Saturday, May 30, 2015

A visitation sermon. . .

Sermon for the Visitation, preached in anticipation of the day, May 31, 2015.

We tend to view the sanctoral calendar and all its obscure saint’s days, feasts, and festivals as peripheral to the main stuff.  But even then we typically think of the main stuff as having more to do with making today happy, ensuring a good tomorrow, and finding a way around troubles – more this than the business of sin and righteousness.

So the visit of Blessed Mary to St. Elizabeth, her cousin, is not a big day for more of us.  Never mind that it is filled with surprise and drama. Two very unlikely mothers – one barren and one a virgin – who end up together for a visit.  More than this, one is pregnant with the last of the prophetic voices of the Old Testament: St. John the Baptist, whom Our Lord calls the greatest of those born of women, and the other is pregnant with the Son of God in human flesh and blood. Before either is born, they are already together in the great plan of God to save His people.

John is already proclaiming Jesus, this time with a jump in mother’s womb.  Jesus is already known as the Savior long promised.  Until this moment it seems only Mary pondered and believed the messenger of the Lord.  Joseph had to be convinced.  Elizabeth is not so hesitant and insists the Blessed Mary is blessed among all women to be the mother of our Lord.

Strange, not many would call a pregnant unmarried woman blessed.  More today than then but in either case, blessed is not a word customarily used for a woman who proclaims her virginity while her belly grows great with child.  But Mary is blessed for believing that the Word of God is true. Her faith has made her blessed.

And that is still what makes us blessed. Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe!  Mary did not see but she believed.  She has become the model of our own faithful believing.  Faith meets God not where reason or logic lead but where the Word speaks and faith trusts what it says.

We must meet the Lord by faith just like Mary.  We were baptized in water but it has left no obvious mark on us that we belong to the Lord.  We trust that the Word of the Lord does what it says.  We are forgiven of our sins and yet we daily struggle to renounce sin, resist temptation, and renew our lives of holiness.  It often seems like we make little progress we can see but we trust in this by faith.  We taste the bread and the wine but not the body and the blood.  We trust that what the Lord says is here, is here as He has said.  Like Mary, we meet the Lord by faith.

The visitation of Blessed Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth is a model of our own relationship with God.  We meet Him by faith, trust what our eyes cannot see, and live in the light of His promise.  Yes, we like Elizabeth and Mary are people who trust in the Lord when eyes and minds neither see nor understand what God is doing.  There is no way around it.  Christians live by faith.  At times I wish it were not so – haven’t we all hoped for proof or signs to ease the risk of believing. 

But God gives us only one sign, His Son, in whom we trust and by whom we live – though always by faith.  Just maybe this odd day on the calendar is not so odd.  For it reminds us that those who would follow the Lord walk always by faith, trusting in His Word and promise, especially when eyes do not see, minds do not understand, and hearts do not appreciate God’s will and His ways.  The just shall live by faith.  It was Luther’s wake up verse.  It describes how old and barren Elizabeth carries a prophet in her womb, Mary the virgin carries the Son of God in hers, and you and I carry the Lord and His Spirit in our hearts.  By grace. . . through faith.  Amen

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