Mary Slessor was a mill girl in Dundee when the call of Jesus changed her life. She was the rare female member of a gang of wild boys when she began to listen to an old woman sitting at a fire in a tenement building, warning that unless she turned to Christ she would burn in hell like a brand on the fire. Not an evangelistic method that she herself would ever use in her subsequent career as a missionary and British vice-consul in Nigeria, but it changed her in a moment. Eventually she rose to public fame, but to the end she held on to the modesty of her upbringing, and as a public speaker preferred to get up and speak on the floor rather than on a platform.
Her Bible is full of marginal notes, such as ‘Na na, Paul laddie, that winna dae’ opposite one of Paul’s remarks about women, indicating a sharp mind, a clear focus on Christ and a willingness to make moves most unusual for the culture of her day. A woman who came from the margins herself, she rescued many twin boys and girls in Nigeria who without her would have been struck off the margins of life itself.
She was a woman with an inspirational and passionate care for children in need. Many others have followed in her footsteps, like another missionary Gladys Aylward, or the two women who founded the Charity ‘Save the Children’, Eglantyne and Dorothy Jebb. All three had to be contrary, to contradict a prevailing culture, to fight for the future of children.
Mary Mary, quite contrary,
how does your life pan out?
With those despised and marginalised,
a radical turnabout.
PRAY Lord Jesus Christ, you call us to an upside down kingdom, where the poor are rich, the outcast welcome. You call us to a world we have not yet seen, to a banquet we scent but have not tasted apart from bread and wine, to a heaven whose hints entice and jolt our everyday lives. Help us to listen, trust, obey; to share the joy of Zacchaeus, and Mary, and all your radical friends.
God, we have been praying for better leaders in church and nation. In your wisdom may we be better people, better voters, better participants in church and kingdom, better citizens of heaven and earth.
Blessed are you, Lord of the past, for you bring down the mighty and rich.
Blessed are you, Lord of the present, you raise up the humble and poor.
Blessed are you, Lord of the future, for you will surprise the mighty and humble, you will disrupt rich and poor with the day of your coming. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’
9 Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’