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Sermon for the Assumption of Our lady

July 21, 2014

assumptionwhen the fullness of time had come – words from our first reading

In the name….

Time is a tool God uses to mould us into the vessels He wants, to be His agents. Our spiritual maturity over the passage of time enables us, by his grace, to do His will.

In the days before credit cards and hole in the wall cash machines, I can remember August 15th being a problem on holiday abroad. It is a bank holiday so it was hard to get cash. For Roman Catholics, it is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating her entrance into heaven. For the orthodox, it is her Dormition, meaning ‘falling asleep’ or death. Cranmer abolished the feast in England because it is not directly mentioned in Scripture and for fear that devotion to Mary would overtake devotion to her son.

Before the Reformation, the English title for today was ‘Our Lady in Harvest’, Yes, crops were ripening, farmers were harvesting. But the fullness of time had come for Mary. Her life had ripened and was harvested.

‘Assumption’ (in Greek, analepsis) means‘taking up’. It is an act of God, in which the person assumed remains passive. It’s not the same as ascension (in Greek, anabasis) ‘going up’ which gives an active role to the person who goes up. The only person who ascended to God the Father, that is to say, went up to God by right, as it were, was the divine Son, Jesus Christ. John’s gospel tells us, ‘No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man’ (Jn. 3:13). The assumption of Mary is dependent on the ascension of Jesus

A statement agreed between Anglicans and Roman Catholics called ARCIC says: any interpretation of the role of Mary must not obscure the unique mediation of Christ…we recognize Mary as a model of holiness, faith and obedience for all Christians …the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory is consonant with Scripture, and only to be understood in the light of Scripture

Luke casts Mary in the role of the “faithful poor in Israel” those who look to God to fulfil his promise to Abraham and establish his reign of justice. She marks the beginning of the church, when she makes the first response to God’s saving act in Christ. Her song, today’s gospel, summarises and anticipates the central message of her Son about the Kingdom of God. The lowly are raised, the hungry are filled.

Mary is the image of a redeemed humanity. Her place in heaven is the place which God has prepared for all who do his will, bear his word and open themselves to the possibilities of his grace. This feast is not really about Mary. It is about the destiny of all of us, when the time has fully come. If God has promised us a place in heaven, then why not Mary, the first to trust and obey?

In words attributed to a Cockney barrow boy: If Our Lady ain’t in heaven, where the Hell is she?

Or the slightly more refined Martin Luther: There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith…It is enough to know that she lives in Christ.

17th Century Anglican bishop Thomas Ken: Heaven with transcendent joys her entrance graced

Echoing 2 Corinthians 3:18: we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,

18th Century Charles Wesley:

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,

John 17 22, 24: The glory which thou hast given to me, I have given to them . . . Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given to me, may be with me where I am.

Ephesians 2:6 (God) raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

And Romans 8:30 “those whom God predestined he also called; those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified”

Meanwhile, what about us, until the time has fully come for our harvesting?

Colossians 3 1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

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