Friday, December 12, 2014

Impossible Possibilites, We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 15

Luke 1: 46-55 (NRSV)
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ 
Some of us call this text "The Magnificat." It is Mary's song given to Elizabeth, and to us, as John the Baptist leaps with joy in Elizabeth's womb. The song echoes Hannah's song at the dedication of her son Samuel (1 Samuel 2). The song declares the hopes and dreams of Mary's people as they wait for the Messiah. It is a song that swells with hope and joy for the future. 

The 15th chapter of Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking, "Women on the Edge," focuses on women: Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary. Here McLaren shows how women have been vehicles of God's work in the world. There are many more women to choose from, of course, like Hannah, or Mary and Martha of Bethany. These women, though, are all mothers. More than that, they are mothers of unexpected children. Sarah is in her eighties when she bears Isaac into the world. Elizabeth is considered barren and hopeless when Zechariah learns of his impending arrival. And Mary is a young, unmarried woman when Gabriel invites her to bear the Christ child into the world. Each woman invited to believe that the impossible is possible.

The role of these stories is to do more than tell the story. They invite us to imagine that we, also, can believe that the impossible is possible. Each one of us, at some point, is thwarted by something that inhibits our potential. It may, indeed, be the reality that we will not bear a child into the world. It might also be the lack of a job, or money to pay for an education, or even money to eat. Whatever the reason, each one of us has a moment when our hopes seem impossible. The stories of these women invite us to imagine the "impossible possitiblities" (p69). We hear Mary proclaim that the "hungry will be filled with good things and the rich sent away empty" and we wonder how can this be. It is true, though, the Christ child, her child, will one day feed the hungry and send the rich away.

Mary's song offers one other impossible possibility: that God's power subverts and undermines our human desires for violence. In other words, the incarnation is the divine creative force born into the world by the grace of one who nurtures and hopes. Imagine if we mirrored this creative force in our own lives. We might find ourselves living differently: scattering the pride from our hearts and seeking out the lowly. We might put down our weapons and encounter one another. We might discover a new way of life that embraces hope, and nurtures life. We might realize that we have the power to bear God's grace, compassion, and mercy into the world. Mary invites us on a journey that embraces a new way of life: a life that believes the impossible is possible.
I wonder, what seems impossible to you? Can you imagine that it is possible by the power of God? What are the impossible possibilities that Christ's life makes real for you?

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