Some lessons in life we must learn over and over and over again. All the handwashing is a great thing this time of year. Staying hydrated, although a medical friend suggested to me that slamming 47 ounces is not really the way to go – darn medical degrees anyway, is important. AND all the handwashing and all the hydrating do not always overcome a lowered immune system that may originate in overscheduling and not staying spiritually centered to handle moments of high stress. Many words to say that at midnight last Saturday into Sunday, my body decided we were done for 36 hours or so. God is a blessing and way too smart for a pastor who somehow believes she’s not as human as the next person. I’ll keep going through a runny nose, a cough, maybe even a fever. But when my body decides to try and get rid of everything I’ve put in it since I was a child, that stops me in my tracks. Thanks to my Associates, and the choirs, and the staff, life in the church and the worship of God is not EVER dependent on one person, and from too many sources to mention, missing services Sunday was my loss! The heart of the season is so much about music, and that was a gift graciously given and received by so many of you!
Pastor Cheryl lit the pink candle last weekend at all our services. The candle of joy is distinct in the midst of the Advent wreath. Mary’s song of joy may very well have been part of her way of trying to process this beautifully wonderful, disturbing, and perplexing news that her child was to be the manifestation of God, and continues to remind us of God’s in-breaking with the gift of self and life!
As the snow kept falling and falling and falling, and when you don’t feel good enough to even watch the Chiefs game, I know, right??? I wondered a bit about the twists and turns that happen in life, some of the most intense seemingly also the most unexpected. I am want to say that I am far more poet than politician, and yet, some times in history call from us pieces of ourselves that we are less want to use. I have probably never been more certain that God is in the heart of the United Methodist Church calling, urging, inviting, confronting us to move into a future with which we have yet to come to terms. We are making our way toward that future God envisions and along the way there is pushing and pulling and prodding and I hope, above all, praying and praying and praying. Maybe not so different than what Joseph, and most particularly Mary experienced from the visitation of Gabriel through then the infant Jesus swaddled and crying in a manger.
Who would this child be? What might the future hold? How would they hope to be part of the growth in “wisdom and stature” of this child who would be “wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”? A leader whose chosen stature of humble servant gave him the power that moved beyond all politics or militarism to a place of great-fullness. To imagine that Mary and Joseph’s journey was how they expected their marriage, family, and life to turn out is, in its own way, preposterous. And yet when the Angel says to Mary that, “nothing is impossible with God.” Mary responds, “let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:37-38, NRSV). And then she sings. She. Sings. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. . . “ (Luke 1:46-48a, NRSV).
Perhaps this season is calling from each of us gifts that we have not always been comfortable giving from our hearts and our lives. God is inviting us together, to trust God in bringing new birth and new life to a denomination that we have loved and served for generation upon generation. Have we ever known God to give up on what God has envisioned? Maybe talk with Jonah or Moses or Esther or Ruth. Their lives did not turn out in the ways they expected, but oh my goodness what God was able to do with, in, and through them for the sake of God’s future was nothing less than gift. Were they all always happy and without struggle? I’m guessing with almost 100% assurance not. But did they know a joy that moved far deeper than the happiness of power or position? I’m guessing with almost 100% assurance yes.
Mary sings. She. Simply. Sings. May we sing too. Through the struggle of this United Methodist Church. With deep joy for a place called Grace. Lifting our voices in faith with a God whose promise isn’t the guarantee of life without challenge, but whose promise is the guarantee of life in deep joy. The Angel Gabriel still speaks, “nothing is impossible with God.” May we yet respond, “let it be with us (sic) as you have said.”