“There’s Something About Mary”
The Sanctuary Sermon for
The Sanctuary Sermon for 5/8/21
“There’s Something About Mary” Luke 1:26-38
I have this memory from when I was 12 years old going over to a friend’s house for a sleepover and feeling quietly scandalized by something I discovered about him and his family. They weren’t Amway distributors or in an armed militia. They. Were. Catholic. And they weren’t even trying to hide it! Seeing the images of Mary all over the house…this Protestant boy couldn’t have been more shocked if they had been lingerie pinups. I knew Catholics existed but now I had met some and I couldn’t help but staring at their Mary. She seemed luminescent and good and trustworthy and her beauty compelling. And I was secretly jealous as all get out.
Because let’s be honest. Protestants don’t know what to do with Mary. It’s like Roman Catholics have dibs on her and we just stand by only dusting her off once a year as the pretty young girl at the nativity set and then putting her quickly away before she embarrasses someone. So, after that night of being transfixed by my Catholic friend’s Mary, I didn’t pick up my appreciation of her again until in my 20’s.
Which is sad, for there are so many reasons to love and appreciate her. There’s something about Mary. And in that light, there are so many things to love and appreciate about our moms on Mother’s Day. So, moms, allow me to share a few thoughts about the blessed mother that are relevant to you and your life.
She was twelve. Maybe thirteen.
That was the typical age of betrothal in her day. And this little twelve-year-old was betrothed to a man.
I remember being twelve. It’s a great age. It’s also a difficult age. Everything changes almost every day. The ground moves under your feet with the constancy of waves on a beach.
Each change just comes, one after another. Before you’ve adjusted to one change, another sweeps over you. And no force can stop them.
It’s a between time.
No longer a child. Not yet an adult.
Somewhere in the middle.
That’s part of what makes it so hard.
Full of life. Awkward. Fun. Goofy. Girly. Womanly. Perfect as she could be in every way.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to her. And, in one instant there went childhood.
That one brush with heaven changed it all.
Mary, or Miriam as she would have been known, was one person in a long line of people who encountered God, and in the blink of an eye saw the trajectory of their lives change.
Abraham had to pick up and move away from the land of his fathers and raise a child in his twilight years. Moses found a bush on fire and ended up speaking before the principalities of this world on behalf of the Principality of the Cosmos. Joshua. Deborah. Gideon. Samson. Saul. David, the youngest boy in a long line of brothers – he was just minding his business, watching sheep one day when someone called him in from the field. Isaiah. Jeremiah.
And then Mary.
But God didn’t ask her to go anywhere. Or speak to anyone. Or liberate a nation of slaves.
God asked her to have a child.
Which is big, for sure. But, were God to ask me to do this for Him, the first thought which would pass through my mind would be: Oh, but my parents are going to kill me.
She was unmarried. Promised to a man.
How could she do this without disappointing everyone? Ev-er-y-one.
Her father. Her mother. Her aunts and uncles. Her rabbi. The people of her town.
She lived in a small town—one of those places where everyone knows everything about every single person.
Oh, the things people would think about her. And if those thoughts turned to anger, and anger turned them to God’s righteous laws, she could have been stoned to death.
And, yes, of course, this was to be no ordinary child born out of wedlock. This was an act of God.
But who on earth would believe THAT line?
And there stood that angel of the Lord sent to a girl, almost a woman, asking her to radically bend the arc of her life away from where she thought it might go to somewhere she never dreamed.
If angels “feel,” I wonder if Gabriel felt a little sad? There he was, bathed in divine light, rippling robes, bright colored wings, shiny halo—asking a twelve-year-old girl to do something he couldn’t dream to do. Something he, with all his power and prominence, was powerless to accomplish.
Let it be done with me according to your word.
I don’t think she actually said that. My guess is that somehow, she managed to squeak out an “Ok…”
That’s all I’d be able to summon, almost five times her age.
