Scripture - Luke 1:46-55
Luke 1:46-55 (The Message)
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.
You’ve probably done some form of personality test - there are many out there - Meyers Briggs is the one that most people are familiar with, where it categorizes you into one of 16 types based on how you interact with the world and how you process information.
There is also the Enneagram, which is a system gaining in popularity, particularly in faith traditions. There are 9 types, arranged graphically in a circle, labeled by number and each type is nuanced further by how one reacts to stress, how one grows as a person - it’s a really fascinating system designed for self-discovery and there are free tests out there and if you want to learn more, I’ll drop the link in the chat (https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/).
So I am an enneagram 9 - which is known as the peacemaker. 9’s are people, in general, who seek to create peace. At their best, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts. They are the ones who are continual seekers of internal and external peace - both for themselves and for others. Their key motivations are wanting to create harmony in their environment - admirable - but also a motivation for 9s are to avoid conflicts and tension and to preserve things as they are.
So when I read this morning’s scripture passage - which, incidentally, is one of my favorite pieces of scripture in the Bible - there’s a part of me that is intensely uncomfortable, because what Mary sings to Elizabeth is, on the surface, very much not about creating peace - but about the opposite. There is nothing about preserving the status quo in what God’s about to do. God knocking down the powerful - nothing peaceful about that. God sending rich folks away empty-handed - nothing peaceful about that. God humbling the proud - doesn’t sound peaceful to me. Even as we look at God lifting up the lowly, filling hungry bellies, extending mercy and grace - all good and wonderful things...that many of us, I think, would love to see happen, but we want that to happen without changing and challenging the systems that perpetuate hunger, injustice, and poverty.
When many of us think about peace - we think about the absence of conflict. We think about everyone “getting along.” We think about stability...and balance...and comfort...and that our external circumstances must be in alignment before we experience peace as an inward reality. There’s peace in a global sense - peace on earth, goodwill to all...and peace in the individual, “at one with everything” sense. Peace can be elusive, intangible, unquantifiable - a hoped for dream as opposed to a lived reality.
And yet, here we have Mary - Mary, who understood that life under Roman rule meant that “peace” was enforced by violent means; Mary, who was unwed and pregnant in a culture where she could have been put to death; Mary, who sings out this song of God’s glorious deeds and favor in a time when the injustices of her community mean that peace - deep peace inside and out - could not be reality.
Still Mary sings. She sings of peace in these very specific ways - echoing the tradition written of in the Old Testament - where just and lasting peace isn’t an elusive, ephemeral state of mind or a reality without discomfort. Peace - God’s peace - is a concrete change in circumstances; it is a rewriting of people’s lived reality. It is, as Mary sings of it, a reversal on a cosmic scale - and it looks different for different people.
As the weekly Illustrated Ministry devotional puts it - to those who have been impoverished and oppressed, [peace] feels like finally having a full belly. To those who have been privileged, it feels like a rumbling stomach, like a reckoning of all that they’ve gained at the expense of others. It feels like laying down the weapons by which that advantage is gained and picking up tools for building a more equitable and beautiful world: like swinging a hammer, like dipping a paintbrush, like digging in the dirt, dropping in a handful of seeds; like kneading bread.
This peace is wild and dangerous and threatening - and more so the more public it becomes. Kind of counterintuitive in a way, The more this vision grows, the more people catch on to the deep, lasting peace that God ushers in as we live kingdom lives, the more the systems of the world work to undo it - and taking aim at the powers and principalities of the world means becoming a target as well.
Yet the angel told Mary - “do not be afraid.” Those words weren’t just about carrying the child. Those words were also about being the one to birth this peace into the world. We are called to be the same bringers of peace - God’s peace - in that same tradition of God’s promises to Abraham right up to this very day and beyond.
I have two questions for us to think about as we consider being bringers of God’s peace - and we’ll use the idea of peace linked with justice, as a concrete change in circumstances, a rewriting of people’s lived reality.
I invite us to remember that peace isn’t just a nice feeling or an absence of conflict, or a comfortable space we inhabit - and that’s a challenging thought to many of us - myself included - who would much prefer everything to hum along as normal. But maintaining that comes at the expense of justice - God’s peace comes through role reversal, through tangible realignment of material circumstances and priorities, and that means God’s peace comes through discomfort and challenge - but we need not be afraid - for God will be with us.
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 and 6 month old daughter, 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.