Saturday, August 16, 2003

Preaching to the world

I am so proud of my pastor, Rev. Dr. Peg Schultz-Akerson, who preached yesterday at the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

She was assigned to preach on the day of Mary, Mother of our Lord, for which the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) was the Gospel reading.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. (Luke 1:46b-48a)

Fourteenth-century mystic Meister Eckhardt preaches that the essence of true humility isn’t how little one has; Queen Esther is lifted up as a humble person. Nor is true humility about putting one’s self down, or putting others down. Eckhardt teaches that true humility despises being despised. True humility wants more than anything to be like an instrument– like a flute, a reed – like an artist, a musician, a dancer, a lover, a father, a mother – some way of being a means of grace. True humility knows that it’s not about us, but about what or whom we are called to birth into the world through the particular means of our lives. True humility is about breathing in God so that we can breathe out not ourselves but God for the healing of the world – claimed, gathered and sent. True humility knows this process, this dance of receiving our identity in Christ and contributing out of it. True humility is the yearning to do this, and it’s not all selfless. It’s for the sake of the world, as Bishop Hanson keeps reminding us, but the mystery is that the more we dance our part in this turning – however major or minor the part – the more we dance our part, the more healed we become. True humility despises being despised, despises being dismissed, because those acts violate our baptismal calling. . . .

Mary’s vocation is that of God-bearer for the sake of the world, but it is a healing that heals her as well. True vocation as we see it in Mary delights to be asked; delights to be invited; is moved to praise when taken seriously as one who has a song to sing, a gift however small or great to offer. The radical witness of the Magnificat is that God causes the voiceless to burst into song. The disregarded become the bearers of God. The healing of the world draws near in the empowerment of the voiceless. Mary models God’s unexpected ways of bringing all of us – all of us – to song. The dawn draws near when a peasant girl becomes the mother of God. How radical is that?

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