Monday, August 16, 2010

A Miracle on Springdale Street

Feast of St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord

August 15th, 2010

Text: Luke 1:39-56

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

"The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,

With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flames:

All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,

Most highly favored lady." Gloria. (LSB 356:1)

Wait, what? That's a Christmas hymn…but it's August? Yes, that's right. Christmas in August. If every Sunday is a little Easter then it's also a little Christmas. Just as Jesus was Crucified under Pontius Pilate He was also born of the Virgin Mary. She is the God-bearer. The Mother of God. Most blessed among women. And there you have centuries of controversy in just a few sentences.

There's no place for Mary-phobia. For the blessedness of Mary is not really found with Mary, but in Mary. Her honor is given and bestowed by the One she bears. For He is born flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone. She is the new and greater Ark of the Covenant bearing in her flesh the Word made flesh. Her bulging belly is the new Holy of Holies. The honor of Mary is the mercy of the Lord. And blessed is the fruit of her womb. Mary had a little Lamb, Emmanuel – God-with-us. God-one-of-us. God-for-us.
God uses Mary with her weakness and piety, shame and honor, to strengthen our faith; to show His compassion for the lowly. And so we honor Mary today not because of who she is on her own merits. But because of her calling – Mother of God and by her being called to faith by the One who took up 9 month residence in her womb. In Christ, Mary is blessed and so are you.

This is how God works. Creating something out of nothing. Doing the impossible with the improbable. From the void of creation to the nothingness of Mary's womb. From the fullness of creation to the fullness of the deity, pleased to dwell in our human skin and bones, to breath our poisoned air and enter our hall of death. What seems to us like a miracle is all in a day's work for the Lord.

This is how God works. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Indeed it is. He chose a lowly, unwed, virgin to bear a child. Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant did not air on MTV in Bethlehem. That kind of thing got you stoned. Honor? She was taken for an adulterer. Blessed? She had to be cursed.

But that's not how God saw it. God chose what is foolish, what is weak, what was low and despised in the world to shame the wise and strong. To break what is whole and make whole what is broken. So it was with the Promise Seed through aged Abraham and Sarah. So it was with broken Elijah in the cave. So it was with stuttering Moses. Sheep-breeder turned prophet Amos. Adultery committing David and poor, peasant Mary. God honors her. Therefore so do we. And her honor is this; she witnesses the fullness of time in her own womb and her redemption in that fleshly, miracle.

Miracles upon miracles…that the Angel Gabriel came to Mary with the message declaring she would be the God-bearer - miraculous. The message Gabriel preached – that God would save a world hell-bent on destroying itself – miraculous. That God would send His own Son to be born and later killed at the hands of sinful rebels for the lives of sinful, disobedient children – miraculous. That Elizabeth recognized Mary's precious cargo and John leaped for joy in her womb – miraculous. But the greatest miracle of all is that Mary actually believed it. This is the miracle of God's Word, doing what He does best – creating something out of nothing. This is the miracle of faith. Pure gift. For into the nothingness of her womb, this lowly, poor, outcast virgin from the distant lineage of David becomes the mother of our Lord. All in a day's Word for our Lord.

She sings…my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior because He has regarded the low estate of his servant. If the Magnificat were an English composition God would be the one running all the verbs, not Mary. She sings about the Mighty One. For He does great things. He does Passover things. He does exodus things. He does sacrificial lamb things. He does rescuing from death and hell things. All by the power of His right arm…which at the very moment of Mary's song is the size of a matchstick.

This is the blessed paradox in Mary's song: Mary rejoices in God the Father Almighty and yet she is also praising the helpless unborn child in her womb. She praises the Creator of heaven and earth even as He is growing and twisting and kicking inside of her. She praises the God who comes with chubby little feet bearing the Good News, the God who is the help and Savior of the world and yet is helpless at His mother's breast. The God who came as 8 pound 6 ounce little baby Jesus. She praises those infant arms –as we do – for it is those righteous arms upon which all of human history will hang, all of human sin and calamity, all of the devil's temptations – even God's wrath itself will be poured out on His own Son. In doing so, Isaac steps off the altar so that Jesus can lie down on it, for Mary…for you.

How could she not sing? How could she not help but praise the Lord? Singing is the voice of faith. And Mary is not alone in her song. What she received you receive. What she sang you sing. The Word made flesh dwells among you. He is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. You are also His miracle. You – sinner are now called saint. Into the emptiness of your cold, wicked sinful condition God comes bearing new life by His Word. He speaks a new creation into the briar-patch of your heart. He pours living the water of Baptism over you, re-genesising the desert of your sinful nature into a fountain of life. He creates faith in you out of nothing. He makes all things new. And He swaddles His own flesh in bread and pours out His sacred blood in the manger of your mouth.

And this is why we sing with Mary, for He has regarded our low estate, our sinful state, our good-as-dead state.

He has done great things for you though you have done nothing but great things against Him.

You who deserve nothing good are given every good in Him.

Jesus goes where we deserved that we may receive everything that we do not deserve.

A great reversal. God gets all of your sin and you get all of His righteousness. Jesus takes your death and you get His life. Christ is powerless on the cross; and yet there He performs His mightiest work. Conquered sin. Died our death. Suffered our hell. The Seed of Eve crushed the serpent's head. A terrible and wonderful sacrifice. The Lamb of God whose fleece was white as snow, became reddened to take away the sin of the world.

And what is there to do but join Mary in song. We sing with her of this joyous catastrophe as Jesus fills our hungry souls with good things…with the best things, Himself.

In this way, Mary is called blessed and God gets all the credit. She is honored because she heard the Word of God, and impossible as it was, believed it. That's the way God works for you as well. God does it all, impossible though it may seem. Through Jesus' sacrifice Mary is blessed and so are you. All in a Sunday's Work.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

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