As our assembly opened Pr. Javier Alanís, our keynote speaker, set the stage for how we might engage in the Magnificat which was woven throughout our time together. He both explained Mary’s context while helping us to see Mary in our own society and experiences:
The Mary of St. Luke’s Gospel is a woman living on the edges of the Roman Empire. I know this Mary. Along the US-Mexico border where I am from, she lives on the edges. She’s known as la virgen maria del valle, the virgin Mary of the Valley of South Texas. Others know her by her Mexican name, Maria de Guadalupe. Whatever Mary comes to mind in your experience, I think we can all agree that she is familiar with living in empire because she has seen her people oppressed by the empire of the world. Maria lives in occupied territory. Her native language is suspect and spoken in measured tones, lest it be ridiculed or silenced. Mary carries within herself the oral history and songs of her people. Of Hannah’s and Miriam’s. She knows the traditions, the rituals and faith forged in the crucible of empire, of diaspora and of bittersweet memory of liberation from the cruel yoke of slavery in Egypt. Maria is a young teenager who has heard the stories and reenacted the Passover ritual ever since she can remember. And with every retelling of the story, she has carried within herself the hope and dream and promise of a liberator Messiah whose reign will extend as far back as her ancestors Abraham and Sarah and as far into the future as her imagination will allow.
Pr. Becca Seely preached on our second day of the assembly, showing how fear can incapacitate us, but the radical new story that is offered by God:
We live in such a beautiful, big world and we are made in the image of God who is love itself. And yet fear has the power to make our worlds so very small and to clench our hearts into tiny fists. Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty to be afraid of: Environmental catastrophe, nuclear war, xenophobic violence, terrorism, mass shootings. I don’t even want to go on. These things are real and they are scary and they are overwhelming. So scary and so overwhelming that sometimes we just can’t look at them if we have the privilege to look away. But I wonder, my friends, if the more powerful fears in some of our lives and in our life together as church are actually often the smaller ones. Fears like Joseph’s: of looking foolish, of making a scene, of being wrong, of being judged, of losing whatever it is we have and we’re clinging to.
Bishop Rimbo brought our attention also to Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Magnificat, and particularly how, especially today, we are called to go forward with faith not fear.
This is the Mary whose sights are set beyond little Nazareth, who proclaims biblical justice, not the justice of men and women or constitutions or bills of rights, but the justice of God. Mary, in this single song, takes us back to God’s mercy in the selection of a band of enslaved tribes, their exodus from Egypt, the prophetic witness. And Mary takes us forward to the hope that stems from Jesus who fulfills all justice, whose reign is a reign that will make all things new; forward to the Jesus of judgement who will separate the sheep from the goats on the basis of what we do for the least of these, and will create the ideal community envisioned in the post-Pentecost power of the book of Acts. Mary’s Song pushes us beyond our comfort zones, beyond our boundaries, beyond what we think the Church is supposed to do, to where God wants us to be. It causes us to work together for issues right in front of us that are killing people.
See other recaps from our 2017 Synod Assembly here.