In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus' mother, Mary, visits her relative Elizabeth who is pregnant with the infant who will be John the Baptist. She sings the song we now know as The Magnificat, singing
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,I preached on this passage six years ago saying in part,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Mary’s extols a reversal of fortunes. In her hymn, God is being faithful to promises to those in ages past by bringing down the powerful and lifting up the lowly. The rich are sent away empty, while the hungry are filled with good things. As Jesus would later say, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” “The one who would be the greatest must be the servant of all.” The Magnificat proclaims just the sort of world turned upside down that Jesus will preach throughout his ministry.The full text of the sermon is online here: Ordinary+Obedience=Extraordinary.
Mary needed no further outward sign that these things would come to pass. The proof of it all was growing inside her. She knew better than anyone that the child she bore was God’s son. Mary could have no illusions about her position in life. If anyone was lowly, it was Mary—a poor girl, from a small town on the backside of nowhere. Mary had none of the outward appearance one would associate with God’s blessing. She was not rich or powerful and never would be. Mary was one of the lowly whom God was lifting up. Yet, Mary could sing of God’s promises being fulfilled in the past tense, because if God would even bother to notice her and consider her blessed among women, then the world was as good as turned upside down.
How did all of this happen? If the world is being turned upside down even as Mary is singing to her cousin Elizabeth, then how did God pull it off? Well, that’s a familiar story too. It might be in a new setting, but there is nothing new in how God was able to transform the world. Transformation came the way it had always come. The same way it worked for Abraham, Moses, David, and all the others from that family album we call the Old Testament. God took ordinary Mary and when she added her obedience to God something extraordinary happened.
That process had a familiar ring to it. God had already taken ordinary Abram and transformed him into Abraham, a father of many nations after he and Sarah were long past child-bearing years. God had already taken Moses, the runaway Prince of Egypt, on the lam for murder, and turned him into the great deliverer of Israel. God had already taken the last-born David, the ruddy boy left on the hillside to tend the sheep while his brothers went off to fight for Israel, and turned him into a King.
This transformation is the most familiar of stories from the Bible. God takes a plain old ordinary person. Not a perfect person. Not a person everyone saw as the best and the brightest. Just a regular person, sort of like you. Then God calls that person to a task and when they are obedient to God, extraordinary things happen.
The equation is simple:
Ordinary + Obedience = Extraordinary.
The amazing part of this equation is that God is even willing to bother with the ordinary stuff of life. Why would the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords bother with ordinary things like a stable and a manger or bread and wine? Why would the creator of all that is bother with ordinary me, and ordinary you? Probably because God made us. God loves us in spite of knowing just how ordinary we are.
So remember that God does not need your holiness, your perfection, your smashing good looks and great personality. God needs your obedience, your willingness to listen to that still small voice which is the Holy Spirit speaking to your spirit. God will probably not need you to be an Abraham, Moses, David or Mary. Those are few and far between. But God needs obedient folks all the time in all sorts of situations. When others are lost, grieving, hurting, you may be the best eyes God has to see the problem, the bust arms God has to hug them and the best ears God has to listen, really listen.
God is turning the world upside down all the time and God does not need leaders, but those willing to follow God’s will. God does not need rulers, but servants. God does not need you to be extraordinary. God just needs you to be willing and obedient.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Ordinary Guy
Labels: Gospel reading