Saturday, November 30, 2013

Greetings! (First Sermon for New Church)

Greetings!  Greetings, Favored Ones! 
Does it seem a bit presumptuous, to greet you with the same words that the angel Gabriel used to greet Mary?  “Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you!”  Perhaps  . . . Or, perhaps not. 
What might our lives be like if we recognized that our God is always greeting us, every morning and at every junction in our days, greeting us and calling us into new life with God, as God was doing with Mary all those years ago?

Today the angels exclamation of greeting, and Marys response, seem particularly appropriate for us to consider, as we meet one another, most of us, for the first time.  

Lets ponder Mary for a moment.  Mary is a young woman, going about her business, probably helping her mother in the household, and perhaps wondering and daydreaming about her upcoming marriage, when – an angel appears!  Im always a bit surprised that she isnt more astonished by the arrival of a messenger from God – that, to me, would be quite something to take in.    Although, in one of my favorite childrens books about this particular event, which we know as the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel accidentally lands in a tree, his robes and his wings are pulled apart by the branches, and he pulls to a final stop in front of Mary in a rather tattered condition, seemingly as surprised by his arrival as she is.  So maybe theres a certain mutuality of bewilderment in their encounter.

That might apply to us, yes?  Im not the angel Gabriel, and you all arent Mary – but here we are, brought together by God, and perhaps we are a little surprised?  Who is this pastor?” you must be wondering.  “Who are these people?” I am asking.  “Who is this church, and who are we called to become together?” is the question on all of our minds.  “To what unknown future are we being invited to give birth?” 

Mary, we are told, is perplexed.  Much perplexed.  Baffled, bewildered, confused – by the angels greeting.  What does it mean to be told that you are Gods favored one, that God is with you?  And then, when she finds out – when she finds out that she, a woman as yet not living with the man she is to marry, is to bear a child, the Son of God, she is startled, and she has a big question.  “How can this be?” she demands? 

There must be so many levels to that question.  How can this be, since I have never had relations with a man?  How can this be, since it is going to embarrass my parents and ruin my life?  How can this be, since no one told me until just now?  How can this be, since I am an ordinary woman with no special line to God?  How can this be, that God would have a son?  How can this be, that the messiah, the anointed one, of our people, should be born in our little village?  How can any of this be at all?  

Do you sense any camaraderie with Mary this morning?   Are her questions your own?  Do you wonder, What is God doing here in BPC?    Do you wonder: How can this be?  How can it be that God comes to us, that God comes to ordinary people in an ordinary city, to tell us that we are favored by Gods presence and called into partnership with God?  How can that be?

Well . . . what does the angel Gabriel say to Mary?  Three things:

First: Do not be afraid.

Secondly: The Spirit of God will overshadow you.

And, finally: Nothing is impossible with God.  

First, Do not be afraid.  A tall order – we are fearful and anxious and apprehensive about so many things – and yet that phrase, or some version of it – Do not fear, Be strong in the Lord – is repeated hundreds of times in the Bible.  Do not be afraid of what lies ahead!  Do not be fearful of Gods call in your life.  Mary, do not be afraid!  Boulevard Church, do not be afraid!

Second: The Spirit of God will overshadow you.  We are accustomed to hearing those words in connection with Mary.  They provide a sort of vague explanation of the biology and genetics of the way in which God has engaged in her life so that she will give birth to the messiah. 

But dont they apply to all of us?  The Spirit of God will overshadow you.  Doesnt the Holy Spirit envelop and protect and encourage and enliven each of us when we are called into Gods great project for the universe?  Isnt the Holy Spirit overshadowing our lives when we and our community are called into Gods loving and healing plan for all peoples?  When we are called to serve meals to the community?  When we are called to walk through our city in prayer?  When we are called to consider new ways of being church?  What is all that, other than the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, calling us to give birth to something as of yet unknown? 

And finally: Nothing is impossible with God.  Now theres a sweeping statement if we ever heard one. There are some folks who say it all the time: Nothing is impossible with God.  But how many of us really believe it?  How many of us behave as if it is true?  How many of us say, instead, Oh, wed better not try that.  Oh, weve always done it this other way.  Oh, we dont have the money or time for that.  Oh, this will never work.  Oh, no one will ever like that.  Have you heard any of those words?  Have you said any of those words?  I surely have.  But maybe its time to catch ourselves and to say instead, when God is asking us to help to bring about a new thing,  that indeed, Nothing is impossible with God.  That we are called to the art of possibility!

And so, BPC, how do we respond? 

What do we say as we embark upon the Advent season, as we begin a new church year, as we find ourselves drawn into relationship together, as we know ourselves called to give birth to something new and uncertain? 

Are we perplexed?  I should think so!  Do we have questions?  I hope that we do!

But let's also be fearless.  Let's also acknowledge that we, like Mary, are being overshadowed by the Spirit of God.  And let's remember, as we prepare to share in a mysterious and joyful meal together, that we are called into a season of birth of hope and confidence in possibility.

As we walk into the light of Advent, let us say with Mary, "Here are we, your servants - let it be with us according to your word.

Greetings, favored ones!  The Lord is with you!



  1. Beautiful and it sets the beginning of the relationship between you and BPC so very well.


  2. What a wonderful message for a new beginning.