to him, he makes an unspoken promise. This promise is that if Mary does let go, in the future there will be new gifts that God will place into her empty hands. I can’t honestly tell you that I’ve fully let go of my own stuff, but as I have slowly opened my hands, I’ve found growing friendships, and I’ve even found some great views of the water, especially the Mississippi River and the fountain pool in Forest Park! And I have found joy and hope again, and I have known again that God exists.

It hasn’t happened overnight. Unfortunately, it never does. God doesn’t fill the holes in our hearts too quickly. So, as you work on letting go of whatever you’re holding on to, I pray that you’ll hang in there. Talk to God. Tell God it’s hard. Yell at God, if you want. God can take it. And God will be there for you. The message Jesus gives Mary for his friends is  “I am going to my God and your God. Jesus’ God is our God too. Isn’t that amazing? The God that loves Jesus so deeply, loves us in the same way. You sisters taught me this. Thank you for that. And so, I remind you, if this God calls us to stop holding on, it must be worth it. 

Sending much love to all of you,



  1. Love ya Gina!!! This is so beautiful!

  2. In Alcoholics Anonymous,members often refer to "easy does it, letting go, and turning it over." Another axiom is "I can't. God can. And I think I'll let Him (Her). Gina and Rhonda, like Jesus and Mary Magdalene, you both will spend a lifetime of self pruning, letting go, and giving it to your Creator to handle things. Just as we, as church, prepare for the coming of Christ with great joy this Advent, we, together, must ready the way --ourselves--for change and personal spiritual growth.

    Gina, you remind us that we must let go in order to move forward. As some folks say "get the get to gettin'! In other words, we "Ain't Got Time to Die" because we're workin' for my Master, working for the kingdom . . ." Thank you Gina for the reminder of letting go, letting God, and depending on Divine Providence to bring us, along with Jesus Christ, to a world that needs hope or a promise of Light to lead us to peace.

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  4. Thank you, Gina. Simply beautiful ❤️