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Advent 4 Year C Mary visits Elizabeth

November 27, 2015

visitation

Mary set out and went with haste to the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
words from today’s gospel.

In the name….

Mary is confused. Who can she talk to about this? Her mother? Her rabbi? The only person she knows who will be able to understand her is cousin Elizabeth. The angel has told Mary: “Even Elizabeth your cousin is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” 1:36-37

And so Mary hurriedly prepares for a trip to see Elizabeth. The Greek uses the noun σπουδή (spoo-day): “haste, speed,” but also coveys the idea of “eagerness, diligence, enthusiasm, zeal.”

Mary is in a hurry to go. She is just a young teenager, and this is pretty overwhelming. She needs steadying, guidance. But she is probably eager, as well. This whole experience can’t help but be exciting. The road is long. The journey isn’t easy.

Mary is a woman on a continual journey, constantly, by necessity, on the move. She is restless, rarely sitting still or staying in one place. After this journey to see Elizabeth, we next find Mary embarking on an arduous trip, while pregnant, to Bethlehem. After giving birth, she and her small family are on the move again, fleeing to Egypt, to escape Herod’s troops. We meet her again, travelling to Jerusalem, where her son goes missing and we follow her as she goes in search of him. Finding him, she continues her travels, bringing him home to Nazareth.

The road is long. The journey isn’t easy. We normally get the story of Mary and Elizabeth once every three years. Now we’ve had it two weeks in a row. I’d prepared most of this sermon before we saw the Fish Club play last week. Somebody’s trying to tell us something!

Nicola Slee, in The Book of Mary, writes of our story: “. . . contemporary readers can reclaim the story as one celebrating a strong, intimate and joyful connection between two women who find themselves caught up in God’s saving action. We can read the story as an affirmation of our need of the human other to walk with us and support us in our journey of response to the call and the work of God in our lives. We can read it as an affirmation of the role of the soul-friend, the spiritual mid-wife who, as Elizabeth did, recognizes the hidden work of the Spirit in our lives, as yet unbirthed and incomplete and rejoices at that which is waiting to be fully realized and embodied.”

soul mate

Our need of the human other to walk with us and support us in our journey. The Evangelical Alliance did a survey of churchgoing young adults aged 18-37. It’s called Building Tomorrow’s Church Today. About a third said that they needed mentors (spiritual directors?). 23% say that older people find it difficult to relate to them.

Other issues included: The pastor blanks me occasionally (doesn’t even say hello).

The minister doesn’t remember my name, he doesn’t seem interested in why I’m there.

I felt that I didn’t belong; people were extremely cliquey and didn’t want to branch out of their friendship groups and include others. http://www.eauk.org/church/one-people-commission/upload/Building-tomorrow-s-Church-today-PDF.pdf
https://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/building-tomorrows-church-today-evangelical-alliance/

Perhaps you are a new Christian, struggling to understand and make your way. Will you find a mentor in this church? Or perhaps a small group meeting related to the church? May you find an Elizabeth to help you out during this period of your spiritual journey.

Richard and I have signed up St. Paul’s to be a Student Christian Movement Link Church. We used to have a strong involvement with SCM. This new initiative will give us a profile on their website, and we’ll receive ongoing support and advice to engage students, information about training in our area, and resources and publicity materials.

Perhaps you are a more mature Christian that God is preparing to be an Elizabeth to some Mary out there. You’ve been through your own share of pain and struggle. You can understand. You can sympathize. There’s a Mary out there who needs you. Be on the lookout for her, when God sends her along.

You’ll be giving true hospitality, because in paying attention to someone you’re making space for them to discover, explore, risk, experiment, relax, wonder, articulate, imagine and take down their guard to be truly seen, seen and known, known and understood, understood and forgiven, forgiven and accepted, accepted and enjoyed, enjoyed and celebrated, celebrated and loved, loved and cherished. Sam Wells

And all of us need each other. That is why we gather for worship week after week.  There was a man who stubbornly insisted that he could be a lone ranger Christian.  He didn’t need to come to church.  He didn’t need a family of faith.  A wise pastor went to see him and they sat in front of the fireplace, silently watching the flames and the glowing coals.  After a while, the pastor got up, took the poker, and separated one of the coals from the pile.  Then he sat back down.  As the two men watched, the single coal gradually cooled and died.  But the coals that stayed together kept glowing brightly.  They warmed and empowered one another.  Finally the man said, “Pastor, I see what you mean.  I will be at church this Sunday.”

All of us, like Mary, are on a journey to destinations we cannot see. We pray to have the trust in God that we need to travel whatever road we must take just as Mary did. And we pray, too, that one day our journeying will lead us to meet her face to face ­in that place prepared for her, that destination that became her home, and where she waits for us, with a mother’s love and a mother’s hope to introduce us to her son.

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