Tony E Dillon-Hansen
Sermon based upon Luke 1: 26-38, 46-55; Psalm 89
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord – Our Rock, Our Love, and Our Redeemer!
“To be loved and to be love.” That is before us today.
Gabriel arrives before Mary and reveals to her that she is “favored.” Mary is a young poor woman in Palestine and understandably perplexed by this.
To be favored and to learn of great plans for us... how would you hear this? What do you do? Are you sure you got the right person? What makes you feel favored?
I had to think about this for a moment. For me, those times in life when someone looks you in the eye and says you matter and I am glad you are here. Growing up, I did well in school and continued into my college years. Yet, growing up different and queer was a challenge. Why me why now? Why can I not be like those people ? Why do I have to defy convention and tradition? Why did my body have to be different like this?
This did not feel like being favored with all of the taunts, rejections and the questions that came along with it. Yet, I learned a lot about society, people and tradition from being the one looking in from the outside.
Yes, it was hard to hear “You are loved, and you are love!”
Mary gets a visit from an angel who promptly tells her about God’s plans for her.
God has this knack for upending lives; we in this pandemic can attest to that. Still isn’t it a marvel how the struggles of a poor young woman can tell us about our own struggles in our lives here.
Rather than immediately accepting these plans from the angel, Mary talks back to him. Why me? Why now? Wouldn’t someone else better fit this plan? How did I get to be favored?
She is scared, perplexed and wondering. Yet she comes to conclusion that “I am the servant of the Lord… let it be…”
In these upending moments, we don’t have put on a façade of ignorance or try to be someone or something that feels right. It is those moments when we realize we are who we are meant to be.
Mary, engaged with Joseph, is told that she is to bear a child, and she has to be nervous about explaining this to Joseph. Regardless, Mary bears this witness with her body as pregnancy takes hold. She still has to work, preparing fish in a fishing community, carrying water from the well, getting grain and making it for meals. She still has to be on her feet and sweating in the Palestine sun, even during the last months of her pregnancy. She has to endure the whispers of people around her and the questions. It is little wonder why she goes to visit Elizabeth for a few months.
We have seen this before in our lives when we have experienced being upended. How did we get to be so favored when it does not really feel like a favor?
In these moments, let an angel remind you that You are favored and you are favor.
If we pivot this a moment, perhaps what the angel is doing is reminding us that God has plans for Mary -- and for us. Through this angel, as angels do, Gabriel tells not only Mary that she is favored, but that we, as people believing -have favor because of the gift we receive through Jesus. That favor really is love-- the ultimate love. God incarnate -- who knows us, feels us, pains with us, cries with us and walks with us.
We could be ignorant and turn away from this reminder (and we do quite often).
The angel and Mary remind us, and why I like this passage is that we must start with ourselves. We must be willing to love ourselves with all of our own brokenness. It is here that we find those God moments in our own lives.
During these upending moments, we could turn into ourselves and forget our community. We could devolve and become divisive. Or we could do like what my cousin did and use this moment to take a 5 year debt reduction plan into a 5 month plan. We could use this to reorganize closets and clean our spaces. We could remember how to paint pastels again. We could remember our common humanity marching for justice or give sandwiches to the homeless! We could see a cute puppy and smile!
In these upending moments, we could reject the tasks at hand, ignore people around us or reject God working for us. We could reject God’s command to love, show compassion or promote social justice; that is ultimately rejecting God’s love.
Instead in moments like these, God is giving us opportunities to find what makes us beautiful inside.
We have seen this time and time again. From Mary’s example to saints in our lives to our own defining moments, our own God moments, we reach into that love, and when we do, when we let “thy will be done,” we let God love us and work in us. That when times are difficult and challenging -whether as a person, as a church or as a community, these are times when God shows us why we are here at this time – because as St. Paul writes “now is the time.”
In these upending moments, God is reminding us that we have work to do. We could let those jeers and threats, isolation, criticisms keep us from who and what we are meant to be. Then we would be denying the God-given potential and the God-given love that is there for us. That is what Mary saw here and why she changes from perplexed and fear to praise and thanks. That is why she embraces that “you have done great things for me” because as we read last week, God has done great things for us and God can do great things for you! Now! today!
That is the real love of the mothering God that does not deny us but lifts us. That is the real favor - the love of God that does not ignore us. Mary reminds us that God has “raised the lowly” and “deposed the mighty” that “for you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant” therefore “my spirit rejoices” in your love.
Because “nothing is impossible with God!”
God is with Mary! God is with us!
God loves Mary! God loves us!
You are beautiful! You are exactly who God meant for you to be!
There is an angel of God for you
that gives you space to say “here I am” and to
Remember, You are loved! You are love !
Thanks Be to God