God’s way is the right-side-up way, and Mary follows it, inviting us to join her.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The feast of St. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord
Texts: Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Mary doesn’t sing of the world turned upside down in the Magnificat.
She sings of the world turned right-side up.
When the Triune God asked Mary to bear the Incarnate Word into the world, it was to begin restoring the creation to God’s way. Mary sings of the hungry being fed, the rich emptied, the mighty set down, the lowly lifted up. That’s the way God meant the world to be from the beginning.
We turned it upside down.
We’re created in the image of God, Genesis says.
When God takes on human flesh in Jesus, we see humanity the way it was meant to be, God’s true Image. In Jesus’ teachings, compassion, and most vividly in his vulnerable love, willing to die at our hands to love us back into life, Jesus reveals a way of life that seems upside down. But it’s right-side-up to God.
God created this universe to live in peace and harmony, with all creatures loving each other and God, even human creatures. In God’s design, power isn’t used to harm others, and in fact, “power” itself is vulnerable love.
Look at how the Triune God created humanity. We were given the freedom to choose our path, the freedom to love or hate, the freedom to obey or disobey. God’s vulnerable love exists from the moment we took breath. God risked everything hoping we’d become the loving, caring creatures God envisioned.
But, created in God’s image, we also have the temptation God must have felt.
Surely God was tempted to control humanity, tempted to use power to make us good creatures. Instead, the Triune God chose vulnerability and openness, risking all, even death on the cross.
Humanity chose differently. We’re the only creature that manipulates our environment to the degree we do, that has an impact on all creatures that share this planet with us, and often that manipulation and impact harm our fellow creatures. We use power to control others, we hide our fear of vulnerability behind aggression and greed. We build systems and cultures and structures that consistently benefit those in power while equally consistently crushing those who don’t have power.
What we see in our world today has been repeated throughout history. People go hungry because others hoard resources. People are killed because others violently maintain power. People live in poverty because others create systems to generate wealth for those controlling the systems.
But Mary sings that in this child, God is starting to turn the world right-side up again.
And God achieves this the same way as at creation: through vulnerable love.
Scattering the proud, removing the powerful from power, filling the hungry, sending the rich away emptied of their wealth is not done by divine power and might. God still will not force the creation to follow God’s right-side-up way.
Instead, God comes as a vulnerable baby, born to a vulnerable woman willing to sacrifice her hopes and dreams to be a part of God’s healing.
This is why we honor Mary: not to put her on a pedestal, but to see her as our forebear, our leader, our mother.
She lived into the image of God she was, dreamed of God’s right-side-up world, and bore a child to bring that world into being.
Jesus, of course, taught us God’s “right-side-up” way very clearly, the way to justice and peace through vulnerable love and sacrifice for each other, even letting us destroy his life, in order to break open our hearts to God’s way.
But Mary is our sister, who walks ahead of us, first to follow in Christ’s way. She is our mother in this life of Christ, whose giving birth makes it possible for all of us to walk Christ’s path, whose willing “let it be as you will” is our model for our own response to God.
In God’s way, no one is hungry.
No one is oppressed. No one is trampled upon. No one holds power over another. No one is rich, but all have what they need.
Mary shows us we can live this way, we can say, “let it be so with us.” And when we, and eventually all creatures, follow this way, the world will turn right-side up as God dreamed all along.
And then our spirits, like Mary’s, will truly rejoice in God’s healing of all.
In the name of Jesus. Amen