WELCOME to this plan for worship service at home, or wherever you are. It includes text to read, audio and video to hear and see. Instead of simply having one video to watch and hear, this plan is interactive. It demands of us, the separate worshippers, that we make efforts to praise and pray and read and ponder things. Worship, when we are together in pews, is not a spectator sport – it is a team effort. So it can be when we are separated. Be blessed today, and bless the name of Jesus!
WORSHIP Welcome: When Mary was chosen to bear the life of the Messiah in her own body, she ‘magnified the Lord.’ May we express our grateful praise of God now. When Paul and Silas travelled to share the Gospel in Philippi, Lydia believed and offered hospitality to them. May we also open our minds and our lives to the Good News shared with us today. When a woman in Samaria talked with Jesus by a well, she went back to town to tell everyone about Christ. Let us be inspired to speak of the Messiah we meet.
PRAYER: Living and eternal God,
You birthed creation in all its greatness,
You gave us minds and hearts to know and feel,
You provided mothers and fathers and family:
Praise You, glorious are You, great is Your name!
From our separate places of praise, draw us together,
reveal the Holy Spirit, transform us one more step.
Cleanse us from sin, we pray. Take our fears away.
Give purpose to this new day.
In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:46-55 Mary’s Song: ‘the Magnificat’
Our Men’s Choir was to sing again, this Mother’s Day, but the recent pandemic lockdown halted that plan. Here is a recording made on Palm Sunday, when the Choir sang ‘No Other Way.’
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:25-52 – Mike & Maggie Beveridge, Jeff White
SERMON: Raising Our Messiah (Luke 1:46-55, 2:25-52) J G White ~ 11 am, Sunday, May 9, Mothers Day, 2021, UBC Digby: online only
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum…
Some of the classic music for this old prayer is so beautiful and so well known. I never shall forget, back in my student days at Divinity College, how a fellow student was asked to sing Ave Maria at the upcoming wedding of a couple who were our friends. “Oh,” I said to her, “that’s the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer: Roman Catholic.’
‘No, it’s not!’ she reacted.
But it is.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
I am not a believer in praying to anyone but God: the Father, the Son, the Spirit. I do not encourage anyone to pray to any saint or to the Virgin Mary. Don’t get me wrong: I have great respect for our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers. My own brother, Steve, and his family are practicing Catholic Christians. And, if I were called upon to pray with a Catholic person in time of crisis, I would pray ‘The Hail Mary’ with that person.
Now, it is time, as last, for me to greet Mary, and preach my first sermon in twenty-five years about her.
The Holy Scriptures have so much about this amazing woman to inspire us. The mother of Jesus the Christ is before us today, in the pages of the Bible. She was chosen to raise our Messiah, along with her husband and family. What an incredible task in the course of world history!
In Christian history, God, the One to whom we do pray, has mainly been all male: a Father, a Son, and a masculine Spirit. Even though, so often, ‘Spirit’ in the Hebrew language is a feminine word. In our lifetimes (as well as in history way back), there have been some who preach and pray to God, at times, with feminine language. One modern hymn speaks of the Holy Spirit, as a dove, this way:
She comes sailing on the wind, her wings flashing in the sun…
No wonder the Blessed Virgin Mary has had such a devotional following in the Church for centuries. In part, there was a need for the Divine to be more than male. And God certainly is far more than a bearded old Man in the sky! Jesus shows us the face of God, and even spoke once of being like a hen wanting to gather her chicks to herself.
Our protestant, and Baptist, tendency has been to avoid Mary, probably as a reaction to the devotion to her in Catholicism and other branches of our Faith. Let us look to her today, as a parent, outlined in the Gospels.
We begin in Luke 1 with the Magnificat, the poetic praise Mary shares when she is rejoicing in the holy child she will bear. She speaks of all the hopes of God’s justice for the week and oppressed. All God’s promises.
And now the Messiah will finally be born on earth! We remember how Mary, a teenager, was ready to bear this child, to serve God and the whole world in this way. Of course, this is not just about giving birth to the Anointed One, it is a matter of child-rearing too. And with this go all the usual parental concerns and challenges.
Here I am, preaching about parenthood, and I have never been a parent. Never fathered a child. Even when I married Sharon, my step-daughters were aged nineteen and seventeen, and never lived with us. Nevertheless, I can see, as we all can, the awesome responsibilities of parenthood, shown by the woman who raised our Messiah.
Mary faced what others said about their child, Jesus. From the birth stories we see the amazing and hopeful things said about her child. From shepherds who spoke, surely, of angelic messages, to the words of old Samuel and Anna in the Jerusalem Temple, there were amazing hopes and dreams placed on her child. Remember the Magi who arrived to worship Jesus when He was a toddler. And when Jesus was twelve, and stayed behind in that same Temple, the scholars were impressed. There was much for Mary & Joseph to ponder about their son!
