Friday, December 19, 2008

Sermon notes for Advent 4B, 08

some resources:
-good critical/historical analysis of the 2 Samuel reading
-Stendahl's article

And, I'm looking at the Magnificat as the option in place of the psalm
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor 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.”

And, hoping to address the challenge of saying "yes"...for Mary saying "yes" as a young teen (in her culture old enough to marry and bear children, in our culture not old enough to drive or use the oven without some measure of supervision) meant being unwed and pregnant in a society in which the punishment for adultery (in this case a woman getting pregnant and therefore bringing shame upon her family and in a society where women are a commodity reducing her value) is being stoned to death. What then ran through her mind in those moments of saying yes, did she realize what she was agreeing to? Did the full impact of her decision hit her in those initial moments of encounter with Gabriel? So, I look to the Magnificat--a prayer spoken at a time when she had already begun to feel the movement of her child within her. A prayer spoken at a time when maternal death was an all too likely possibility in childbirth. In some ways then the prayer is an act of defiance against her culture and times--she is claiming God's mercy, she declares herself lifted up, she has been filled with good things. SHE is claiming the promise that is made in Samuel for HERSELF! I don't know if her community would have called this "obedience of faith"--I would call it "defiance in accordance with her faith!" And, in an androcentric text (which arguably the Bible is, I don't think most of us can argue that women are often an afterthought in our tradition...much as I love our tradition--I mean we have to verbally add women to the printed texts of a good chunk of the BCP "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob") it is remarkable that the entire world hangs on the tip of the tongue of a young woman living in what is arguably the Middle Eastern equivalent of the middle of nowhere. I mean, her town was nowhere near "mainstreet" and hers is not a voice we hear at the inauguration of presidents--or even in the pageants depicting the birth of her son. I mean, when was the last time you saw a nativity that included Mary's Magnificat?

So, what does that mean to us, now. What radical reality do we dare say yes to? When we are "learning how to say no" what does it mean to embrace the "yes" to God? What dangerous declaration are we making? In my life I can think of two--"yes, I'm gay" and "yes, I'll be a priest". When have your yesses both condemned and liberated you?