Scripture - Isaiah 35:1-10, Luke 1:39-56
Isaiah 35:1-10 (The Message) -- The heading is “The Voiceless Break into Song”
1-2 Wilderness and desert will sing joyously,
the badlands will celebrate and flower--
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
God’s resplendent glory, fully on display.
God awesome, God majestic.
Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”
Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.
There will be a highway
called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively--
impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
no dangerous wild animals--
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.
Luke 1:39-56 (The Message)
39-45 Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
46-55 And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened--
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.
One: The Word of Life. All: Thanks be to God.
What makes space sacred?
One of my favorite questions to ask people who I meet here on the island is what their connection is to Chebeague. Why have they chosen to live or summer or vacation here. There’s a whole range of responses I get - grew up here, friends or family lives here, the idea of living on an island seemed interesting, there was a place available when I was looking for a seasonal home; there’s a huge range. But there are two threads that often come up as people share with me what drew them to this place - one is connection; that there is something special about the people or the land that speaks to them and that’s why they stay….and secondly that they felt like this was a place that could offer them healing…that somehow, living here after whatever difficult situation in their life brought them to these shores would bring restoration...wholeness...healing.
This week we’re talking about sacred space - and I think there’s metaphorical and literal meanings in that. We heard read aloud today this joyous meeting of Elizabeth and Mary - two women whose pregnancies create space for joy to enter and transform our world. They carry this with them physically with their pregnancies; they actually make space within themselves as John the Baptist and Jesus grow within them -- and they make space with their lives. They share this moment together when Mary and Elizabeth meet and Mary bursts into this song of joy - known as the Magnificat. It’s a song that sets the framework - creates the space and tone - of Jesus’s ministry, of this transforming work that God will be about in the world.
Mary’s song - and our reading from Isaiah - are full of freedom and grace. Courage for fearful souls. Energy and strength for the weak. A banquet for the hungry. Nourishing water for the parched. Clear sight and opened ears for the blind and deaf. Mercy from God. Being remembered by God. Protection from evil, gifts of joy and justice. This is the work that God is about - this is Jesus out in the world, preaching and healing and revealing God’s kingdom - humbling the powerful and humanizing the invisible - creating a space in this world for God’s hope to enter in.
Creating sacred space here on earth.
Several weeks ago, Allen Ewing-Merrill was here to preach - and he talked for a moment about the Lord’s Prayer. He mentioned how so often we all say it the same way with breaks at the same point every time. I have no idea how or where that started but you can go to just about any church setting and it will be said the same way. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. But that’s not how the sentence reads. The sentence reads, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Thy will be done on earth. Sacred space here and now. God’s kingdom here...just as it is in heaven.
Think for a moment about the different spaces you inhabit...home...workplaces...community spaces...church...are those spaces feeding and nurturing the freedom and grace that we heard from these passages this morning? Are they places that point to God’s transforming work? Are they sacred...or do they have the potential to become so? What can we do to support the unfolding of God’s kingdom in those places?
I want to share a little story about this from this past week, to show that making sacred space doesn’t have to be a grandiose venture; sometimes it’s as small as a shift in attitude or in intention.
Michael had a bit of - something - at the beginning of the week. Low grade fever, congestion, tired - nothing terribly alarming but also clearly he wasn’t feeling his usual self. Tuesday was the worst of it - he was clingy, sad and miserable, and all of us in the household were a bit worn out and dragging that day. Normally in our household division of labor, Tuesday is my day to work and Ben’s day with the kids. But Ben also needed a bit of a break because even though he’s feeling better with his chronic illness, his health isn’t something we muck about with. So I gladly stepped in when he needed to take a breather, figuring that Michael would hang out on the couch quietly while I took the time to go through my extensive to-do list. After all, it’s Advent, leading up to Christmas, one of the busiest times of year for *everyone* but particularly for pastors.
But no. His clinginess continued. Wanting to be in my lap, whether I was sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table. Wanting me to talk with him or read to him or sing with him. I was feeling so frustrated because I needed this time to get stuff done and all I could think about was how I was going to manage the rest of the week, how I was going to prep for worship and make sure the pageant happened and work on the discernment session at the end of the month and getting everything in line for Christmas Eve and…
...and all of a sudden, I realized that I was creating sacred space for my kid, who wasn’t thinking of anything else but that he needed his mom to help him feel better. And even though I had all these “important” things to do - that didn’t matter in this moment for Michael, who felt safe and secure, loved, held, and carried. Creating that space for Michael was one of the most important things I could be doing right then. I was reminded in that moment of how the idea of making space has actually informed a lot of my parenting -- like when kids come home from school and melt down at the end of the day, it isn’t because they are wanting to punish you, it’s because they are in a space where it’s OK to feel and share negative emotions. And that sacred space is created when people know they are loved and welcomed for all of who they are - when grace and forgiveness are practiced, and when courage and vulnerability are celebrated.
Author and professor Joseph Campbell has this great quote: “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” That can be true in our homes - and I think it’s true for many who have made their homes here on the island - that there is something about this place, there is something about this community - that allows us to find our selves over and over and over again. There’s something that exists in the space between us, something that the landscape speaks to, something in the rhythm of this island that is sacred. Not all of it - to be sure - those of us who are here know the island has its problems and imperfections - but that’s true of us as people, too - as we talked about last week, about being sacred people, faults and all. Sacred space is all around us - and we’re invited not only to extend that sacred space to others….but to embody it ourselves...to make space within our hearts and within our lives for Christ to enter in and shine forth from us.
So I invite us to find that sacred space as we draw nearer to the birth of Jesus - to spend time in those places where you can find yourself - your true self as God’s beloved child - over and over and over again. Where God’s freedom and grace in your life can be nurtured - and where you can do that for others….where you can be a part of the unfolding of God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven….and where you can make space for others to join in as well. Let us create that space together as we sing our next song together - Sanctuary.
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and three year old son, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.