Dream dreams: a sermon for the Parish Eucharist on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our patron saint, preached in Sherborne Abbey on Sunday 4 July 2021 by the Reverend Lesley McCreadie, Team Vicar. (Galatians 4: 1 – 5; Luke 1: 39 – 45)
Many Anglicans are a little shy of acknowledging their devotion to our patron saint, Mary the mother of Jesus. Perhaps they are hesitant because of the much more vocal declaration of devotion to her by our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers. And yet we should not be afraid to declare that this woman who was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, is someone we should look up to and learn from.
There are so many reasons for me saying this. Mary, the child of Anna and Joachim was brought up in the village of Nazareth, in the area of Galilee, a fertile area to the north of Israel. We presume she had an ordinary life typical of those times. Women had quite a hard life they were required to keep the home going but also to help the men folk with their work in the fields. She would have spent her days with her mother learning the skills she would need when she had a home of her own to run. Cooking, washing, looking after the children and the elderly. She may have been required to mind the goats and sheep. She would not have been able to read but her mother may have told her the stories of the Torah and the prophets as her mother had told her and as she would tell Jesus in the future until he was old enough to join the men in the synagogue.
Mary was young, poor, and female. These qualities made her unsuitable in the eyes of her people to be used by God, but God must have seen something in Mary that he knew he could use. He knew she would willingly serve God in one of the most important callings ever given to a human being. God knew that Mary was a woman of rare strength. She was the only human being to be with Jesus throughout his entire life, from birth until his death.
This call placed on people’s lives resonates with many priests at this time of the year. Most priests are ordained around Petertide, June 29th. For Jane and me it was July 2nd, last Friday. I am sure I am not alone when remembering my ordination asking the question are you sure God? You really want me? God who knows us better than we know ourselves, calls such a mixed bag of people to serve him. He sees what others do not. And this is true for all of us. God places a call on all our lives. He has something for each of us to respond to which will help build the kingdom of God on earth. When I wonder did you last ask yourselves the question, what can I do for you God? It might be to pray for this parish and for Martin Lee, it may be to offer to work in the shop or be a guardian, it might be to make a cake when the MU have a cake stall. Small things make big things grow.
So back to Mary. When God placed the call on her life she obeyed and in doing so probably brought down the wrath of her family and village so much so, that this is maybe why she visited her cousin Elizabeth who lived outside Jerusalem to let the gossip settle a while. Whilst with Elizabeth, she herself pregnant out of the normal order of things, we have the wonderful cameo moment of Mary speaking the words of what we now call the Magnificat. This is a powerful passage from God to be shared by this humble 13 year old girl. I would even dare to call it revolutionary. It calls for the abolition of pride and the advance of a moral revolution. It calls for humility; a social revolution, putting an end to the world’s labels and prestige. Thirdly it calls for an economic revolution filling those who are hungry and sending the rich away empty. Here we have the foundations of a Christian Society where no one dares to have too much where others have too little and where to receive means to give it away. The Magnificat is beautiful in its wording, but its implications are dynamite.
The Magnificat is spoken in the tradition of the prophets. Mary speaks these words as the herald of a new order, one that her son will bring into being. How the church needs prophets today. People who listen to the word of God and what God is saying to the world and then find a way to express it in ways that the world can hear and understand. Maybe not in the style of the Old Testament prophets but as men and women of God we need to see visions, dream dreams and speak out the truth of what God is saying to our church and to our world.
For us in this parish and benefice we perhaps have an opportunity to do that over the next few weeks and months with the arrival of our new Team Rector. This may be the time for all of us to think about our vision for how we might develop and grow as a church, a parish and a benefice. Now is the time to articulate those dreams you have fostered and nurtured, perhaps for some time. Others may have been having the same dream as you but have been too shy to share it with others. Having met with Martin this last week I think he will want to know what your dreams are and what your vision is. He will want to listen to what you have to say.
One last thing to think about. Mary is someone who can walk with us on pilgrimage. By her presence with us as we journey on our own road we are reminded of her love and obedience, her ability to speak words of truth into difficult situations, and her steadfast devotion to her Son to the very end. She is a very good companion to have with us as we make our journey day by day. I commend her to you. Amen