December 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs
|Sermon for Advent 4 Sunday
Luke 1. 39-45 / 55
I may have told you this previously, but one of the questions
I most dread and most welcome at one and the same time,
is So, what made you decide to be a Vicar, then?
It is a totally natural question and usually asked in a kindly
way but it is one almost impossible to answer... And
I usually say something like Well, I didn t
decide exactly but it was an idea that was put to me
a seed that was sown and one that would not let me go.
I had to follow the path and see where it would lead me!Little
did I know, over 20 years ago, that it would lead eventually
here to Pattingham a place that at the time, I had never
So my sympathies have always been with Mary and with Elizabeth.
Two women one impossibly old to have a child; one impossibly
young and with no apparent husband. Now I am not likening my
calling to be a priest with Mary s vocation to be the God-bearer
... there were definitely no Angelic visitors in my case and
I am under no illusions I am not the one who bears salvation
for the world in my very being.... although something very precious
is entrusted to me when I stand at God s table and repeat
his invitation to come, taste the fare he has provided for us
at such great cost to himself.
But I do sort of identify with both of these women who are caught
up in a story that is so much bigger than any one person
or even two people. And it has to be said, - God can be very,
very curious, indeed. He seems to pick the oddest, most unexpected
people for his service... Think of Moses, the cowardly and hot-headed
runaway sent back to bring God s people out of slavery.
Or Jonah who also tries to run away And so on and
so forth. Sometimes you have to think, couldn t he
do better than that?And then we come to Mary.
Mary who is young, perplexed and bewildered by what the strange
visitor is saying to her as well she might be! A girl
feeling a deep and devout connection with God is one thing; a
girl being told she will conceive a son via the overshadowing
power of the Holy Spirit is another.
God s call can seem impossibly intrusive, verging on the
abusive for surely the power is all with God in this encounter?
And yet the writer of Luke makes Mary s response significant;
Mary s willingness to unite her will and purposes to those
of God is no mere afterthought.
This could have been the story of an alien, overpowering, terrifying
and uncompromising God who chooses individuals and expects obedience.
And that would have the ring of authenticity about it. This is
no easy, domesticated God the sort we might invent for
our own comfort a super security blanket if you will.
In the film The last temptation of Christ, Jesus opening
line is God loves me, I know God loves me. I wish he
d stop!There is something of this God in the one who meets
Mary. This is the God who calls, but who also pushes us out so
very far from our ordinary human desires and expectations. This
is the God who fills Mary s heart full of rejoicing
such that she will burst into a song of revolution and praise,
and yet gifts her a son who will pierce her heart too.
So calling is about being drawn out of oneself towards something;
a career, a way of life, of being. And so it is also about response.
It requires commitment, a joining of the will to that to which
one is being drawn. It is always about a yes and
then giving of ourselves to that direction. And it is never passive.
It requires trust and faith and love. And it leave us
vulnerable to pain and loss. Travelling with God then, the way
of vocation is never merely about a job, or even a course
of action. It is about accepting the prospect that we will be
changed for either good or ill. It is not lifestyle
that great modern idea of what our jobs may allow us to lead
but it is living. And if God is what truly calls us
if God is the true ground of our being and the very heart of
what we most truly are, then that call will always be the primary
one. When God calls, we may resist, be suspicious even
laugh in disbelief and so on, but we can be assured we are being
drawn out into our deepest, truest selves.
And when we feel that call that tug at the heartstrings
we don t just have to take our own feelings into
account but others will authenticate our sense of calling
too. Mary goes to tell her cousin Elizabeth only to find
that the older woman already knows her secret and that even her
unborn child is in on the act!
So, how may God be calling to you? You may feel it ridiculous.
That you are too young, too old, totally unfitted for the task,
whatever it may be that is only to be expected, given
past experience! But let the thought stay within you; nurse and
nurture it for a while; and when you feel brave enough
try telling someone else about your wildest dream. What is their
response? If they are totally unsurprised, if they comment that
it s been perfectly obvious for weeks / months / years
well maybe there is more to it than you think... and nothing
will ever be the same again!