Monday, December 12, 2016

A Song of Desire

Luke 1:39-56
Advent 3
December 11, 2016

The gospel of Luke kind of starts out like a
Broadway musical in that two
of the characters in it break out into song.
And they’re two very lovely songs too.
Today we hear the one from Mary
which has come to have been called the Magnificat.

It begins with
“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices
Canticle of Mary
by Jen Norton 2014
in God my savior.”

In a classical Broadway musical, the first song
is usually sung by the whole cast and it
creates a setting for the musical telling about the
setting and the mood.

And then the second song, 
usually a heartfelt ballad,
is sung by one of the characters and it voices
the desire of the play, either an individual’s desire
or the whole casts’ desire kind of setting up
the journey of the play.

And I really think that’s how Mary’s 
song here works in Luke’s Gospel,
A song of desire. It’s what everyone is hoping for,
and it sets the course for the whole journey of
the story which follows.

He has looked with favor on the 
lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on, all generations will call me blessed.”

Mary acknowledges that her life will change personally,
But notice, her personal life is not the focus.

Actually personal gain, or salvation, or going to heaven,
or forgiveness of her personal sins is not the focus of her desire -
as the focus of Christianity has become for many people today.

She sings:
“He has shown strength with his arm,
and scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.”

Mary’s desire and the desire of this gospel,
is for God to do justice. To make the world right.

Justice not in the way of putting more criminals in jail,
but justice in the way of rectifying those laws and systems that
keep taking away from the poor and giving it to the rich
that  keep taking away power from the weak and giving
it  to the already strong.

This is what Mary, the one that some have called meek and mild,
is hoping for. I don’t think she’s meek and mild.
I think she’s brave and strong.

Justice is a messy thing. The people with power and riches normally
don’t give up what they have willingly and they have to be persuaded.
Justice takes compromise and coming together with people
we don’t agree with, and it usually deals with politics of some sort.

Politics is messy and often nasty part of human life. It always has been.
And what has happened before and since this year’s election
in this country has  risen to the level of particularly nasty.

And many people would like to suspect that God
would stay as far away from this riff raff as possible.
But God came to us to be a part of everything.
Not to condone and bless everything that happens,
but to be a part of it, to suffer the consequences of it,
to be with us in the nasty mess and to make what’s wrong right again.

This is the desire and the promise of Mary.
We believe in the power of God to overcome situations,
and to undo the political messes that we have gotten ourselves into.
To scatter the proud, lift up the lowly,
feed the hungry and send the rich away empty.

Notice too that Mary’s song, though it is a hope for the
future Messiah, is sung in the past tense.
It’s already happened, but it hasn’t yet happened.
God has acted for us, and we will see God act for us again.

And Mary believes this will be true,
even though there were no signs in her present tense.
The situation of the Jews in Roman society,
of the poor, of anyone on the margins,
must have seemed absolutely hopeless then.
But still Mary believed that God would do great things.

That is a model of our faith.
Even when things seem hopeless.
Believe in the power that God can have,
even in the life and hearts of the oppressors.

I was at a workshop this week and the speaker
told a story about Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Bishop Tutu was an Episcopal bishop
in South Africa during apartheid.

He was very outspoken against apartheid
and received many threats from the government.

In the darkest days of that era on an Easter Sunday morning,
hundreds of worshipers gathered
for service at St. George Cathedral in Capetown,
where Bishop Tutu was presiding.

In the middle of the service a group of the
notorious South African Security Police
came into the service and gathered in the aisles of the church
around the walls some with machine guns
and some with writing pads and tape recorders,
Waiting to record what Bishop Tutu would say.
Tutu had already been arrested a few weeks earlier.

The parishioners were nervous, there was a pall over them.
If Bishop Tutu said something radical,
he might be arrested or even shot on sight.
But if he didn’t say anything then the apartheid regime
would have won by intimidation.

Bishop Tutu came out to the pulpit
and he started bouncing up on his heels and laughing.
And everyone started laughing with him.
Which lifted the crowd.

And then he addressed the police directly.
He said to them in the warmest, but firmest and clearest tone,
“You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods.
And I serve a God who cannot be mocked.
So, since you have already lost,
I invite you today to come and join the winning side!”

And at that, the worried crowd, leapt to their feet
and praised God and started dancing in the cathedral,
and danced into the streets
and danced right up to the armed security forces
that were surrounding the cathedral,
who just backed up and let the people dance.

Bishop Tutu was right. Justice would prevail.
God would help them see the end
of that terrible system of government.
The side to be on was God’s side.

Now in the Broadway musical, the desire of that first song
is always met, but it’s always met in an unexpected way.
Usually not what the character would have preferred.
And it’s the same way for Mary and Jesus.
And it’s the same way for us.
We don’t know how justice will prevail.
What course God will take to right the wrongs.

All we know is that we serve a God who cannot be mocked.
We know how it will end.
Already and not yet.
The proud will be scattered.
The powerful brought down,
The lowly lifted up. The hungry filled, the rich sent away.

Where each of us falls in this picture waits to be seen.

But we trust Mary’s desire.
We trust the promise of Jesus.
Although it may not seem like it today,
we know that God will prevail.
justice will prevail, forgiveness,
and love, and peace will prevail

We are invited to answer Mary’s call
to share that desire and
let our souls, words, thoughts and actions
magnify our Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment