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12/11/2022 Sermon

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New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition, adapted

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for God has looked with favor on the lowly state of this servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is Their name; 50 indeed, Their mercy is for those who fear God from generation to generation. 51 God has shown strength with Their arm; God has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; 53 God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 God has come to the aid of Their child Israel, in remembrance of God’s mercy, 55 according to the promise God made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Good is the Flesh

Good is the flesh that the Word has become, good is the birthing, the milk in the breast, good is the feeding, caressing and rest, good is the body for knowing the world, Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the body for knowing the world, sensing the sunlight, the tug of the ground, feeling, perceiving, within and around, good is the body, from cradle to grave, Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the body, from cradle to grave, growing and aging, arousing, impaired, happy in clothing, or lovingly bared, good is the pleasure of God in our flesh, Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the pleasure of God in our flesh, longing in all, as in Jesus, to dwell, glad of embracing, and tasting, and smell, good is the body, for good and for God, Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Brian Wren

An Excerpt from Good is the Flesh: Body, Soul, and Christian Faith, edited by Jean Denton (Morehouse Publishing, 2005).

An 8-year-old in car with parent: “Do you want me to throw the confetti in my pocket?”

Parent: “No. Not in the car! – Why do you have confetti in your pocket?”

The 8-year-old: “It’s my emergency confetti. I carry it everywhere in case there is good news.”

Mary received surprising news, alarming news; good news from the Angel Gabriel. In this week’s Gospel of Luke, we heard the Magnificat (so named from the first word of the text in the Latin translation called the Vulgate). The song, or chant, follows Mary’s astonishing encounter with the angel Gabriel, and her running to Elizabeth to share the good news.

A couple of things frustrate me about this passage.

One – “The church” has used their voice to signal how women should be in the world, using Mary as an example. Mary has frequently been portrayed as humble, obedient, and faithful. All good qualities when in relation to God. All good, except when “the church” only applies these as desirable qualities for half of the population, the half that is capable of child birth.

Two – It is decidedly not desirable or appropriate when “the church” or “men” are substituted for God; replacement gods to whom women should be humble, obedient, and faithful toward.

Having named these issues, we can move on for today. Let us be aware of how we intentionally or unintentionally assign gender biases.

The Magnificat expresses Mary’s awe of God. It acknowledges the magnitude of the “ask” to which she has said, yes. According to the author of Luke, God keeps Their promise to Israel, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, fulfilling the promise in the person of Jesus.

Mary’s Magnificat, recorded only in Luke’s Gospel, is modeled on 1Samuel 2:1-10 – the Song of Hannah. In 1Samuel, it is written that Hannah prayed for a first-born son after being barren for many years. When her prayer was answered, she promised her child Samuel to the Lord as a Nazirite.

Yet Mary said yes to having a child, to having God’s child. She said yes without knowing more. As do we, those that have children, say yes without knowing the trajectory that life will follow. That there will be joy and heartbreak may be the only certainties.

One big difference between Hannah and Mary? Hannah asked for her pregnancy. Mary did not.

That is not to say that Mary, or women that find themselves unexpectedly pregnant – are not joyful about their pregnancy and about their children. But the people that I know do go through an adjustment period, experiencing all variety of emotions prior to coming to acceptance, anticipation, and joy. These need not be linear experiences, and may also include fear, anger, and confusion alongside wonder, awe, blessing and gratitude.

By all outward appearances, Mary’s situation was difficult and vulnerable, but God called on her — and calls on us! — to draw on a wellspring deeper than the surface of things.

Henri Nouwen speaks to this wellspring. “Joy," he writes, "is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing - sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away.” Thus joy and sorrow can not only coexist; joy can even be found in the midst of very difficult or sorrowful circumstances.

Mary knew, as all of us know, the joy and the fear so immediately linked when welcoming a child into the world. We know that love and joy and pain and suffering are inseparable.

And still it is good news. Even knowing how the story unfolds. Especially knowing how the story unfolds. The birth of Christ. God in the flesh. God sharing our joy and our sorrow. God being present with us in all manner of experiences; in the depths of despair and in the height of our joys.

Mary embraced her life, embraced the movement of the Spirit. Not the life she expected but life as it was presented to her. So, like Mary, the God-bearer, let us pray this week to take the Spirit of God into our own bodies. Let us submit to God’s blessings. Let us share the good news of the world with our sisters and brothers. Let us dare to follow the way proclaimed by Mary’s song. Let our souls magnify the Lord. Let our spirits rejoice in God. Let us be ever-ready to celebrate the good news, and all good news.

Let us carry our emergency confetti everywhere – ready to celebrate the good news.


Rev. TJ Mack – December 11, 2022

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