Mission & Magnificat -a sermon for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
text below -as usual, audio is the fuller version!
Words can have a powerful way of echoing through history, phrases taken up, remembered, re worked, reimagined.
The titles and references of many modern books are taken direct from other sources, Shakespeare or another classical great, referencing meaning and allusion, and taking on something of their own.
Mary’s song, our Gospel reading today is one of those, we know it often as the Magnificat, from the first word in its Latin form
–“Magnificat anima mea””
“my soul magnifies the Lord”
They are words set in our tradition, prayed daily at Evening prayer, beloved of Church Choirs at Choral Evensong known along with Simeon’s final prayer, as those choral twins the Mag & Nunc.
Mary’s words soar round us, even when they are unfamiliar they carry a weight and a presence, precisely because they get to the heart of the matter.
My soul magnifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices,
you can hear the joy and the lift;
for he has looked with favour on me… he who is mighty has done great things.
Mary’s deep rejoicing pours from her as she prepares to bear God incarnate, God in human form to the world. The Holy Spirit, as the angel said to her, over shadows her, dwells in her and this outpouring of praise results,
Her words echo words from hundreds for years before those from our Old Testament Reading,
“I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God” he has clothed me in the garments of salvation He has covered me with the robe of righteousness”
We hear the echoes, not of literature but of lives that are spirit filled, hearts & souls pouring out their praise to God, the prophet speaking, the voice of the Spirit across the generations, the same call, the same praise.
Both Mary’s song and that of the prophet speak of the future as well as the present –both of them encompass the no – of Gods actions and goodness, and the not yet of what is to come. In the verse preceding our reading, Isaiah speaks the words of God “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, their descendants shall be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.”
As Mary sings her own song of praise, these words echo against each other, her yes to God begins the everlasting covenant in Christ –
Both passages run over with the themes of blessing and favour, the return of righteousness, the redemption and the restoration that is to come. They ooze the power and glory of God’s kingdom, and the unstoppable praise that pours out of those who are working in it and for it.
Mary’s song moves from being just about her and her own relationship with God to something more prophetic, and yet of the present,
He has scattered the proud and brought down the powerful
He has lifted up the lowly and filled the hungry.
This is a vision of the Kingdom of God, that is coming, the hope of which is within her
This is the kingdom which is about to be born, here on earth
This is the Kingdom which we too carry with us, just as Mary carried Jesus; we too bear him in ourselves and our lives to the world around us.
The Kingdom of God is not the future, we belong in it now and we work for it, we do not build, but God does -his Kingdom of justice and peace.
The promise of Mary’s words echoes back to the beginning of the chapter in Isaiah, -sometimes we get to read far too small chunks of this
Isaiah 61 begins
“ the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me …”
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to proclaim the year of the Lords favour”
The Lord has anointed me… hear again the echo of Mary’s words “ he has looked with favour on his servant”
This passage was the prophecy which Jesus read aloud and proclaimed as he began his earthly ministry, this was his mission.
Good news for the poor, freedom to the captives, sight to the blind, comfort for the mourners..”
THIS is Gods Kingdom,
This is the mission of Jesus, and this is our mission,
Building for the Kingdom.
In this diocese we’re currently on a journey together –all of us. Bishop Tim has called us all to discover what Living the mission of Jesus might be for us, and this last week 200 of us gathered to discern amongst other things, what the priorities for the whole diocese might be for the next few years.
It was an incredible time, 200 people listening to the Spirit, and to each other, sifting and discussing, worshiping and learning. And remarkably there was an amazing consensus and unity
And perhaps unsurprisingly what has emerged continues to echo the words of Isaiah and of Mary
Continues to sing the song of the amazing call of God on each of us;
Calling us to be disciples, confident to share our faith and come together in community to worship and pray
Calling us to reimagine the church, to reach out to those who are missing from our flock ( not just the one from the hundred but the 90..) in new ways, and bringing new life to our parishes and communities
Calling us to transform our communities and ourselves in God’s power, bringing healing reconciliation and restoration in Christs name, working for justice and peace, being agents of change & new life.
Calling us to live lives of generous giving to each other & to our world, to use what we have to further the mission of Jesus
Can you hear those echoes again?
Good news for the poor –filling the hungry –scattering the proud –freeing the captives
This is how Jesus began his mission & ministry, fulfilling the words of Isaiah,
This is how Mary began her journey as God bearer,
This is how we work for the Kingdom
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour..
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me –because the Lord has anointed me
To proclaim the year of the Lords favour = to declare that now is God’s time to act.
Mary declared that,
Jesus declared that,
now it’s our turn.