Eastertide: The Great Puzzler: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

MAY 3, 2020

So many folks seem to be doing puzzles during these days that I thought I would
give it a shot; after all, I have a 1000 piece puzzle that has been on my game shelf for years just waiting to be put together.  The box top shows a beautiful Vermont Christmas scene similar to those Lanz wall calendars you can buy at book stores and it looks like something I would like to work on. 

So, I opened the box and yikes – so many pieces – where to begin? The puzzle’s frame, of course. When I finally put it together there was a piece missing…but I decided to finish the puzzle anyway! I was able to sort building pieces, people pieces, animal, sky, snow, and tree pieces by looking at the box top; with that done the rest should be simple, right? Not so much!

Some of the pieces bore no resemblance to anything I thought they should represent. There were other pieces I felt should absolutely go together and I tried to force them into place, only to find out later on that they didn’t fit together at all; they didn’t even belong in the same section! Other times, after much searching for a particular piece,  I would declare a manufacturing omission – the piece was obviously missing…but then it would turn up later! Sometimes I put sections together out of sync – and the completed portion would have to sit off to the side until it was time to connect it to the whole.

One thing I learned (besides the truth that putting puzzles together is not for the easily frustrated) is that the more time I spent looking closely at the box top and at each puzzle piece, the more familiar the puzzle became, the more easily the pieces were located, and the more joy I found in constructing the picture. ….

When I was thinking about my puzzle – believe it or not, Mary, the mother of Jesus, came to mind. It seems to me that Mary was the Great Puzzler.

Think of the ‘Christmas story’ beginning when the angel, Gabriel, came to Mary, called her ‘blessed,’ and invited her to become the mother of God’s Son.

One of the great understatements of the Bible is that ‘Mary was perplexed:’ the ‘box top’ picture of being called ‘blessed’ and chosen as the mother of God’s Son was a beautiful image but how to put the pieces together?  Gabriel provided the frame of God’s love (Luke 1:26-38). All that was left for Mary to do was fill in the center. Easy, right?…not so

Throughout the early years of her motherhood, scripture says Mary ‘pondered’ as she considered  the pieces of her life in relation to Jesus fit together. The shepherds, the wise men, Simeon, that old man in the temple, with his prophesy of a sword through Mary’s heart (Luke 2:28-35). It was overwhelming!

Later, there would be more pieces to sort. When Mary lost Jesus on one of the family’s trips to the temple in Jerusalem and in her frustration referred to her husband, Joseph as Jesus’ father (Luke 2:41-51).  That piece that didn’t fit at all, as Jesus corrected her.

We read nothing more of Mary until Jesus’ public ministry began and we see a woman struggling with her divine puzzle trying to make the pieces fit and sometimes putting things together out of sync:

  • Mary asked Jesus to turn water into wine at a wedding so the host wouldn’t be embarrassed . Her timing was off – the divine compassionate piece didn’t fit where she thought it belonged. (John2:1-11)
  • Mary and her sons tried to force pieces to fit together and fit into the frame of their human understanding. Jesus’ controversial ministry became an embarrassment to the family. People were beginning to talk; was He crazy? Jesus’ family tried to remove Him from public scrutiny (Mark 3:21).
  • At Jesus’ crucifixion, Simeon’s prophesy from 33 years earlier sadly fit – a sword might as well have pierced Mary’s heart as she watched her Son suffer and die. (John 19:25b)

We last see Mary waiting in the upper room with the other disciples on Pentecost. Mary’s Son was now her Lord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Mary would become a piece in an even larger puzzle: sharing the truth that is Christ with the whole world through the power of the Spirit which would infill them.

It’s a puzzle still being fitted together today – with pieces that include all of us. 

We are so much like Mary.

Consciously or subconsciously we spend our lives puzzling through the mystery of the unknowable God as we ponder our God-given purpose in the divine plan – a purpose and plan only made knowable through Christ as revealed through the ‘box top’ of scripture.

We are given the frame for the puzzle: we are beloved of God – called to live according to Christ’s teachings of love. The puzzle pieces of our lives come together as we ‘carry and nurture God’s Son within us’ and allow Christ’s light and love to flow through us into the lives others. 

Exciting, right?  But putting the pieces together within the frame is no easy task.

Rather than referring to the ‘box top’ of scripture in order to understand how our lives in Christ fit together, we sort through the pieces and try to figure out life on our own – and are overwhelmed!

Rather than allowing Christ’s presence to grow within us and flow through us, we try to force things to happen prematurely and then wonder why things don’t fit!

Rather than waiting on Christ’s timing and purpose, we expect Him to show up on our time table, for our purposes, and are surprised when things don’t sync up.  

But other times, we see how the pieces of our lives – the dark and light pieces – the joyful and sorrowful pieces – have come together in a way only God could have imagined! Stand amazed – it’s a thing of beauty!

So, what if we used this challenging time of pandemic to consider the puzzle pieces of our lives within the frame of God’s love for each of us? What a great puzzle God has been creating, but it’s not finished yet! More pieces have yet to be fitted in place – ‘lost pieces’ found, whole sections connected as we serve God in the world. 

And oh, by the way – every piece will fit perfectly in God’s time – no force required!
there will be no missing pieces at all! 

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Eastertide: The Great Puzzler: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

  1. Thank you for your “puzzling message.” 😉 While you found your pile of pieces daunting, and wondered how/if you’d ever get them all together… Mary didn’t have all the pieces at the beginning. I wonder how many times she felt as if she was being buried in puzzle pieces – in the same way many of us wonder the same thing. BTW – did that missing border piece ever show up?



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