by Rev. Bob Thompson Luke 1:46-55 I’ve been trying to think of an image which would describe our Covid existence over these past ten months. The first image that comes to mind, is that we’ve been hibernating – finding our safe place – the place where we can wait out the storm. I wonder if bears dream when they hibernate – if they react to their diminished and isolated state, even as they sleep? I think we have done a lot of dreaming in these months of lockdown – what it will be like when we get out. But as I thought about it, a more relevant image might be of being captive to a siege – pulling in the drawbridge -- strengthening the walls, that protect us from the virus raging outside and threatening us if we get too complacent and venture out. Images to describe most of the year 2020. But today is the first Sunday of a new year, and new images appear. There is always a sense of suspense – of excitement and of foreboding as we face the uncertainty that lies ahead – Jim Taylor talked about that is his column on Thursday. The promise of a vaccine, early in this new year means that we might be able to awaken from our hibernation, let down the drawbridge and move back out, into the world. But, what kind of world awaits us? We know it isn’t the one we left ten months ago. Two days ago, Britain ended a 47 year relationship with the European Union, and has started a new and uncharted journey into the world, on its own. In just over two weeks, the United States will inaugurate a new president, and everyone wonders what lies ahead for them, and through them, for us all. At the same time, we walk out into our own world of uncertainty. Will over $240 Billion in government spending be enough to shield us from a terrible financial calamity, and if it is, how are we all going to pay for it? Will the vaccine protection be enough to enable us to go back to life as we are used to living it? Talk is about the future, when we can get back to normal. But, for most of us, not the normal we lived in before the pandemic. In these ten months of isolation, we have seen many issues and problems that were hidden from us before, or maybe we just ignored them. But our wish is that the “back to normal” that we return to, will be in a more compassionate, just, loving world than the one we left. Each of us will have visions of what that world might look like. My visions include, that vulnerable seniors will no longer be abandoned, warehoused, and endangered in assisted living and care homes, that their caregivers, the people who work in those homes will receive proper training for their work, and a fair wage for the work that they do. I dream of a world where global warming will be reduced and even stopped, with no more threat of extinction for all species, including humans. My future world is one where systemic racism will end, where Aboriginal Canadians will no longer be at the margins of our society. That doesn’t exhaust my list, and I’m sure you have your own visions to add to that list. But how do we create that kind of world? In conversations with friends and acquaintances about these things, the most we seem able to offer is a hope that not all things will return to the way they were before – that in some yet unseen ways, the world we enter after this lockdown will be more just and compassionate than the world we left.
But hope alone, seems to be so powerless, and I believe that the way forward that Jesus offered us, has more power and strength than that. He said that we need to become citizens of the Kingdom of God. We use different language now adays – we talk about becoming part of the kin-dom community. The kin-dom community that Jesus talked about, is a community of compassion, justice inclusion – all the things we hope for.
But how do we get there, other than to just hope that, somehow it happens? Part of the inspiration for this reflection, came to me when I was reading a piece by Cynthia, Bourgeault, a modern day Christian mystic, whose words were in the centering quote at the opening of the service. She says, “The kin-dom community is really a state of consciousness – not a place you go to, but a place you come from.” In other words, you start off with an inner transformation – an inner vision of the world as a community of love, compassion and justice, and then you move out, to live out that inner transformation in the world, and to search for places where that inner transformation is being lived out by others. Bourgeault says that the hallmark of this transition is that it sees no separation – not between God and humans – not between humans and other humans – not between humans and the rest of creation.
Sharon Hartwick is saying this all the time: we find and nurture the love which is at our centre, and then we live that love out into the world. And see all of creation as connected. One of the ahas that come to us as we think this way, is that we spend way too much time on television, watching all the news about the old ways of seeing reality. And it’s fake news. We need to spend less time looking at that, and more time seeking signs of where the kin-dom community is being born in the world. And joining that movement.
But does any of this, have any more power, than just holding on to hope? It seems to me, that’s what this morning’s scripture lesson is all about – Mary’s proclamation in the Magnificat. Because in that proclamation, Mary voiced that inner transformation – she saw a world where the old ways of power, control and violence, would be replaced with love, compassion and justice.
And then she lived it out. If we are talking about a person without power, Mary certainly fits that role – she was way more marginalized that any of us. And yet, with her vision, she transformed the world. How? By raising Jesus with that vision – by passing it on to him. I believe that without that vision that Mary passed on to him, Jesus would have been no more than an ordinary man.
In the introduction to this morning’s scripture lesson, D.L. Mayfield said that the Mary she knew growing up was a vehicle for Jesus, a holy womb, a good and compliant and obedient girl. And she was silent.
That was the work of the men of the later church – the imperial church – the church of power and wealth and control – they tried to silence Mary, because they couldn’t have a woman whose beliefs changed the world. But they were too late in their attempts to silence her, because she has already done her work – she had passed on her vision and hope to Jesus, a vision and hope that he used to transform the world.
And so, lets keep that reality alive in our minds and hearts as we move out of this isolation, and back into the world – that we have the inner vision to see the world differently, and the outer strength to transform that vision into a changed world.