Sermon – December 21, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:37-38
Please be seated.
When I lived in Washington, DC, I was on the board for the Countertop Quartet, a group of sopranos and counter tenors. One Friday night, we had a concert at a church in Northern Virginia. The President of the Board asked me to welcome everyone to the concert. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was used to talking to groups of people. At one point, I thought maybe I should write some notes to guide my welcome, but I decided against it.
At the prescribed time, I got up and thanked everyone for coming and thanked St. Luke’s church for hosting the concert. I noticed a man in the audience giving me a funny look. You see, we weren’t at St. Luke’s Church; we were at St. Paul’s Church.
Later in the evening I discovered my error. I was so shocked at having said St. Luke’s and decided I needed to pay attention to that. You see, the Quartet was often connected to another St. Paul’s church, so I shouldn’t have gotten the church wrong at all. There was no reason for St. Luke’s to be in my mind…none at all.
I began asking questions of God. “Am I supposed to read the Gospel of Luke? God, what does this mean?”
The next day was a lovely March Saturday. I attended a meeting in the City that ended at 11 and decided I’d walk the ¾ of a mile to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch. I started walking and there it was… an Episcopal Church sign for …you guessed it – St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
I had to go check it out. It was just around the corner. A woman came out from the church as I was standing there and told me more about the church. As I left, I was talking to God. “Am I supposed to start attending church here? God, what do you want me to do?”
Well, I was looking for a spiritual director at the time, and what I discerned from God was that I was supposed to ask the Rector of this church to be my spiritual director. Now, understand, I’d never met her and knew nothing about her. My attempts to find out more about her failed.
So, I just emailed her at the email address on the website, telling her I thought I was supposed to be in touch with her about being my spiritual director. Can you imagine getting an email like mine from someone you’d never heard of and did not know?
I didn’t hear back until early May. She apologized, but she’d been busy. She said she’d be happy to meet with me, but couldn’t be my spiritual director, because she was on her way to South Africa and then an 8-month sabbatical.
Hmm….well, I still felt God nudging me to meet with her, so I set up a time later in May to meet her. It turned out she was on the Commission on Ministry for the Diocese. They’d just re-done the process for discernment for the priesthood. I mean, it was just completed, and hadn’t even gotten to the website yet! She told me all about the process, including a retreat I’d need to attend that was being held in June and some of the other details. She also gave me names of some others who could be possible spiritual directors, one of whom I worked with for awhile.
I was astounded because I was truly led to her and if I’d met with her any earlier, the Commission on Ministry process wouldn’t have been completed. The timing was so perfect.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the familiar story of the Annunciation. An angel comes to this young girl, Mary, and tells her she will bear the Son of God! Did you hear the picture of the angel painted in our hymn, “his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.” I don’t know about you, but I’d be very frightened.
When Mary is astounded, perplexed and I’m sure frightened by this encounter, the angel explains some more and ends by saying nothing is impossible with God.
This is so implausible, isn’t it? And don’t many of us question the details? It just seems too impossible and too difficult for our brains to comprehend.
Interestingly, Mary is the only woman named in the Koran, so Mary and her story is important not only to Christians, but also to Muslims. In other words, this person of Mary is key in two major world religions. So, something amazing must have happened for this woman to be so remembered, especially by name.
As if the experience wasn’t frightening enough, her response is also astonishing. I mean, if you heard what she heard, wouldn’t you be saying… “hmmm…. Let me think about this?” Or wouldn’t you be angry… “Gee, I had other plans for my life.” “God, how are you going to protect me? Don’t you know my community might stone me to death? What am I going to say to Joseph? Do you know how hard it is to raise a child? This is no small task you’ve asked of me, God.”
No, Mary just says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” You see, Mary knows the central truth of our lives. Mary knows her purpose on earth is to serve God. There is no other purpose for her life and thus, she accepts what God has for her to do, “let it be with me according to your word.”
And if we are truly followers of Christ…if we mean what we say during this time of Advent…of hoping and preparing for Christ’s return, we know deep in our being that our purpose is to serve God…to serve God with all of our God-given talent and skill…to serve God with all of the treasure God has given us…to serve God with all of the time God has given us.
Serving God is our purpose. Serving God gives us meaning. Serving God serves the world.
The Angel Gabriel with his wings of snow and eyes of flame may not visit us and so clearly tell us how we are to serve God, but I believe God does send us messages in many ways. We need to be aware and to listen for those messages. They may sound crazy to us. They may not make logical sense to us, especially in the moment. I mean, wasn’t my story about St. Luke’s crazy and nonsensical?
In our skepticism and disbelief, we hear the angel’s words to Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then we respond like Mary, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”