But, whatever she said, she agreed to go through with it. And, unlike her biblical ancestors she didn’t try and wiggle out of it. Unlike Moses, she didn’t try and say that she had a speech impediment. Unlike Jonah, she didn’t board a ship in the opposite direction. Unlike Abraham and Sarah, she didn’t laugh.
She said “Yes.”
I know people get hung up on believing the virgin birth thing, but for me the harder thing to believe was that Gabriel actually found someone to say yes! I mean If… and this a big ‘if’ mind you, but IF I ever would have said yes to something so bizarre, I would have only done so if I knew what was in it for me. Namely, how am I going to be blessed by this God who wants to use me?
But Mary, based on truly little solid evidence or information, said I am God’s and let it be with me according to God’s Word. She said yes. When Mary visits Elizabeth her relative, Elizabeth calls her blessed and Mary sings that for generations to come people will call her blessed—but think about how the story played out for Mary.
Is that what being blessed looks like? We usually use that word a bit differently, like: “Man! You’re so blessed to have that new boat!” So, how exactly is Mary using that word? Did she feel blessed as her unwed belly grew under the gaze of disapproving others? Did she feel blessed when laboring amongst sheep and straw? Did she feel blessed when her heart dropped realizing that she left her 12-year-old son in Jerusalem? At his arrest did she feel blessed seeing rope dig into the wrists of both God made flesh and the flesh of her flesh? Did she feel blessed when they lifted him up on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth nakedly enduring abuse as he took upon the entire Sin of the world?
“Blessed are you among women.” But if that’s what blessing is, I might have to pass. It was hard enough sending Heather off to middle school. Golgotha is a whole other matter.
I think the prophetess Mary of Nazareth had a particular wisdom from God. I’m not convinced that she was perpetually full of nothing but virtue, virginity and pure receptivity. But I am sure she wasn’t just another plain old Mary who doesn’t deserve any more honor than any other character in the Bible. I think that Mary deserves our admiration because in her we see what casting our lot with and being blessed by the God of Israel really looks like. Namely, that being blessed means seeing God in the world and trusting that God is at work even in things we can’t see, understand or imagine.
That “yes” she affirmed was fierce.
While that is true, young moms, grandmothers and ladies, the “yes” that you have spoken to God in your lives has been just as fierce.
Saying “yes” to raising your children. Some have said “yes” taking legal custody of grandchildren, raising them as their own. Some have not had any children as their own but took in family to raise as flesh and blood.
Saying “yes” to maintaining a household. Saying “yes” to balancing a budget. Saying “yes” when you fall into bed exhausted at night knowing that you’ll have to get up and do it all over again in just a few short hours. Saying “yes” for better or for worse.
Not understanding, but saying “yes” to God when a loved one falls ill and succumbs to sickness as you sit with them as comfort. Saying “yes” to God in faith as you bury a parent or a child knowing that death does not have the final word.
You see, to be a people marked by the faith of Mary is to be a people who say, “Ok, I don’t understand what’s going on and I know that my life isn’t going to end up looking like one I would choose out of a catalogue, but I trust that God is at work in all of it.” Blessedness is being used for God’s purpose more than getting what I want. Life itself isn’t about getting what you want or making sure you’re giving others what they want. To say “yes” is to trust that the Holy Spirit can be born in you, in me, in this broken mess of a gorgeous world.
Ladies, and all who are here, God is at work in you in much the same way God was at work in Mary. Well, except for the divine inception of course. And all the men said…Amen. Let’s face it, there’s not one guy here this morning who would even want to bear a child and give birth. Hmmmph. But ladies, I do think that you carry in your person the blessing of God and having faith like Mary and a willingness to say “yes” means allowing yourself to trust him with it.
Mary, in the annunciation, becomes the patroness, of all who are called by God to do impossible things. So, may the God through whom nothing is impossible help you to be Mary’s… saying a fierce, or timid, or quiet, or confident yes.
May it be with you all according to God’s word.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.