Monday, December 17, 2012

Looking Forward to December 23, 2012 -- Advent 4C

The Scripture reading this week is Luke 1:26-38

The Sermon title is What if She Said NO?

Early Thoughts:  What would have happened to the story then?  What if, after her discussion with the angel Mary had said "Thanks but no thanks" instead of “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”???

Ok I admit, I first came up with this title near the end of the US Election season when various candidates for federal office were making some rather stupid statements around rape and pregnancy.  And I may have been feeling a little bit confrontational.   SO what if Mary said NO and got pregnant anyway?  What would that make the story about?

6 weeks or so later I see that this may not be the best sermon to preach on December 23.  Or at least not quite as polemical as I was feeling that day.  But still I think the question bears asking, I just want to take it in a different way.  Maybe the question is more "Why did she say yes?"

IF we take it for granted that Mary COULD have said no but didn't.  What does that say about her and about God.  

Mary is an interesting character in the Scripture story.   And she is made more interesting by the layers of gender-role/gender-nature assumptions that quickly got added on top of the Scriptural story (this process probably started in the first couple of centuries of the Christian Era).  As a result tradition tells us about "Gentle Mary meek and mild", a young woman who quietly submitted to the will of God as revealed by an angel.  But I have my doubts.  To say yes meant risking social ostracism or worse.  There have always been grave social risks for young women who are pregnant "too soon", still are for that matter.  

Given that reality I think it say a lot about Mary, about her confidence in herself, about her confidence in God that she say yes.  But did she have to? 

Well that would depend on your understanding of how God interacts with God's people.  SOme would say that Mary really had no choice in the matter, that God's will overrides human will.  I understand that point of view.   It is tempting because it suggests that the other option is that human will overrides God's will.  And that can be a depressing possibility.  But I think there is another option.  

I believe God acts more through encouragement and co-operation than coercion.  So I believe that Mary COULD have said no.  But she said yes.  So this week let's explore why she made that choice....

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