Friday is usually my sermon preparation day, and obviously this Friday, which began here in South Africa with the news of Nelson Mandela’s death.... was a very different sermon prep Friday.
We are looking at Mary today, a young, rural woman, chosen by God to carry greatness in her womb. Chosen to give Jesus to the world.
Last week when we looked at Zechariah, we saw God choosing an elderly couple, to give Israel John the Baptist, who Jesus would call “the greatest man who ever lived.”
And it occurred to me……much of God’s great work, often begins in great vulnerability and great humility, in a mother’s womb.
Many people in these last few days, and no doubt in the days to come, have thanked God for the gift that Nelson Mandela was to South Africa and to the world. Where did he begin? ……where most of God’s great plans begin……in his mother's womb. In about November 1917, a young rural woman, Nonquapi Nosekeni, discovered she was pregnant, and her son, Rolihlahla Mandela, was born 9 months later, on 18 July 1918. I am in no way trying to compare Mandela to the Messiah, but I am saying that God’s great plans begin in the strangest places, using the unlikeliest of people, and often in the vulnerability of a mother's womb. So we come, this Sunday, to the story of Mary.
Luke 1:37 is both the text and the sermon today:
“There is nothing God cannot do.”
Think about your life right now……and your future……there is nothing that God cannot do.
This is the truth……and it is one that can set you and me free....free from the imprisoning cages of fear, of worry, of anxiety that we erect around ourselves.
There is nothing that God cannot do.
He can create and sustain a universe just by speaking.
He can create a people to serve Him and tell the world about Him, and still achieve His plan even when they become stubborn and disobedient and eventually even kill their Saviour.
There is nothing that God cannot do.
And an angel appears to a young virgin called Mary, we don’t know exactly how old she was....probably 13 or 14 years. In the culture of the time, that was the marrying age..... we live in an age where there doesn’t seem to be a culture of encouraging young people to marry……but maybe that’s another sermon.
Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. An angel appears to Mary and says:
“Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”
Friends, I’m no angel, but God says those words to you this morning through me as I read them to you:
Peace be with you!
The Lord is with you!
The Lord has greatly blessed you!
Mary is confused, you might be too.
The angel goes on to Mary and to you…… (I asked you earlier to think of your life right now, hear the LORD say to you)
“Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you."
Now because each of us is unique, the specific message that God has for you is different to the message He has for the person next to you, just as His message for Mary was unique. And whatever it is that you might find yourself facing or going through, you might find yourself saying with Mary in verse 34:
How can this be?
How will, how can, Your plan unfold in me, it's so easy for Cedric to say "Don't be afraid"....but in my life right now, it's such a mess, there’s no way out, in my marriage, my family, work, my country,....How can this be????
and I think God’s answer is the same as His answer to Mary:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and God’s power will rest upon you.”
The death, resurrection, ascension and then the pouring down of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost means that the words for Mary, are God’s words for you and for me. The Holy Spirit has been given to you and to me and to everyone who asks God in Christ into their lives, and allows God free reign in their lives.
That’s the key to Mary and to her relationship to her Lord....He reigns in her life.
Does He reign in your life, truly reign, in your life and mine?
Many of us say yes to Jesus but NO to what He expects of us.
Many of us say yes to Jesus but NO to the way He wants us to live.
Many of us say yes to Jesus but NO to the way He wants us to use our money.
Many of us say yes to Jesus but NO to the people He wants us to love.
Mary didn't say NO to God and so His plan could unfold so much more easily in her and through her.
Does God reign in your life – in other words, His Way and only His way?
God’s way is invariably the way of peace. Our history as a nation shows us that when violent people are enemies, no peace is possible, no matter how strong they are. When peace-seekers and peace-makers are enemies……peace will happen. When the peace seeking Mandela and the peace seeking de Klerk collided.....peace was the result. When peace-seekers and peace-makers are enemies……peace will happen.This is as much true in nations as it is in homes and marriages, churches and workplaces. Seek peace and bring peace and make peace...today.
This often requires us…..no, always requires us to say with Mary,
The young virgin Mary teaches us 3 things about the life in which God is allowed to reign:
It's a life which listens for the Lord’s direction, and because it is listening, it will hear when the Lord speaks.
It's a life which says, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
And it's a life which says, “Your Will, not my will, be done. May it happen to me as you have said and planned, ever since you placed me and formed me in my mother's womb.”