Dec. 18, 2016
Luke 1:26-45 [46-56]
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. 39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” [46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his 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 his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.]
People, we have all sorts of beliefs. W believe in the Elf of the shelf, Santa, Sasquatch, that aliens built the pyramids, that moon landing was a hoax, and that the Russians conspired to help elect Donald Trump. Ok, sometimes there is real evidence for some of what we believe. However, as is painfully evident with our current events, evidently real evidence doesn’t change whether or not we believe anything. We basically get to believe what we want to believe.
So this morning, as we hear the story from Luke’s gospel. Ask yourself, why shouldn’t I believe? Why shouldn’t I believe that an angel (a messenger from God) appeared to Mary. Why shouldn’t I believe that God chose Mary to birth hope, love, and truth into this world? Why not believe, with Elizabeth, pregnant with a very unlikely baby herself, that the baby in her womb didn’t just hiccup or move but actually did jump for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice? And with Elizabeth, why not believe that the baby the unmarried Mary carried would be the savior of the God’s people? That God wasn’t just hanging out in heaven, but by being born as a helpless baby, God in Godself desires to conspire with humanity for the sake of the world. And not only that, God specifically chooses to work with, to work through, to inspire and conspire with the most unlikely, the most illogical, and the most over-looked people.
In Luke’s Gospel, God is not meeting and colluding with heads of state, with kings or generals, with magnates of industry, CEO’s, and politicians. The heavenly messenger visits a young woman. Now can I just say, we don’t have to keep painting Mary as meek, mild, and humble. While she is no princess, not royalty or wealthy, she is courageous and brave willing to cooperate with Divine Mystery. Just think, we are not told she traveled with anyone when she went to Elizabeth. Mary is a woman steeped in the promises of her faith, and is willing to help turn the tables to send the lofty packing and lift up the lowly. Instead of humble and passive, maybe believe Mary can be for us a model of strength, a woman who is willing to believe that God’s got, for her and for people like her, something up God’s Divine sleeve.
And for Mary, there was no proof. Just the choice to believe. That’s the thing about our faith. We don’t have to wait for scientists to hypothesize, test and retest. We don’t have to wait for Indiana Jones or Josh Gates of Expedition Unknown to find a footprint or discover some long lost cave. Belief can be a choice—a decision to see things in a way that can’t be proven, to see things the way others do not. But being a Christian, is not just being a card-carrying member of the church club.
Oh no people, this is a whole lot more serious, a whole lot more real, because following Jesus, believing—being and living means we’re part of God’s conspiracy too. If we are believing, we know life is not about colluding withthe status quo, the American dream, or the American or capitalist domination system. Our belief better lead to a life convicted of aiding and abetting God’s system, God’s dream, God’s conspiracy.
Throughout the ages there have been people women like Mary and Elizabeth, and men like Juan Diego. Now not many of us of Lutheran or northern European or white northerners may know this man’s name. But Juan Diego is the man who according to belief and traditions, One early December morning in 1531, Juan Diego an Indio peasant and a Christian convert, Juan Diego was walking past the holy hill of his native ancestors — hill called Tepeyac. Suddenly he sees a vision of a dark-skinned, barefoot, pregnant girl. She’s trampling down snakes and crowned with stars. The young woman addresses him in his own Nauhatl language, calling him “my son,” and she declares that she is Mary, the mother of God, mother of our Lord Jesus, and that he should build a church, a place for his people to worship
Frightened, surprised, Juan Diego replies, “I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf,” . But the vision insists, so Juan Diego rushes off to share the good news with the Spanish bishop. And the bishop, who is not at all pleased, says, in effect: you stupid Indian, are you crazy? The most Holy Virgin Mary is hardly some brown-skinned girl, have you no respect?
Juan Diego returns to the hilltop, prays, and the brilliant vision, who will later be named Guadalupe, appears again. She asks the Indian to open his tilma, his cloak, and she fills it with roses—impossible, sweet-smelling roses in December. He takes the films, the cloak with the roses to the bishop and when he opens it, the Mary’s image is imprinted on that rough, everyday cloth. And many believe it is a miracle. The church is built, the Virgin the Lady of Guadalupe becomes an icon to see God, to see how God continues to conspire with normal, every day, common people. Asking us to believe, not just in God but also in ourselves. Asking us to believe not just in heaven, but in God’s presence in our world. Inviting us to join the Holy conspiracy to save, not just a few souls here and there, but to rescue and redeem the whole earth, to move with mercy, to fill the hungry and empty, lift up the lonely and lowly. I don’t know about you but of all the things we could believe in, this sounds so good to be true. Amen.