Published on 15 Aug 2011
Sermon by The Reverend Chris Dierkes
Preached at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver
August 14, 2011 – St. Mary the Virgin (Transferred)
Click Here to listen to an audio Mp3 version on this sermon.
Some of you know that I spent my early twenties in the spiritual formation process of the Jesuits–the Jesuits are a group within the Roman Catholic Church. As part of my training I was sent one summer to the beautiful country of Peru. The Jesuits in Peru (and Latin America generally) were a major force behind the movement known as Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology–for those who don’t know the lingo–was a theological movement that argued that the Christian Church could no longer offer “pie in the sky” spirituality to the poor. That this life is tough, but one day we’ll all go to heaven and be with Jesus, so just tough it out. Liberation theologians argued that there was no neutral place for the Church to stay about the messiness of human affairs, offering spiritual solace while mass impoverishment occurred all around it. They said the church had to take a side–and given Jesus’ own ministry the Church should take the side of the poor, becoming an advocate.
One Sunday while I was in Peru, we went to a Jesuit-led Liberation Theology parish. Now in this church there was a statue of Mary. That’s not the surprising fact–it was after a Roman Catholic Church–but this Mary in particular was kind different. She was not the usual dow-eyed, head covered, sweet thing with hands on her cheeks. This dark brown Latina Mary had on a skin-tight black dress, wild flowing hair, and big, beautiful….uh energy.
Now much could be said of this statue. I’m sure Sigmund Freud would have a field day with the cognitive dissonance between that woman and her title as Virgin Mary. Our Lady of the Discotech I called her.
The one thing the statue did get correct however was that this woman, is a force to be reckoned with.
The Gospel today supports this view. Mary’s Song (called The Magnificat) to God includes these lines:
“God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts”
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”
Consider that verse in light of our contemporary struggles, where governments all over the so-called developed world have enacted austerity budgets during a global economic downturn and the height of the greatest wealth inequality since before the Great Depression and maybe ever.
The Magnificat shows that true spiritual discipleship is going to get us enmeshed in the sin in the world–in our heart, in our societies, in our politics, economics, everything.
In that light I find it illuminating to pair various lines of Mary’s hymn to God with elements of Jesus’ own teaching. To see the link between the two.
“The Mighty One has done great things for me and Holy is God’s Name.” –Mary
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” –Jesus in the Our Father
The Name of God a metaphor. The Name which can’t be Named. God is not like anything or anyone else. The word itself God is a pretty meaningless word. It empties us of thinking we understand what God is like.
To hallow the name of God is to remember that God is God–that we cannot name God, we cannot control God. The word God is a finger pointing to a Mystery–not the Mystery itself.
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior for God has looked with favor on the humility of God’s servant.” This line links up with Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel: “Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word.”
Jesus said that “He came not to be served but to serve.” As Mary said “Let it be done to me according to thy word” Jesus sweet blood in the garden and said, “Not my will but your will be done.” This is the same prayer he taught his disciples to make: “Your will be done.”
It is true that God is The Name above all names and utterly transcendent. But it is also true that that God’s Love and Justice streams into this world when humans open themselves to become the servants, the vessels of God. When they offer their lives to God in response to God’s Majesty (“Greatness” in Mary’s terms).
“God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. The Divine has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”
You may recall a story of Jesus eating when a woman comes and begins to wipe his feet. The Pharisees around him (“the powerful”) scoff that he should let such a lowly woman touch him. Jesus replies that those who have loved much are forgiven much. He cast down the mighty and lifted up the lowly.
Or Jesus’ teaching that the first will be last and the last will be first. That the meek shall inherit the earth. This is uplifting of the lowly. This is a form of liberation from the social sins that bind all of us (rich and poor alike) into patterns of dehumanization.
If people hallow God’s name and stand in awe of The Divine, and pray to do God’s will, then they will be sent into places they probably don’t want to go.
“God has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.”
Jesus held feasts where those who were previously excluded were restored to human and divine community. But when he met a Rich Young Man, Jesus told him to enter into the fullness of his Kingdom he should sell his possessions and follow him. The Rich Man went away sad (and empty) for he too much loved his belongings.
If a person hallows God’s name, seeks to do the will of God, enters into the uncomfortable places that God sends such a one who has offered him or herself, then that person is going to be dispossessed. Any of us who do that will be dispossessed of these false identities we’ve created and invest so much of our time and energy. They will melt. It may not mean literally losing all our money or physically be hung to crosses, but it will mean death. Jesus didn’t call people to become nice people or good Christians.
As Jesus said, “Those who would find life must lose theirs.”
Mary is one who hallowed God’s name, who said that she would do God’s will, who was sent into all kinds of situations she never imagined and was deeply dispossessed. She found a different life by losing the one she had.
The Magnificat scholars tell us was originally a hymn of the early church which Luke then put onto the lips of Mary. By that he means that her path is emblematic, it’s prototypical of anyone who seeks to follow the way of Jesus. She represents the Church. Her song is the Church’s song. Her song is our song.
She’s a theologian. She’s a Theologian of Liberation. Her spiritual reflection leaves a direct impact on her son. And through us. For this gift we are eternally grateful to her and even more deeply to the God Mary loved and served. Amen.
Want to read more sermons? Find our sermon archive by clicking here.
Chris’s ministry, this website and the work, service and community of Christ Church Cathedral are made possible thanks to donors like you!
Enjoyed this post?