December 18, 2011
Fourth Sunday of Advent
[The Beatles "Let It Be"]
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be……
In case anyone did not recognize it (I’m not much of a singer) – that was The Beatles final single “Let It Be” written by Paul McCartney. Did you hear the familiar phrase in our Gospel this morning? Let it be (NIV has “May it be.”) Now, I came to learn that Paul wrote this song as he was agonizing over the impending break up of the band and he had a dream, but not of Mary the Mother of Christ. No, Paul says this was a dream of Mary, his own earthly mother who offered him words of comfort, as if to say everything will be alright. I just can’t help but notice that Mary of our Gospels offers the same phrase, but for her these are not so much words of comfort as they are words of surrender.
Mary was a young woman, probably 13 or 14 and engaged to be married. Well, not just engaged but betrothed – which was just a bit of a bigger deal. In her society the bethrotal was the legally binding part of marriage, even while she still lived with her parents. If Joseph were to die she would have been considered a widow. So the angel Gabriel comes to Mary (after he made a similar announcement to Elizabeth, Mary’s relative) and declares you will have a baby before you are married! You will be an unwed, poor mother of an outcast criminal who will be executed in his 30s. The Good News that the angel Gabriel shared with Mary is that she is about to enter a life of dishonor and shame. And she says “Let it be.” These are words of wisdom. What else is there to say when you receive a call from God?
In the weeks or months leading up to this Sunday, some of you have received a call. Now, I’m not aware of anyone here who received a call quite of the magnitude of Mary’s. But, perhaps the president or another Consistory member called you or pulled you aside and said “I have seen God at work in your life, would you consider serving this church as a deacon or elder?” You have found yourself quoting scripture saying “How can this be!?” How can this be I’m not wise enough, how can this be I’m not old enough, how can this be I’m not a good speaker, how can this be – surely there are more qualified people! Well sure, all those are valid objections – and Mary was a 14 year old, poor unwed mother. Let it be.
I don’t make this comparison to make Mary’s call any less than what it was – she bore God, Jesus the Christ! But a call to serve God’s church is still an important call from God. Current and former deacons and elders; and those newly receiving a call – have you consider how God has been at work in your lives through the prospect of this call? You other members who will confirm the call of our brothers and sisters; raising up deacons and elders – have you considered God’s work in our life as a congregation? This is not just an election to fill slots on a board. These are spiritual calls to servant-leadership, ordered ministry in our church deacon and elder! A fairly important call indeed. Let it be.
Let’s look at how many answered the call. After hearing the news from the angel Gabriel, being deeply troubled at his words, and receiving an answer about how all this was to be accomplished. Mary surrendered and simply said: “Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” Let’s dissect that response just a little.
I offer you a bit more of a literal translation than our NIV pew bibles provide here. “Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” When Mary says that she is the Lord’s servant. This is not just a simple statement of fact. She says “behold – the servant of the Lord.” It’s an interjection, perhaps she is excited. Perhaps she is a bit loss at what words to use and simply pointed to herself and stated “Behold – this is what a servant of the Lord looks like, right here, its me!” What clarity and exciting in understand her role, not as elevated but as servant of the Lord.
Then she says “let it be done to me.” She uses the same word here that is used for giving birth. That word carries meaning of becoming, something new, transformation, and just the act of being. Perhaps this is a play on words on Mary’s part. Perhaps its an understanding that the nature of her call is something that happens to her and she can either accepted it willfully or gripe about it and have it happen anyways. It is going to happen to her, but she truly does have these words of wisdom – let it be. Here in those words Mary’s will matches God’s will for her; and for the world.
And today we discern and raise up deacons and elders among us to serve this church in these spiritual capacities. Not as simply board members, but as ministers of this church – ordered for the ministry which is given us. Those of you who may be considering such a call may ask “How can this be?” But at the end of the day, if this is truly a call from God you have no words but “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Surrender to the call that God has given you.