And God waited. Waited for Mary’s reply.
Most of us know our patron Saint’s story well. We know of the Angel Gabriel’s visit and Mary’s reply.
We know she went to see her cousin Elizabeth and the words of our Gospel for today that flowed from that encounter. We know of the birth of Jesus, his presentation and time in the temple.
These the stories in which Mary is in the foreground shape our understanding of her. We could go on to stories from Jesus’ adult life, the cross and beyond but I want today to focus in on that moment in her story when God waited.
Gabriel delivered his message and though he offered words of comfort to Mary there came and we cannot know how long it lasted a silence as God waited. Waited for these words ‘”Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”’
In other words God waited for Mary to say yes. Waited for this young unmarried girl, who was ‘much perplexed’ by what was being asked to say yes.
And her yes reverberates down the ages to us today as we give thanks today for how her story continues to speak to our own. Of how it we reflect on God’s love and God’s invitation to us.
For this love does not demand or compel obedience. It is a love that is infinitely patient that invites and waits for us to say yes in our lives.
And though Mary was caught up in the providential timing of God, something that Paul writes of in that first reading ‘when the fullness of time had come’ her initial yes was something she then repeated every day of her life.
A yes she repeated through her pregnancy, the birth, the early years of Jesus’ life – and we know how demanding that must have been. Into his adulthood, the cross and beyond. Mary kept saying yes to God.
But this ongoing song of yes grew out of that first yes, perplexed and unsure as she was no doubt was. And though the circumstances of our lives are rather different, her story speaks to ours.
Speaking as it does of a God who is infinitely patient with us, who knocks at the door of our hearts and waits for us to respond.
A God who knocks at our hearts through those mysterious yet glorious moments of invitation. Moments that come to us unexpected and undeserved that draw us to ponder the meaning and purpose of our lives.
These moments are God’s invitations to us and they keep coming. Rather like that moment in the first Harry Potter book and film where, despite Uncle Vernon’s efforts Harry’s invitation to Hogwarts keeps on coming, thousands of invitations land on the doormat and come down the chimney.
So, God invites us time and again, in ways many and varied and with infinite patience God awaits our reply.
And our yes, begun symbolically at our baptism is something we try to live every day as the love we find revealed in Jesus deepens its presence in our lives.
A deepening that happens despite all our failures and mistakes, despite the times we say no and defend our corner and invites us to see things differently.
Indeed that seeing things differently is what Mary spoke of in those words of the Gospel today. Words that have been memorably set to music that speak of a world transformed.
If we are honest the words can seem like fantasy sometimes. A glance around and we see that the powerful are not scattered, the proud sit on their thrones, the lowly are not lifted up and hunger remains.
But Mary’s song born of her own experience – remember who she was, young, unmarried, a no one. Her words of praise call us back to see possibilities and to look forward with hope.
So that no matter how awful – and lets be honest life can sometimes seem pretty grim God has a different story for us.
That’s why the words were weaved into the office of Evening Prayer, reminding those who say them that no matter how difficult the day has been there’s another song to be heard.
And the words flowed from her yes, from her belief and trust in God’s love and care for her even though she did not fully know what that initial yes would mean.
But before it to return to my beginning, God waited. And God waits still. For we are often slow to respond, or we ignore the call. Yet God understands and waits for us to live into his love daily. To say yes to that love as we seek to serve him.
And part of that to bring things here to St. Mary’s in Whitkirk is looking favourably on a request of the vicar or someone else who asks you to serve in some way here.
For as we continue to hopefully emerge from the pandemic and re-start various strands of our life together and inevitably some folk have seen it as an opportunity to stop undertaking a role they once did.
There is nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that we have to continue to be patient with each other as we find out feet and return to normal.
And by the way we still need a churchwarden, Melvin is holding the fort admirably but really at this church with the range of experience we have this should not be a role we struggle to fill.
Of course it’s important to be able to say no to being asked to serve in some way if it isn’t right for you. Yet I think Mary’s story reminds us that our default position is yes. A yes that can be lived out in all kinds of ways not least how we serve a church community dedicated to her.
And God waited.
Today, we give thanks for Mary’s yes and pray that inspired by her example, we too are willing to say yes to God and to add our voice to hers as we sing a song praise in and through our lives, no matter how things sometimes seem.
As the priest and writer Stephen Shakespeare put it in the prayer I’ve included for after communion today we remember how her ‘hospitable Yes made a place for love;’ May we do the same for ‘Here are we, the servants of the Lord.’