Sunday 7 December 2014

God, I'm confused?

Luke 1:26-38
Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
I would like us to consider just one verse from our reading in the Gospel today. It is one we have considered before since it is in the account of the Annunciation of the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary.
The verse I would like us to think about for a few minutes occurs at the end of this passage, and it is the words which the Virgin Mary addresses to the angel Gabriel. She says,
Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.
I would like us to reflect on this verse and see if we can learn a few lessons for our own spiritual life. Certainly the Virgin Mary is held up to us as an example, indeed THE example of an entirely human life transformed by union with God. When our Lord says to the Apostle John, ‘Behold, your mother’, the Church has understood that in some sense the Virgin Mary was the mother of all Christians. Both offering a mother’s intercession, and always having a mother’s care. Certainly after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord she is always found with the Church, indeed in the middle of the early Christian community.
But returning to this verse, in the first place we must remember that the Virgin Mary has had an experience of God communicating his will to her far beyond anything which we might ever dream could possibly happen to us. God speaks to us, certainly, but usually in a more mundane and prosaic manner. We read the Bible and a verse or passage stands out as applying particularly to our situation. Or we hear a sermon, or we receive some advice. Or perhaps during prayer we have a strong sense of assurance and peace. God speaks to us in all of these ways, and many others.
We might think that the Virgin Mary was blessed by having such a clear and straightforward message conveyed to her with the certainty of an angelic visitor. In our case we are often left wondering what exactly God is doing in our lives, and what he requires of us.
Sometimes we might think that everything would be clearer if an angel came to explain God’s will to us. But we only have to remember this passage and we are reminded that in the case of the Virgin Mary, and that of Zechariah before her, in fact the presence of an angel is not always a guarantee of being able to perfectly understand God’s will.
We can see that the Virgin Mary was not at all sure HOW God’s will would be worked out in her life, but she did not doubt that it would be. And this attitude teaches us that it is possible also in our own lives to be both ignorant of HOW God will work out his purposes for our good, and also be entirely sure in faith that He will do so.
Let us hear the words of the Lord in Jeremiah,
Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Now if we believe this, if we trust that God will work out His plans for us, plans to prosper us and give us hope, then we will be able to answer as the Virgin Mary does. It seems to me there are two aspects to the attitude she displays.
Firstly she considers herself to be the handmaid of the Lord. This part of her reply shows us that it is necessary also for us to accept that in our own lives we are the servants of God, and not the masters and mistresses of our own destinies. When we try to take care of everything for ourselves we find that we do not have the strength or the ability to do so. Things start to fall to pieces when we trust only in ourselves. But if we are servants of the Lord then this changes everything. Our lives are not our own. They do not belong to us, and so we can hand over the responsibility for our lives to the one who owns them, the one who is our Master and Lord. We are free to seek first the kingdom of God, and then we discover that all of the other things we need are provided for us.
Secondly, she asks that her life be worked out according to God’s will. Let it be to me according to your word. This is not a sense of fatalism, as if we have to just meekly put up with whatever a capricious and pitiless God chooses to happen to us. On the contrary, we believe in a God who loves us so much that He became human and suffered for us so that we might be united to him forever. When we trust in this loving Father there is no fear that he wishes us to be caused pain and hurt. Rather we believe that in the circumstances of our human pain and hurt we will find that he is already there and bringing us peace and patience. Indeed he has already shared our human experiences. He knows pain and hurt. He knows what it is to be rejected. He knows what it is to be hungry and thirsty. He knows what it is to shrink back from the future.
There are many times in my own life when I see something happening and I pray, ‘Lord, not again’. But in fact we know that the problems we face as humans run much deeper than the practical ones, and even the person who seems to have no practical problems has plenty of others to face. And the person who has no job worries has many others. And the person who has no periods of loneliness has many other problems to face. It is part of our human condition and experience as Christians to face daily the challenges which are particularly our own. We should not be surprised that we are often called to face difficulties of many kinds with faith and hope. But we can believe that God has a purpose for us in the middle of these difficult situations. He does not take us out of the fiery furnace, but like the three young men of the Old Testament, we discover that he is standing with us. He does not take us out of the Lion’s Den, but he shuts the lion’s mouths.
If our God is the Lord of our lives, so that they belong to him, then we can have the confidence to ask that He works out His will, in His time, and in His way because we know that He will not allow His servants to come to harm. Let me read that passage from Jeremiah again,
Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
If we believe this then we can pray with confidence,
Behold the servant or the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.
May the Lord give us grace to hand over our lives entirely to His service and to his Glory, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment