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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Magnificat: Advent 4 Sermon

The Virgin Mary, a marginalized girl from the ancient Middle East, is a foreigner to our world. Yet this courageous nobody has much to offer middle class Americans.

Mary went "with haste" to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The Greek word means that she hurried with diligent intent. I think we would call that "focus" on a "mission." The particulars are not spelled out, but we do know that such travel would have been 'irregular' in that culture. This 'social deviancy' is intensified by the 'inappropriate' talk of the womb in public. This story would have felt scandalous to the ancient audience. The servant of God will be pushed to the margin of society.

Hear also that when the Lord is active among us, strange and unexpected things happen. A young Virgin and a sterile, old woman meet, each of them miraculously pregnant with a baby boy. They are a sign that salvation is not found in the halls of the powerful. Our Heavenly Father's saving work, like the seeds in Jesus' parables, is hidden, slowly growing, a fragile, at-risk power for life. These obscure women are the mothers of the Savor King and His prophet. Our availability and open heart is much more important to God than our resources. 

Elizabeth's unborn child leaped for joy in the presence of Jesus. Spontaneous, exuberant joy. If an unborn child recognizes Him hidden in the womb of His mother, we can too. Do you desire "eyes to see Jesus"? Yes? Then let's pray, "Father we want to see Jesus hidden among us!"

Jesus says "Ask and you shall receive. Ask in my Name and it will be given to you." We know the gift is given when we ask it, but perhaps it can only be received in a heart which is willing to leap for joy. Like Mary and Elizabeth we must look to God, not human approval. When we are concerned about people's reactions, we spend too much time self-monitoring ourselves to avoid disapproval. Those who turn to the world for approval must turn way from the Savior.

Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit so her words are from God.
She says, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
This is a Beatitude. "Blessed is...Blessed are" As I have taught you the Bible is filled with dozens of Beatitudes. Jesus gave us eight, and some of those were in the Jewish Bible already. Here we is another applicable to all.
"Blessed are those who Believe God's Word, His promises to His beloved."

The human dilemma is that we are not able to believe  because we have a head full of bad theology and a broken heart full of wounds and disappointment. The real problem though is our minds. I know that Mary grew up in a much more difficult and brutal world than us. Her heart was broken often in a world of Roman oppression and third world poverty. So she know many disappointments, but she still believed. If she can we can!

Nothing about Mary is more important that this description of her faith. She believed that what God had said to her He would do. She heard God's promise and trusted He would perfectly complete it. A moment ago, we prayed for eyes to see Jesus. If you believe God wants to give us this gift, has given you this gift, then you are going to see Jesus more clearly. Today. Now. Mary lived her life in that kind of trust and faith. We can too!

However, the Biblical portrait of Mary is about more than her. She is also a symbol, or a "type." In Biblical typology she is Israel and the church. She, like Israel, is YHWH's virgin daughter. In Israel and in Mary God provides the Savior, born of the House of David. The Canticle of Mary is modeled on the Canticle of Hannah from 1 Samuel. It is a prayer of the "Anawim" (the Poor of God) the remnant of Jews who are faithful to God in every age. The Anawim poor are dependent on God, so Jesus calls them blessed. The rich, He says, are at risk of relying on their own power and resources. Seduced by human connections, wealth and resources, using their knowledge and skill, they build their lives around the pursuit of safety and pleasure. God is pushed to the periphery by wealth and strength. Such is the danger of middle class America. The third world poor have no human hopes and no illusions. The anawim believe God provides. They are faithful because they are faith filled. They magnify God and rejoice in His salvation. They celebrate already the Day of the Lord when the great reversal takes place, when the mighty are toppled and the poor raised high, when those who weep and mourn, begin to dance and sing. But the poor are not only the physical poor, they are also called the poor in spirit, the meek, the humble. 1 John calls them "Little Ones"--anyone who come with open hearts reliant on God. Even the rich man can understand our total dependence. All of us can have hearts filled with gratitude as we sing "my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." We can say, "The Lord has looked upon His lowly servant and blessed me...The Lord has done great things for me and His Name is Holy." This is the prayer of the church.

This prayer is our prayer your prayer because you and I are Mary.
We are people on a mission called to make haste,
people open to God and ready for amazing things to happen,
people who believe God's word is true,
people who believe God's promise is being brought to completion right now,
people who believe that God has chosen us (each of us) for apostolic ministry (proclaiming the
       Kingdom, healing, exorcising, teaching and reconciling)
and people who see themselves as humble servants blessed by God.

All of us and each of us carrying within us Jesus, the Savior of the World.
All of us, each of us, filled with Jesus

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