None of our children have been the Messiah, but there still are, with any little one, the hopes and fears that spring up from everyone around. There are expectations – sometimes high, sometimes low. And what the doctors say about a kid, and the teachers say, and others, can have a big impact upon the parents. There is much to be said for Mary’s approach: ponder these things deep inside, where the Spirit of God meets with our own spirit.
Mary and Joseph did what they could do, as a new family, with what they had. The offering they brought to the Temple for the blessing of their son was that of a poorer family, not the more generous, usual worship offering. They did what they could with what they had.
Think again of Mary’s praise months before. All those hopes of God doing what God usually does.
God looks favorably on lowly people.
Scatters proud people.
Brings powerful people down off their thrones.
Lifts up lowly people.
Feeds the hungry.
Sends rich people away, with nothing.
This is the kind of God Mary believed in: so she knew that poverty was not a problem in God’s Kingdom. This is still a lesson for us to learn today.
Mary, with her husband, was a person of good Jewish faithfulness. Their obedience to the usual religious traditions is clear in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, where the stories of birth and childhood are found.
Good Christian faithfulness, in families today, is a challenge, I’d say. Or, maybe, it is simply rare and uncommon in our part of the world, now.
Mary and Joseph raised their Son in the context of family and community. This was simply the way things were done in first century Judaism, of course. We see this culture in what happens with twelve year old Jesus. The entourage leaves Jerusalem together; Mary and Joseph can assume their son is with the family and friends.
Today, I see a lot of camaraderie and cooperation among parents. Plenty of them are not practicing Christians, I know, but there is still the knowledge that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Parents truly need other parents to confer with, and share with. When believers want to raise children, there is the need for other believers, of every age, every generation, to be part of the team, part of the family.
We also see in the scripture stories that Mary had deep anxieties about her first child! Today, we read of them losing track of their twelve-year-old. Don’t forget what happened a decade before. The little family fled to the south, to Egypt, to escape the fury of king Herod, who was having baby boys killed. That is a serious crisis: fleeing home to save your child’s life!
Not to mention the other, subtle concerns Mary had. All those things she had to ponder: what Simeon and Anna had said, for instance. Such high hopes placed on this boy: to be the Anointed One. But also, whatever Simeon meant by saying to Mary that He would be “spoken against,” and, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” They did not know it then, but indeed, one thing Jesus was born to do was to die.
People often say a parent should not have to face the death of their own child. Yet it happens to so many. It happened to Mary. It happens for many reasons to others.
Julia Ward Howe may be best known to us as the author of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ It was on June 2, 1872, in the wake of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, that she began the celebration of Mother’s Day as a holiday to honour mothers by working for pacifism, for an end to all war. She proclaimed:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come cot us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.’ From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm!The sword or murder is not the balance of justice.’ …As men have forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Every chapter of life has its anxieties. In our present pandemic we have another layer added to the usual ones. For all of it there is grace, there is help, there is holiness. Often, again, there is a call to action.
Yet we do not have all the answers given to us. Mary did not understand everything, as she contemplated everything. Pre-teen Jesus said to her and Joseph, that day outside the Jerusalem Temple, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Then Luke tells us ‘they did not understand what he was saying to them.’
‘But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.’ The influence of this same Jesus in our lives comes with time, comes with living, comes with treasuring these things. As an adult, the Divine One among us, He becomes the Leader of our souls and the Renewer of our lives. So as people of Faith we learn to be parents, to be step-parents and grandparents, to be friends and neighbours from Jesus, our Brother, our Master, our Friend, our Saviour. And His own mother still inspires us, as we see her raising our Messiah.
PRAYERS of the People: Today, some suggestions for your prayers: Quietly, ever so quietly, become ready to pray.
Remember how your thoughts, your words, your body, and the place where you sit or stand or lie points you into prayer. Remember the presence of the Spirit of God.
Pray to thank God for good things.
Pray to thank God for difficult things.
Pray to thank God no matter what happened.
Pray for yourself, with your problems, your responsibilities, your sins, your opportunities, your spiritual gifts, and your faith.
Pray for others, remembering people in need in our hospitals, such as Wayne, Marie, Dottie, Darryl, and Heather. Remember people who suffer pain and health problems at home, wherever they call home. Remember people with hard work to do in these challenging times.
Pray for the Church, beginning with your own congregation, separated and connected as it is. Pray for the good work you can do together, empowered by the Spirit.
Pray for the wider word. You may think of the troubles of others. Mental Health week is ending; pray for the mental health of all who need a healing touch. May is a month of awareness for many things, such as a month of awareness for Asthma, Brain Tumors, Bladder Cancer, Celiac Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Immunological and Neurological diseases. Pray because of these troubles.
Pray again for many things about the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask the Spirit of God to guide your prayers, your thinking, your concerns. Pray that you will be led to be a voice of hope and wisdom among the people you know.
And there are many other things you may pray.
We might all end with the Lord’s Prayer.
BENEDICTION: Here you are, a servant of the Lord.
Let things be with you according to God’s own word.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Let your soul rejoice and magnify God,
now, in every way, and evermore. Amen.