God comes to turn the world upside down – Mary knew she was a part of it and we are too.
Vicar Mollie Hamre
St. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord
Texts: Isaiah 61:7-11, Psalm 34:1-9, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 1:46-55
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When I was little, I heard a similar story of Mary.
Mary was a young woman, who was a virgin that gave birth to Jesus. She often signifies motherhood and comfort. That was about as much as I knew growing up.
But if we stop there when describing Mary, we miss the way that God disrupts world views. We miss the way God rattles the world through this seemingly undistinguished woman. And we miss the magnitude of Mary boldly choosing to accept a future where the outcome is unknown. In a society that would not think much about her, Mary suddenly comes to the forefront of where God is appearing in the world. And God, once again, challenges us to rethink where we assume God to be.
Mary knows from the start that her choice to make an impact on humanity will be much more than a womb carrying God.
The Magnificat begins with Mary speaking about how God is working in Mary’s life. She speaks about actively seeing God changing what she assumed for her life when she answers “yes” to the call of God. We hear Mary embody this new call with her breath, magnifying the Lord and rejoicing. Mary declares that God has done great things for her. Holy is God’s name.
This is a big proclamation of trust and fearlessness for an individual who is about to endure rejection from being pregnant without being married in ancient times. Chances are, Mary knew the consequence of pregnancy before marriage: being stoned to death.
Mary embraces the risk that she is about to enter into and does so willingly. She praises an active God who is turning the world upside down before her eyes. She knows that big things are about to happen.
As Mary finishes out her self-reflection, she reaches a startling realization.
If this is how God is working in her own life, what does this mean for the rest of the world? Scattering the proud? Flipping power dynamics? Filling the hungry and sending the rich away empty? These are the promises that God has made to God’s people and suddenly she realizes she is a part of it. What is at stake is a lot more than Mary’s life, but all our lives. As Mary says, God turns the world upside down from “generation to generation.” Through people like Mary, and like you, and like me.
God has called generations to be the hands and feet of the Triune God. This does not quite mean exactly like Mary, raising Jesus, but Mary’s proclamation causes us to ask about our own lives.
Where do we see God turning the world upside down and are we willing to risk answering yes? Yes to the turning of food insecurity. Yes to the turning of oppressive legislation that seeks to divide instead of unify. Yes to the turning of reducing people to statistics and instead of looking at our fellow humans with compassion.
If it feels that Mary’s proclamation is a lot to digest, that’s because it is.
What would it look like to be hungry in order for others to be fed? What would it mean to challenge power structures at the polls? What would it mean to lift up those that are oppressed? You do not need to solve all of these, but it can not be ignored because this is the turning upside down of the world that God is doing through us. This is not turning the world upside down by violent revolution, but through transformation of the heart and the choices we make to bring God’s reign.
Do not be mistaken, there is risk involved.
Scattering the proud of hearts, having those in power brought down from their thrones, and sending the rich away empty–for those experiencing any form of privilege, these can be alarming. And even when we are at our best, this is a high bar to keep. The struggle between these two vastly different feelings of alarm and proclaiming could leave one unsure what kind of good news this is.
So, we look back at the Gospel. Mary tells us this is a proclamation of praise, not of condemnation. Mary proclaims that if God is calling to her, this must mean that God is calling to all everyone else.
Just ask the Galatians in the second reading.
Paul has preached to the Galatians about what happens when God enters into communities: All receive the spirit and all are received as adopted children of God. This is a big proclamation moment!
Yet, after Paul leaves, all is forgotten by the Galatians.
Paul, in a rather compassionate letter, metaphorically, throws his hands up in the air and asks “don’t you see what is going on here?” This is not a competition about Jew or Gentile, but about being united together in Christ.
It is a larger piece of an argument outlining Paul’s appeal to the people to tell them one simple truth: God comes for all to turn the world upside down. Not just for the Jews. Not just for the Gentiles. But for all in the wholeness for WHO they are. What is incredibly revolutionary about Paul’s writings is he is continuing to proclaim what Mary is: all are called and welcomed into God’s reign, exactly how they come.
God looks to the Jews and Gentiles saying, “I need you to be a part of the change across the world, not by proving superiority over one another, but by the transformation of your hearts and how you see your siblings in Christ.”
Mary answers God with a brave yes. The Galatians answer is unclear. What about ours?
Similar to Mary, we have a choice about how we answer to God turning the world upside down. Similar to the Galatians, our world struggles with embracing that change. God did not choose sides for the Galatians and gives Mary, the Galatians, and us a choice. And God is there to walk with us in that choosing. All of us. This takes trust, awareness, and patience, characteristics that do not always feel attainable.
When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary earlier in Chapter one, we know that Mary was “greatly agitated” and “pondering” over what was being asked of her. Knowing that these two intense feelings of fear and hope go side-by-side. Mary was not instantly only-happy about her life being turned upside down– we know better that the Gospel is not a static story.
This intensity of emotions existed together at once. These emotions can exist for us too. God asks that we trust and imagine what our world could be with all being fed, all living in peace, and all neighbors loving one another. That is what is found when the world is turned upside down.
Mary’s Magnificat brings us face to face with hard decisions.
For Mary, it meant risking her life, putting her future on the line and trusting God. For us, it can feel heavy too, but just like Mary, we as a community and individuals have a choice. Are we going to answer the call to abundant love and life?
The good news is: we have a community that works with us through these decisions and a God that continues to have grace and love as we navigate through the turning of the world. Mary knew that, despite being at risk, she had God with her and a community to guide her. You do too.
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.