One-Liners

May 13, 2013

One-Liners

My mother has some great one-liners. Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, having great one-liners is a graduation requirement. There are her one-liners in the car: “I never nap in the car when your father is driving because I want to see the fatal crash.” “Is it pull-out-in-front-of-me day because there ain’t a soul behind me.” There are her one-liners in casual conversation: “He don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.” “I have a life-sized picture of that.” “Well, that’s just natural selection doing what it does.” There are the one-liners of great wisdom: “There’s no need to be hoopin’ and hollarin’ after midnight because nothing good happens after midnight.” “We don’t have time to go the emergency room.” “This household is not a democracy. It is a momocracy—a benevolent dictatorship.”

Mary, the mother of Jesus has some great one-liners as well. When Mary and Joseph had lost Jesus and found him three days later at the Temple in Jerusalem, she said, “Child, we have been searching for you with great anxiety.” I happen to believe that the Christian tradition has maintained the censored version of that exchanged. Mary also said, “Let it be with me according to your word,” when the Angel Gabriel announced that Mary would have a son. When the wedding party in Cana runs out of wine, Jesus’ mother brings the servants to Jesus and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” Here in our story today, Mary and Elizabeth greet each other, and Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

After receiving the news that Mary will be the mother of Jesus, Mary travels with haste from the north in Galilee to the Judean hill country in the south to visit her relative, Elizabeth. God is doing a remarkable thing here. Mary traces her lineage back to Miriam, Moses’s sister and one of the first prophets, for as the Ancient Israelites crossed the Red Sea she sings, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:21). Elizabeth is connected to the Priests and the keepers of the Law by her marriage to Zechariah. When Mary and Elizabeth meet together and the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy, the child leaps because in their meeting, the Law and the Prophets are coming together, much in the same way the disciples experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus is there with Moses and Elijah. Not only that, Mary is from the north in Galilee. Elizabeth is from Judea in the south. In addition to the Law and the Prophets coming together, the divided kingdom of Israel in the north and Judea in the south are coming together. God is beginning to change the world. The Law and the Prophets are coming together, the kingdom is being reunited, and God is bringing about this change . . . through mothers . . . because God knew what he was doing.

When Mary and Elizabeth meet, Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” In five words, Mary proclaims what it means to be a Christian, in a way. God isn’t asking us to be clever, though wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit. God isn’t asking us to be original, though living a Resurrection life is, in large part, counter to the wisdom of the world. God isn’t asking us to innovate, though we must always be ready to follow the direction of the Spirit. What is God asking of us? The prophet Micah asked the same question, replying, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” because as lovers of God through Christ in the Spirit we are to recognize what God is doing in the world and amplify it, magnify it.

I love the imagery of a magnifying glass because a magnifying glass brings into view those things that are normally missed, those small things, which mean a great deal. The kingdom happens one person at a time. A revolution begins with a conversation—one heart transforming another. The kingdom beings to grow when you shake the hand of someone in need. The kingdom begins to grow when instead of jumping into email first thing in the morning, you begin your day with prayer. The kingdom begins to grow when you have a latte for Jesus, meaning that instead of getting a $5.00 latte each morning, you have a cup at home. Just imagine what we could do if we who love coffee increased our pledge by $20/week. Going from a latte to a cup of coffee may mean school supplies for every elementary child in need, or microloans for folks trying to change their life or electronic wheel chairs for those having difficulty getting around. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The magnifying glass of the Holy Spirit brings those small things into view, amplifying them into a kingdom that transforms the world. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which grows into the greatest of trees.

Not only do magnifying glasses magnify the small things around us, they also bring light into focus. Do you remember those days as a child when you would use a magnifying glass to focus sunlight to burn a leaf? “My soul magnifies the Lord,” can also mean focusing the light of God on one specific purpose. Mary proclaims many ways in which God is at work in the world, as if Mary is helping us discern that one holy and precious purpose Broadmoor is called to become. God is one who offers mercy, shows strength, scatters the proud, brings down the powerful, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things, sends the rich away empty, helps people remember the promise. Who are we as a church? Who is Broadmoor in the community? Are we a place of mercy? Are we a place where people find strength? Are we a place where the hungry are filled with good things? What is that one great thing the community would miss should Broadmoor not be here? “My soul magnifies the Lord,” amplifies the mustard seed of kingdom work. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” also transforms the work God is doing in the word and brings it into focus, offering purpose in each faith community.

“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” sounds like a testimony from someone who has everything going for them, someone whose kids make straight A’s, someone who has money in the bank, someone who has run a half marathon, or helped a child finish a class project, or simply got everyone where they needed to be on time, but Mary’s life is far from “together.” She just found out that she is having a child. She’s not married. What will Joseph think of this? What will mom and dad and the community say? Will we have enough to raise the child? When Mary finds out that she is pregnant, see immediately and quickly leaves town. She left to visit Elizabeth, but I wonder if she also just needed time to think, to ponder, and to talk about what God is calling her to do. For some, today is a difficult day. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” is far from your lips. Maybe your “one-liner” today is “I miss you,” or “I forgive you,” or “I’m sorry.”

Mary’s words remind us that the kingdom of God is a mustard seed, that revolution that begins with a conversation. Mary’s words remind us that God is calling us for a particular purpose in the world. And maybe most importantly, Mary’s words also offer us hope, that even when we don’t have everything together, even when we can’t seem to shake sadness, even when we think we are failing at everything, that God is still with us, providing, nurturing, lifting us up when we are in need . . . you know . . . like a mother. Praise be to God. Amen.