Procaim the Greatness of God.

On each of the past three Sundays, I have focused on key words or thoughts from our readings. On the first Sunday of Advent we focused on what it means to watch or to wait for God. Advent is a time to keep watch or to patiently wait for the signs of the kingdom’s arrival. On the second Sunday of Advent, I discussed Advent as a time of comfort. On that Sunday the prophets told us that our time of trial and travail is coming to an end, that the price for our sins had been paid. Last week I focused on the word prepare, and how Advent is a time to prepare the way for God on Earth.

This week our word is proclaim. In this morning’s canticle, Mary declares that her “soul proclaims”, or “magnifies the Lord.” In the 40th chapter of Isaiah, the prophet is commanded to cry out and then asks, “but what shall I cry?” The answer alludes him, but for us the answer is to be like Mary and to proclaim the good news of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for all humanity.

In a familiar hymn we sing, “tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord.” In the Magnificat, Mary declares it is her soul which magnifies the Lord. The ancient understanding of the soul was the totality of the physical being. The soul was the total sum of all our parts. When Mary declares her “soul” magnifies/proclaims the Lord, she is literally saying the whole of her being testifies/proclaims, bear witness to the love of God. Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord by allowing her body to be used as the portal through which God enters the world.

Mary is the theotokos, the God Bearer, the one who literally and physically pushed the Divine On each of the past three Sundays, I have focused on key words or thoughts from our readings. On the first Sunday of Advent we focused on what it means to watch or to wait for God. Advent is a time to keep watch or to patiently wait for the signs of the kingdom’s arrival. On the second Sunday of Advent, I discussed Advent as a time of comfort. On that Sunday the prophets told us that our time of trial and travail is coming to an end, that the price for our sins had been paid. Last week I focused on the word prepare, and how Advent is a time to prepare the way for God on Earth.

This week our word is proclaim. In this morning’s canticle, Mary declares that her “soul proclaims”, or “magnifies the Lord.” In the 40th chapter of Isaiah, the prophet is commanded to cry out and then asks, “but what shall I cry?” The answer alludes him, but for us the answer is to be like Mary and to proclaim the good news of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for all humanity.

In a familiar hymn we sing, “tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord.” In the Magnificat, Mary declares it is her soul which magnifies the Lord. The ancient understanding of the soul was the totality of the physical being. The soul was the total sum of all our parts. When Mary declares her “soul” magnifies/proclaims the Lord, she is literally saying the whole of her being testifies/proclaims, bear witness to the love of God. Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord by allowing her body to be used as the portal through which God enters the world.

Mary is the Theotokos, the God Bearer, the one who literally and physically pushed the Divine into the world.

Each and every one of us is Theotokos, God bearer, called through baptism to be like Mary, to proclaim the love of God for this world. Think about it, each of us has the ability to bring God further into the world. Each of us harbors a spark of the Divine within our being. If what Heidegger says is true, that God is Being and each of us are emanations of Being, the beams of light of Being, then we, to some respect, are an aspect of the Divine. If God is the source of all life, then it is the Spirit, the non-physical aspect of our being, that is the Divine itself. Therefore, as God bearers, we are called to proclaim, to declare our admiration for the Divine that resides within us with the entirety of our physical beings.

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves ends her conversation in Living a Spiritual Life by stating, ” when people are mindfully present to the grace of God that surrounds them. . . others just seem to know.”
When I heard this statement I was reminded of a conversation I had with a hall mate my freshmen year in college.

To be honest, I cannot remember his name any more, what I do remember is that it seemed his sole reason for being at school was to party. Most nights he and his roommate filed their room with an all too familiar sweet smelling cloud of smoke while emptying bottle after bottle of beer. Weekends were spent hanging out wherever the least expensive beer etc. could be found. Then there was that one night, just before the end of our first semester when he returned to the dorm so drunk we literally had to help him find his room. As a couple of us helped him back to his room he looked at me and with all sincerity asked me not to judge him because he did not have what I had.

At the time, I did not understand what he was saying. Of course he had everything I had and possibly more. Then I realized, the only thing I had which he didn’t have was an abiding relationship with God. But other than my hall mates knowing I went to the local church just off campus each week, it wasn’t something we discussed. So I am never sure how he knew my experience of God’s grace filled the same void he tried to fill with drinking and smoking.

It is said St. Francis often taught his followers to constantly preach the Gospel, but to use words as rarely as possible. St. Francis believed actions speak louder than words.

Since his elevation two years ago, Pope Francis has followed in his name sakes footsteps. He proclaims the greatness of God through his actions over his words. One of his primary concerns for the modern day Roman Catholic Church is how overly dogmatic it has become. In recent letters he has asked his bishops to become less focused on the social teachings of the church and more concerned with becoming a church of mercy. To his credit, the Pope preaches this message more by action than by word. As part of his first papal observance of Maundy Thursday, Francis broke with protocol by by going to a Roman Prison and washing the prisoners’ feet. He further shocked the world when he chose to wash the feet of a Muslim female prisoner. When asked his position on homosexuality, his response has been simple, “who am I to judge.” Most recently, Francis has had showers installed in the public restrooms along the outer walls of Vatican City as a place for the homeless to bathe.

As Pope, Francis has made it clear, his papacy will not be remembered for encyclicals, liturgical reforms and theological decrees, but by proclaiming the greatness of the grace of God through acts of love and compassion.
It is the experience of Divine love which can transform the lives of others, and, it is through the offering of this love to the world that we proclaim the greatness of the Lord as Mary did.

Last Tuesday evening, in our own way, St. Luke’s proclaimed the unconditional love of God to students from OCC. We didn’t use words, instead we used food, real food, not pizza on Tuesday night. Designed as a dinner break for students in the midst of finals, thirteen students accepted our offer. For the brief period they were with us, they were offered a meal by Jerry Wright, the warmth of our library and the offering of home by those who served them. There was no planned sales pitch about the love of God and the need for Church. Just the offering of a safe place to come whenever the world around them felt as if it was crashing in. We had no planned program about Jesus, but the simple offering of radical hospitality. Did these young people pick up on the message we shared? We may never know. What we do know is how they left happy, energized and thankful for what one student mentioned was a “sense of home” in the midst of finals.

Yes, our souls proclaimed the greatness of the Lord on Tuesday night.

As we travel through these final days of Advent, let us keep watch for the signs of the kingdom about to come. Let us find comfort in knowing our days of travail are coming to an end. Let us prepare the way for God’s arrival. And finally, let us proclaim the greatness of God with the whole of our beings.

Amen

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Dorothy Pierce says:

    What a wonderful sermon, Craig!

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