Archive for December, 2011

Magnifying the Lord by Rev. Leah Jacobs Schade on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:29pm.

Sermon – The Rev. Leah Schade, United in Christ Lutheran Church, West Milton, PA

Advent 4 – “Magnifying the Lord”

Luke 1:26-38; 46-55

This is a magnifying glass. What does a magnifying glass do? It makes small things look bigger.

How interesting that Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This means that she is making a small thing look bigger. The Greek word is megalunei – to enlarge something, to make or declare something great.

What an appropriate song for her to sing. Think of the tiny embryo growing within her womb, the embryo that is promised to be the very Son of God. She is, quite literally, helping to enlarge the Lord by carrying that child inside of her, taking care of her body to make sure the fetus is healthy, preparing her life to receive her newborn child and help him grow into the man God has called him to be.

I used to love to play with magnifying lenses as a child, because it gave me a new perspective on the world, helped me to see the details of things that I couldn’t normally see.

What is Mary helping us to see about God, about this child that grows inside of her? What new perspective can she give us? What details can she help us see?

Well, her song, which we read as our Psalm today and which we will sing as our hymn, has one overarching theme – with God, the small ones become large, and the large are cut down to size. It’s about surprising reversals.

Think about Mary’s situation for a moment. Here she is – an unwed teenage mother. She should have been scared out of her wits. By rights her fiance’ Joseph could have called for her to be stoned to death because it would appear that she cheated on him and conceived a child out of wedlock. And yet these are not the words of a scared young woman. These are bold words, confident words, declaring herself blessed by God, protected by God.

And think about the cultural context in which these words are spoken. Women back then, as they are in many countries today, were to be silent, demure, accepting of whatever abuse is committed against them, and to do whatever they’re told. For Mary to speak these words would have been considered offensive, prideful, and completely inappropriate for her age and her gender. How dare she claim to be blessed by God when all signs point to the contrary?

Even more than that, think about the political situation of her time. She is an Israelite living under the occupation of a foreign power, the Roman Empire. Her people’s lives are dictated by the big business of Rome – its government, its military, its system of sacrifice and domination. Yet here she is saying that the proud are going to scattered, the powerful are going to be brought down from their thrones, the rich are going to be sent away empty. And to complete the reversal, the lowly will be lifted up, the weak will be made strong, and the hungry ones will be filled. Do you realize what’s going on here? These are words of protest. This song of Mary is a song of revolution. Mary is putting the powers and principalities on notice that the end of their reign is near and the coming of God’s reign is . . . within her, within own body.

As we look through the magnifying glass of Mary’s song, this is the detail that we see. Something new is being born from within her. New courage to confront oppression, to claim her own power as a beloved daughter of God, to have agency in her own life, to have a say in how she is to be treated, to speak truth to power, boldly proclaiming that the system of domination that is trying to control her life really has no power over her. Because she has faith in the God of her ancestors, the God of Abraham and Moses, the God who brought her people out of slavery and, later, out of exile. This same God is going to come through for her and her people again. The presence of God growing within her is going to change her, and the whole world around her.

So how is the Spirit of God growing inside of you? How is your soul magnifying the Lord? What is being born within you that is changing you, and has the potential to change the world around you?

Have you seen the cover of Time Magazine this week? The Person of the Year is: The Protester – from the Arab Spring to Athens, from Occupy Wall Street to Moscow. Editor Rick Stengel writes: “History often emerges only in retrospect. Events become significant only when looked back on.” He goes on to describe how the protests began in small ways among the poor and lowly and hungry, and have gone on to topple the powerful, scatter the rich and proud, and bring down entire governments. Sounds a little bit like Mary’s song, doesn’t it?

He continues: “Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough. They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets.” Or, in the case of Mary’s son, when the answer came back in the lashes of a whip, and a crown of thorns, and crucifixion on a cross.

“They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change.”

So I ask you again, how is the Spirit of God growing inside of you? How is your soul magnifying the Lord? What is being born within you that is changing you, and has the potential to change the world around you?

Someone looking in at our little church from the outside might say, oh, these are just simple country folk. They’re not about revolution. They’re not about protest. In fact, the tendency would be to think that about this whole region of the upper Susquehanna valley. These are quiet, ignorant people who will take whatever abuse is committed against them, do whatever they’re told. We can do whatever we want to them, and they’ll just take it.

But I have to tell you that I witnessed something quite the opposite this past week. As many of you know, I attended a public hearing at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission this past week to read and present a letter signed by over 40 clergy and faith leaders from 7 different religions and 6 denominations within Christianity to protest the approval of 26 hydraulic fracturing projects along our precious, endangered river. At this meeting I listened to the impassioned pleas of over 50 different individuals from all walks of life begging the commission not to allow these projects that will poison our water, pollute our land and air, kill our livestock, and cause cancer in our children. Grandmothers, twenty-year-olds, lawyers, psychologists, mothers, scientists, and yes, clergy all spoke to express the will of the people that our water, land, air, and public health be protected. And the commission voted to approve the projects anyway. Some of you may have seen on the news the cries of protests that erupted. The people were angry, furious that they had been sold out to the powers that try to control the money and politics of our society.

But I can tell you – this is not the end. Something is growing here in the Susquehanna Valley. Did you know there is an Occupy Lewisburg movement? People are connecting in ways they never have before. I don’t know exactly where all this is going, but I can tell you it is growing.

Our souls are magnifying the Lord. We are creating a new perspective, we are helping people to see new details about God’s reign among us that were not visible before. All of us – the citizens of the Susquehanna Valley – all of you, here in this church – we are magnifying the Lord.

A reversal is happening. Because the Lord empowers those who struggle against the powers that seek to dominate and demand sacrifice. The Lord protects the ones who appear to be weak. The Susquehanna Valley and most of Pennsylvania is like the people of Israel, overtaken by corporate powers that seek only their own financial gain, no matter what the cost to the people they are oppressing. But they are forgetting that Mary’s song is our song. When we sing this hymn in a minute, Mary will be singing through us, putting the powers and principalities on notice that the end of their reign is near and the coming of God’s reign is . . . within us, within our own bodies.

As we look through the magnifying glass of Mary’s song, this is the detail that we see. Something new is being born from within us. New courage to confront oppression, to claim our power as a beloved sons and daughters of God, to have agency in our own lives and communities, to have a say in how our river, and our land, and our plants and animals are to be treated, to speak truth to power, boldly proclaiming that the system of domination that is trying to control our lives really has no power over us. Because we have faith in the God of our ancestors, the God of Abraham and Moses, the God who brought Jesus out of the grave on Easter morning. This same God is going to come through for us and our community again. The presence of God growing within us is going to change us, and the whole world around us.

So how is the Spirit of God growing inside of you? How is your soul magnifying the Lord? What is being born within you that is changing you, and has the potential to change the world? Amen.

Advertisements

’Dismal’ prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income

’Dismal’ prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income.

Progressive Thinkers

Progressive Thinkers.

Unsung Heroes1

Unsung Heroes1.

ChrisWeigant.com » Teddy Roosevelt’s “The New Nationalism” Speech

ChrisWeigant.com » Teddy Roosevelt’s “The New Nationalism” Speech.

‘Occupy’ crackdowns limited by First Amendment | PoconoRecord.com

‘Occupy’ crackdowns limited by First Amendment | PoconoRecord.com.

Global Rebellion: The Coming Chaos? | Common Dreams

Global Rebellion: The Coming Chaos? | Common Dreams.