Craft of Preaching

Dear Working Preacher

Insights, ideas and inspiration related to the coming week's lectionary texts.

Mary's Response

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"Our Elm Tree_11" by A.J. Schroetlin via Flickr; licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.


“Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” I wonder what the world would be like if more people responded to God’s interruption in their lives like Mary did.

Because Mary models the kind of reaction we should have to divinity’s disturbance in our lives. She wonders and ponders. She questions and considers. She answers in awe. And Mary’s reply to God’s call understands that fear is characteristic of our response to God when God disrupts our lives.

Because Mary knows her God. And only a few verses later, she will testify to the God she’s always known -- the God who shows mercy for those who fear God; who scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; who brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly; who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty; who remembers Abraham and all of his descendants, which now include her, forever. And, now, more than ever, Mary knows who her God is. She knows what her God has done -- for her, for her cousin Elizabeth, for the outcast, the overlooked, those discarded, disenfranchised, dismissed.

In other words, she doesn’t view this angel thing as business as usual. She gets that God is God and cannot be predictable. She doesn’t attempt to control God for her own gain. She doesn’t say, “Well, that’s interesting, but no thanks. I have other plans.” She doesn’t figure out how to maneuver God for her own benefit. She doesn’t censor, blame, or lie.

And Mary would never assume God is on her side. She would never presume to speak for God. She would never suppose that she could regulate the will of God. And she certainly would never imagine that she could determine what God might do next.

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, Mary reminds us of what it looks like and what it sounds like when God shows up in your life -- unannounced, unexpected, and unplanned. And this is an important reminder as this season of the church year draws to a close.

While Advent hastens us toward active anticipation of and dynamic waiting for the birth of Jesus, there is, in the end, a certain outcome -- that which we expect will indeed come to fruition. God entering into humanity, as God did so long ago, will once again be a promise fulfilled. But, the annunciation to Mary helps us remember that God becoming human should always unsettle and upset, especially when we have settled into times when we try to predict God’s arrival or determine God’s favor.

Mary exposes how we tend to react to God’s intrusion in our lives. Because God’s interruption is often thought of as inconvenience. God’s impossibility is all too frequently met with disbelief. And God’s intrusiveness is all too frequently met with resistance and control.

But, when God breaks into our world, into our lives, our response needs to be Mary’s -- who says, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.” Because when God intrudes, how can you not? I mean, what else is there to say? God intrudes when God must. God intervenes when God’s Kingdom is in peril. God interrupts injustice. God interferes when power oppresses. And so we say, “Here we are.”

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the right response, is the Mary response, when God calls you to stand up for the vulnerable.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the Mary response when God calls you to fight for the fact that the fetus growing inside of you is yours. It’s yours.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the Mary response when God calls you to be fierce against bills and laws that are passed which perpetuate entitlement.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the Mary response when God calls you to insist that diversity is a hallmark of the Kingdom of God.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the Mary response when God calls you to affirm those persons who give witness to evidence-based experience of God working in their lives.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the Mary response when God calls you to call out discrimination against transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, and gender non-conforming people.

"Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the Mary response when God asks you to care for God’s creation, as the environment cries out against those who eschew science-based evidence.

Dear Working Preachers, Mary’s response needs to be ours -- this Sunday and especially as Advent fades into Christmas and as God’s imposition of divinity into humanity is long forgotten. Mary has empowered us to say, “Here I am.” Say it -- and then, see what happens.

Karoline

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