Monday, June 4, 2018

Making Room for the One Who Is to Come: Reflections on Luke 1.39-57 (The Visitation of the BVM to Elizabeth, 3 June 2018)

Here are the notes and a recording of my sermon preached at my last Archdeaconry Evensong as a priest in the Archdeaconry of Vancouver.

Making Room for the One Who Is to Come
Reflections on Luke 1.39-57

Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
3 June 2018

Saint Helen’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Luke 1.39-57

            1.39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.  And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

            46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 48for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

            56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

            57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.

1)  During my final year of university I began to explore various options for what would happen next.

a) One option was graduate studies and so I applied for various scholarship programs, especially ones that might give me an opportunity to study in the United Kingdom where I had been born and where I had many relatives.

b) In one case I made it through the application process for a prestigious scholarship and was invited for an interview with fifteen other candidates at a posh private club in Denver.

c) When I arrived, I noted that there were only fifteen of us instead of sixteen.  Being the grandson of a professional gambler, I said to myself, ‘Good. Better odds.’

d) The morning went well and I was sensing real interest on the part of the various interviewers as I described how my proposed plan of graduate studies would feed into my eventual goal of studying for ordained ministry.

e) During lunch I was seated with my back to the main entrance to the dining room.  And, as I was enjoying my meal, I heard his voice, 

i) the voice of someone who had graduated from high school a year before I had, 

ii) the voice of someone who had all the qualities this particular scholarship was looking for, 

iii) the voice of someone who was a genuinely ‘nice guy’ to everyone in our high school,

iv) the voice of the one who is to come.

f) And I knew that I had to make room.

2)  Imagine, for a moment, the mixed feelings that Elizabeth must have had --- notwithstanding the more demure and humble words of the evangelist Luke places in her mouth.

a) She has suffered one of the worst calamities that could happen to a woman of her time --- childlessness.

b) She has been promised to give miraculous birth to a son

i) who will be great in the sight of the Lord (Luke 1.15);

ii) who will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God (Luke 1.16);

iii) who will turn the hearts of parents to their children, the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous (Luke 1.17), and

iv) who will make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1.17).

c) Then comes her cousin, bearing a child under suspicious circumstances, and Elizabeth’s child stirs within her and Elizabeth becomes aware that she, who should be triumphant, must make room for the one who is to come, the one who is not her son.

3)  Perhaps the hardest task of Christian discipleship is making room for the one who is to come.

a) It is the rare human being who does not see herself or himself at the centre of some universe, no matter how small or constricted it may be.

b) Paul, for example, recognized that the Christian community in Corinth had members who could not make room.

c) He reminded them that 

i) ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’  1 Corinthians 12.7

ii) ‘The body does not consist of one member but of many.’  1 Corinthians 12.14

d) His teaching has endured to this very day as we acknowledge that each one of us, lay and ordained, has gifts for the role we play in God’s great work of renewal.

e) Anyone who wishes to be a disciple of Jesus and to follow his Way must be prepared to make way for the one, or the ones, whom God calls to work for the wholeness of creation at particular times and in particular places.

4)  Over the next three weeks I will be in the midst of making room for an interim who, in her or his own turn, will make room for the next rector of the Parish of St. Faith’s.

a) As I undertake this task, I find myself asking questions which are not only mine but ours.

b) What is the ultimate object of our love, our passion, our deepest desire as disciples of Jesus?

c) How do we work for the common good of all creation?

d) What is our role, my role, in working for this common good?

e) When the answers to these questions are clear in my own mind, in our own mind as a community, we may find it easier to make way for the one who is to come.

5)  We are all waiting for the One who is to come and who will bring us to what we desire deeply:  God’s reign of justice, peace and dignity where all God’s children shall be free and the whole creation shall rejoice to see the promise fulfilled.

a) But in the meantime, we learn to make room for the ones whose gifts and vocations shall take us one more step closer to the promised time.

b) It’s not an easy thing to do, making room for the one who is to come, but it is the right thing to do.

c) It’s what Elizabeth did and that’s good enough for me.

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