“Interruptions as a Window into God’s Love”
~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~
Northwood United ~ December 20, 2020
I know of few people who rejoice in interruptions. Do you know of many? Those lovers of disorder, of chaos, of confusion? No, most of us prefer things the way we like them…we like things just so, just as we had planned, just as we had designed. We don’t relish in the interruptions, the curveballs, the challenges that arrive. If 2020 has taught us anything, it has educated us in how life has a tendency in interrupting the status quo. This year has upset the normal patterns of life and tested the limits of family, community, country and world relations. Everything has been interrupted from our work life to our homelife, from our recreation and travel, to our economics and our discerning of what really matters. Everything has been interrupted. Many have thoughtfully pointed out how this period in which we live is not as ‘unprecedented’ as we name it to be. Within the last century our world has experienced many interruptions: World Wars, natural disasters and the Spanish Flu would be among a few examples. Countries have experienced Civil Wars and unrest and natural disaster. Communities have experienced deep levels of trauma as we think of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia earlier this year, the Humboldt bus tragedy, the Quebec City Mosque shooting. And families, individually, have suffered deeply in times of disease and discord. Perhaps, what we are uncovering is that these catastrophic interruptions are not as unprecedented as we might think. Mary’s song, that we explore this morning, is all about the way life interrupts the normal, organized, status quo. It is all about how life gets corrected. It is all about how God is found in life’s interruptions. Mary’s life was not set up to bear a child; it was not set up to become a mother; it was certainly not set up to bear the Son of God! Yet, life interrupted what seemed to be set. Mary was stuck in poverty. She came from a lowly class of people. She was a peasant girl living in a Roman occupied village. She was unmarried and (in those days) had no obvious means of support. No one would have picked Mary to be the front-runner to bear the Son of God. The Roman Emperors…they had had divine birth narratives of a Roman deity impregnating a highly esteemed woman who would bear the Son of God. But Mary…she was a young, poor, peasant girl and she experienced the inevitable interruptions that life brings. And, what we find, just like Mary, is that these interruptions are a place to experience the nature of God. You will notice that I am not suggesting that these interruptions are caused by God. Rather, I see these interruptions as places to experience God’s nature. Amidst the interruption of a pandemic, we can experience God’s nature. Amidst the interruption of a cancer diagnosis or a relationship fracture or a communal breakdown, we can…if we choose…experience the nature of God. Interruptions are the place where we can experience God’s nature…if we choose. So, what was the nature of God that Mary’s song reveals? Mary reveals the great reversal that God is working in the world. God’s way is one of healing the brokenness; God’s way is one of lifting up the imbalances and inequities; God’s way is one of creating community that truly embodies ‘unity’ among all. In Mary’s interruption, the last person on earth that we would ever imagine to bear the Son of God is chosen. In the old order with the dominant Kingdom of Rome, the person given the title ‘The Son of God’ was the Emperor who was birthed to a woman of high society. The Emperor, the Son of God had been fathered by a Roman god. Yet in this interruption, we see God’s Kingdom birthing in a new way. God’s Son will not come to the elite. Rather, God’s Son will be birthed to meek and lowly and His Kin-dom will have no end. Mary’s interruption teaches of the nature of this Kin-dom of God. Those filled with pride will be scattered; the powerful brought down from their thrones; the hungry filled. Mary sings a new song…of a new world…of a new Kin-dom birthing forth into the world. Yet…none of this would have ever mattered if Mary had not faithfully responded to the interruptions of life. What if? Have you ever pondered the ‘what if’ question for Mary’s interruption? What if Mary ignored the angel’s greeting? What if Mary didn’t want to have her life turned upside down? What if Mary didn’t have faith? While some historians portray Mary as a ‘submissive’ due to her answer of “yes” to God, I would like to argue this morning that Mary is not submissive in the slightest. Mary, with a powerful faith is standing up, in the depths of her beliefs, and saying “NO” to all that would negate God’s purposes throughout human history! Mary is saying “NO” to oppression of the poor and saying “YES” with a faith that knows God will lift us up! Mary is saying “NO” to the hungry without food and saying “YES” with a faith that knows God will feed body and soul! Mary is saying “NO” to the Kingdom of Rome and saying “YES” with a faith that allows the Kin-dom of Rome to be born! In fact, if you look at the tense of the verbs that Mary uses, she sings of God’s actions as already having come while the child is still in her womb! There is a beautiful prayer in the tradition of another church that comes from Mary’s faith. It is called the ‘Fiat mihi’ which encompasses faithful Mary’s response: “Let it be to me according to your will.” That is faith: “Let it be to me according to your will.” That is a difficult prayer to offer. It is not a ‘God I want this or God I need that’ kind of prayer. It is a prayer of allowing God to come amidst the interruptions and know that all will be well in due time. “Let it be to me according to your will” is a prayer where Mary discovers the true nature of God. A God whose love extends beyond class, or race, or any human boundary that can be constructed. A God whose love is revealed through the innocent vulnerable Christ child. A prayer of knowing that “thy will be done” is always wiser than a prayer for “my will being done.” Life will interrupt. That’s the nature of life. Pandemics…babies…brokenness and pain. Life will interrupt. Yet, I wonder. When these interruptions happen, I wonder if we might have a bold enough faith to let God’s love be birthed? For, if you think about it on the Sunday that we light the Advent candle for Love, the purest expressions of love are always found amidst the interruptions. How easy is it to give and receive love when life is simple? Yet, when the interruptions occur…when life gets challenging…when pain and suffering and sacrifice are required, that is when we see the purest expressions of love. Mary’s love of God, faithfully expressed: “let it be to me according to your will”. God’s love uncovered in these difficult times unto you. These difficult times, an opportunity for us to experience and reflect God’s love. May this time of interruption be one where our depth of faith encounters the immeasurable depths of God’s love. Amen.