John Butcher

Preaching at PCC

John Beverly Butcher

The following message was delivered at Pescadero Community Church by Rev. John Beverly Butcher on Mary Magdalene Day Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sound Recording

Click above to play or click here to download the mp3 file (28.2MB)


by John Beverley Butcher, M.Div.
ministers_jbI have been fascinated with Jesus all my life and with Mary Magdalene for almost as long. There is something about them that draws me like a magnet. I feel an intense need to study all the information about them that I can get my hands on. The great joy for me is that our database on Jesus of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala has been dramatically and substantially expanded by the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, Thunder, and many other significant sacred texts. Most notable was the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Scriptures in 1945, the same year that the atomic bomb was first used on other human beings. One kind of explosion leads to destruction and death, the other discovery provides us with Wisdom for restoring us to our true humanity.

Since 1977 when these scriptures were fully translated and made readily available, there has been intense research by many competent scholars leading to a creative explosion of new books on Jesus and on Mary Magdalene. The implications are enormous and challenge us to rethink our understanding of these two people, their relationship, and their wisdom teachings. The conventional New Testament has scant information on Mary of Magdala which diminishes her and keeps her mainly in the background. With the new data available to us, we can see clearly that she is the closest woman companion to Jesus. She joins her energy with his in their shared work of teaching and serving as catalysts for healing. Those who heard Jesus and Mary were astonished at their teachings since they spoke on their own authority and not as the conventional religious leaders. I am convinced that their authority originates with their experience of Sacred Mystery within, between, around, and beyond themselves. In other words, first comes their experience, then comes their teaching. What were their experiences? And who were the people who were most influential in their lives? These are among the questions that energize me in researching the documents and doing my own writing and teaching. I am seeking to rediscover and reclaim them both as historical and archetypal characters.

In researching the dynamics of their sacred partnership, I am discovering texts like these that jump right off the page:

  • Mary is a woman who fully understood. Dialogue of the Savior 20:2
  • Mary Magdalene is the Companion of Jesus and they kissed each other often. Gospel of Philip 32
  • Jesus loved her more than any other woman. Gospel of Mary 6:1
  • Jesus knew her completely and loved her devotedly. Gospel of Mary 10:10
  • Jesus says, “When you drink from my mouth you will become like me; I myself shall become you, and the hidden things will be revealed to you.” Gospel of Thomas 108

The evidence is clear that Mary of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth are Companions, soulmates, and deeply engaged in their sacred partnership for work and ministry. The evidence is clear: together they are seeking to assist people in discovering their essential Union with All that Is. They speak from their own experience with each other and with the Source of Life, that Amazing Mystery, the pulsating Energy of the Universe who is within, between, around, and beyond us. They embody the Mystery who is our Mother, Father, Teacher, and Lover.

In addition to their wisdom teachings, they use energizing rituals as revealed by the central theme in the Gospel of Philip. Jesus and Mary “did everything in a Mystery: a baptism, a chrism, a eucharist, a reconciliation, and a bridal chamber.” Philip 68 What would happen if both Jesus and Mary were to be integrated more fully into our present day rituals of baptism, eucharist, foot washing, and anointing? With this question in mind, I have been developing and field testing fresh rituals rooted in ancient texts.

I now recognize that Mary Magdalene, along with women whom I have perceived as carrying her energies, has been the object of my own intense projections for many years. Gradually my view of Mary Magdalene has shifted. I am seeing her more clearly as a person in her own right. With this shift I am able to see other women more clearly as well. What might the Gospel story look like and how might it read if Mary of Magdala were to be returned to her rightful place? My task is twofold: to put her back into the story where she belongs and to restore the neglected wisdom teachings from her and from Jesus. I do this in writing books and in leading seminars and retreats.

John Butcher: “Jesus and Empire”

The following message was delivered at Pescadero Community Church by Rev. John Beverly Butcher following his unanimous affirmation by the congregation of Pescadero Community Church on February 5, 2006

Sound Recording

Click above to play or click here to download the mp3 file (24.8MB)