Today I am grateful for the challenge issued by the Rev. Nancy Taylor during worship at Old South Church in Boston this morning.
Today was "Mothering Sunday" at Old South and worship was all about Mary.
Rev. Taylor bemoaned the fact in our Christmas pageants Mary is often portrayed as a demure and mute figure who does nothing but listen to the message from the Angel Gabriel and kneel beside the manger after Jesus' birth. This does not do justice, Rev. Taylor says, to the strong, courageous young woman who agreed to be the Mother of God despite the undeniable consequences she would face as she revealed her condition to her family, her husband-to-be, and the society in which she lived.
This portrayal does not honor the bravery and unconditional love shown by a woman who would one day be forced to stand by and watch as her son was tortured and killed - the lone disciple remaining while the others ran and hid out of fear.
Instead, the Rev. Taylor suggested, when Christmas pageant time rolls around again we should cast in the role of Mary the brashest, most out-spoken teenage girl in our congregation, and have her tromp about the stage singing and shouting the defiant and counter-cultural words of the Magnificat:
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ 474849505152535455
Like her son, Mary was a rabble rouser who knew it was God's intention to bring down the powerful, and lift up the powerless. The challenge that Rev. Taylor issued to all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ, Protestant and Catholic alike, is that we should as a Lenten practice memorize the words of the Magnificat. To commit these words to our memory and ingrain them in our being in the same we have the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23.
We should do this to remind ourselves that Mary was not just the Mother of God or the vessel through which Christ incarnated, but she herself was a prophetic voice in the wilderness, an agent of change who stood against those who fought to maintain the status quo.
Like mother, like son.
And I wonder, would we have a Sermon on the Mount if we did not first have the Magnifcat?
As a former Catholic, I'm all for lifting up Mary as a woman worthy of our adoration, celebration....and memorization.
I accept the challenge.