Feast of St. Mary the Virgin – Sermon 281
Feast of St. Mary the Virgin
10.00am Holy Communion
9th August 2018
Prayer to Start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
Celebration – what will make you celebrate wildly and jump for joy? –
Receiving or coming into lots of money?
Being told that you are going on that once in a lifetime holiday?
Falling in Love? – or proposing to someone – and they’ve said ‘yes’
Getting that job or business that you’ve always wanted?
Celebrating a baptism or birth of a child
All good reasons for wanting to – let go of inhibitions and shout out the good news to the whole world!
Point 1 Mary’s Song
Today at this special service we celebrate the life and witness of ‘St Mary the Virgin’ – our Church Patron – and mother of Jesus.
And our Gospel reading this morning – gives us that moment of joy and excitement – when Mary realized that God had intervened in her life – and something special and life changing was about to happen to her
She had received an unexpected gift – an undeserved present – from God Himself – and her joy was overwhelming –
Mary composed and sang what was to become one of the most famous songs in Christianity – the Magnificat – named because that is the first word in Latin
It’s been whispered in Monasteries – chanted in Cathedrals – recited and sung in Churches – we say it at all our evening services – here at St Mary’s and it has been set to music with kettledrums and trumpets – by Johan Sebastian Bach –
Like so many Jews of her time Mary would have soaked herself in the psalms and scriptures – which spoke of mercy – hope – fulfillment – and rescue –
And she composed her song after visiting her relative – Elizabeth who was also expecting a child – and through her song – they shared their dream – that one day all – that the prophets had said – would come true –
Almost every word is a biblical quotation that she would have heard or known since childhood –
Sometimes described as being the ‘Gospel before the Gospel’ – a bright shout of triumph thirty weeks before Bethlehem – and thirty years before Calvary and Easter –
It echoes the words of our Old Testament reading – from Isaiah – and describes all that God was going to do through her and her son to be Jesus –
That God will fulfill all the promises he made to – Israel’s earliest ancestors – that all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s family –
That the powers that had kept the world in slavery would eventually be toppled – that God would win a victory over the bullies – the power brokers – and the forces of evil –
That God’s mercy would be given to all who accept Him – from generation to generation –
Point 2 Mary says yes
Most of us would have said that such a young and inexperienced girl – couldn’t possibly have known what it meant – when she agreed to God’s wishes –
but as we see from the verses before – after an initial protest – and questioning by the Angel Gabriel – Mary accepts what is in store for her with Joy and celebration –
what shines through is her humility – and honesty – and her willingness to accept God’s control over her life –
Mary doesn’t know all that lies ahead – and must have realised that there would be many condemning and disgusted voices – not least from her immediate family – wanting her to keep things quiet – but she accepts God’s will – and says ‘Yes’
She measures what was being asked- of her – not against her own capabilities – but against the resources of God – and so becomes the bearer of the world’s saviour –
Listen to these words from Hilary Faith Jones:
Amazing how the news spread –
her friends giggled and whispered and were drawn away from her by their mothers
The boys made rude gestures – people muttered about teenage pregnancies –
but unmarried – pregnant – she stood in front of those condemning people and held her head high-
She sang from the depths of her soul a most exquisite song of God –
Some laughed and walked away
some were shocked and disgusted
some stayed and reveled in the gossip
and some just sat – and wondered
but one or two were transfixed –
for it seemed a glorious moment – as if she was showing them – something ‘so free and magnificent’ – that their worn-down souls were set on fire.
point 3 Our response to God’s gifts
Through Mary God has taken the initiative and put into motion events that has transformed the world forever –
Through – an unknown Jewish girl – from a small village – He has shared the life of the world as a human being – as her Son – and through Mary – God has been seen in a new light –
As Jesus – God’s love has been demonstrated through action and word – fulfilling all the promises made in the Scriptures – and His Spirit has reached into the hearts of everyone –
Through Jesus – and through His Spirit within us – He had made us all – members of His family – heirs to the kingdom of heaven –
Jesus has bought freedom for us all – through the spilling of His blood on the cross – and defeated evil forever –
Mary shows us that God is not remote or detached – He can be experienced as a living reality within us – encouraging – empowering – guiding – ever at work in our lives –
Like Mary – we too – are called to respond – to God’s presence within us – to rejoice at His victory and undeserved gifts to us – to celebrate our God given freedom and new inheritance in His Kingdom –
Today as well as celebrate the life of Mary we also celebrate and give thanks for the Work of the Mothers’ Union here at St Mary’s – 110 years since our branch was founded – since those first members came together in 1908 –
The Mothers’ Union was started by another Mary – Mary Sumner – who came from the Northwest but lived and worked in a small Parish in Hampshire some 140 years ago –
Her aim was to promote Christian marriage and family life – based on God’s love and presence – and encourage the education of children – it has grown from a small parish activity into a worldwide Charity that today helps people and families of all religions
Working in small groups or branches like ours its members make a difference by raising money and helping local initiatives – which help to change peoples lives – and freedoms
The Mothers’ Union campaigns at local, national and international level bringing about real changes in family life, women’s and girls’ rights and the protection of children.
The power of prayer is central – supporting its work on Church and Community mobilization, helping communities help themselves – bringing education and financial planning and health improvements where it is needed – and at home providing respite to those families most in need – with Away From It All holidays. Practical help given with the love of God – that makes a real difference.
God encourages us all – to use our time – and our talents – to help others – to make a difference – for the better – for people and families – that we come into contact with – to play our part – in the spreading the good news and the work of His Kingdom in our World – whether in our Parish – our diocese or across the world
God chose to act through Mary – and she knew it – and for her it was fantastic – she realised that she was an instrument of His love and plans – and that despite all her weaknesses, shortcomings and failings – she was still chosen –
Listen to these words by John Birch:
When does an ordinary life – become
A mundane day – become revolutionary
A moment in time – Change history?
When God enters in – and forgives sin
When He allows us to – begin again
When we repeat – those words of Mary
‘May it be to me – As you say’
Have you jumped for joy – at Jesus’ presence in you today?
Like Mary we can make a difference –
And there can be no greater celebration than that –
Let us Pray:
A prayer that Mary Sumner used to say – each day as part of her prayer life:
All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee: and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayers I breathe, or the life I live. Amen.