Here is another sermon by a student at the College of Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, Simphiwe Zulu, prepared and preached for the Homiletics class. Simphiwe’s text is Luke 1:39-45, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.
Luke 1:39-45 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you amongwomen, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a]a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Let us pray together:
God of Elizabeth and Mary;
make our hearts leap with Joy,
fill our mouths with songs of praise
and make us ready to welcome the
Christ in our midst.
Who is alive and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit,
Theme: Mary walks to visit Elizabeth.
When I read the title of the text I thought to myself, there is nothing special about Mary visiting Elizabeth. I mean, like the majority of us Black Africans know about a situation like this, were a teenage girl flees to country because she is pregnant. And I’m sure we can at least name five people who have done this. I know where I come from it is common for a teen who has just had fallen pregnant out of wedlock to go flee to the country side and they usually walk so that no one can really ‘see’ them…
So one might be tempted to even preach about the Song of Mary[ii]since it makes more senses then the given text. But it was only when I read the text for the second time that I actually saw it, I really saw it and what it meant.
Mary a terrified, pregnant teen walking around in a society which is occupied by men. She is just a child after all. She is walking around pregnant far too soon and she really has no explanation or excuse for this one[iii]and confused all she is to hold on to is the words “Do not be fear, Mary”v30. She walks to Elizabeth since she is old. I’m sure she knew that Elizabeth would protect her, since this is what they do. Our older women, friends and relatives, who have journeyed further than us. They know more about the blows and tricks of life than us teens. You see Mary didn’t even need to speak, for Elizabeth in her old age knew that she was carrying a child within her. She knew and saw the signs of pregnancy. After all she has been going through the same thing not so long ago.
You see, one could read this text just as a narrative of Mary walking to visit her cousin or relative Elizabeth. But this is a different Mary who walks to visit Elizabeth then the one the angel Gabriel visited[iv]. How so you ask? The Mary that is walking now is the Mother of our Lord[v]as Elizabeth told us in the text. This is theTheotokos, The God Bearer. Who is walking here.
This is Mary carrying the Son of God [vi]who is the Good News. She is not like the other Preachers and Apostles, who carry the Good News in their hearts and lips but she has the Good News within her. But still Mary walks to visit Elizabeth.This is not just Mary going to preach the Good News but she is going with the Good News. She is walking in space and time, not knowing that The Good News she is carrying Jesus Christ the promised saviour. This is not just Mary, but this is Jesus who is breaking Space and time not only to visit humankind, but to save them. This is God Incarnate, God is with us (Emmanuel) and God among us.
St. Luke is not just making a Theological statement which is a true statement of spiritual facts; where the eternal history and God come together and is made man[vii]. Well one may suggest this is a liminal space [viii]— this is the space between two points of existences. A space between a relationship that just ends and the space between a relationships that is yet to start. [ix]
But he is making something very different which suggests to me that, if we believe in Jesus who is the Christ then we should be like Mary, we should take the Good News to everyone. Especially to the people who are solitude like Elizabeth[x]and for me, allow me to suggest, this is the first sermon ever preach in Luke’s gospel. This is a Story about The Incarnation of our Lord and not just about Mary visiting Elizabeth.
It might be a long walking like Nelson Mandela, that took him 27 years but he made “HASTE” v39 to take the Good News to the South African which we see to today. Like Mary he too walked.
St. Luke does something amazing here he is embracing HER in a time where only Him matters. [xi]This is amazing, one might even suggest that this is a story to liberating women. You see when Mary entered the house of the Priest Zechariah, she greeted Elizabeth and not the Man of the house. It is when Elizabeth heard the Voice of Mary that the Child in her womb leaped with joy and after she was filled the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth called Mary blessed, and with a loud voice Hailed Mary.
No wonder The Church together with Elizabeth Pray:
Hail Mary full of grace
The Lord is with you
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus’
Holy Mary Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
Yes this is what we called to do and that is to take the Good News to the People.
But one should note that it was never about Mary:
- This was not about the fact that she belonged to the house of David
- This was not about of her eye Q
- This was not about the fact that she was better than others
- This was not about her experience
- This was not about her birth right
- This is not about her connections
- This was not even about her beauty
But it was about Jesus in her.
. Elizabeth’s main focus is not on Mary BUT IT IS ON THE LORD the promised Saviour:
- She was hailing Jesus who was in Mary.
- It was about Jesus after all
- Mary is just the bearer of Hope.
- Mary is just graced by Divine Mystery.
Well yes of cause one can even suggest that this is what is expected of us when we leave this place that we all don’t like, called The Collage of Transfiguration. Our very own Liminal space, this is a place of growth, this a place to be former, informer and transformed. When we leave this place, we are expected to carry the Good News even if it is to a Judean town in the hill country or even a small town called Nqutu. After all in him we walk, in him we move and in him we find our being[xii].
Sometimes people will Hail us as IF we are the best things since sliced bread but sometimes they won’t. They will not even care about our hard work, or about the fact that you wake up late at night and drive people to the hospital or the fact that you come to chapel very early and pray for you class-mates, to a God who doesn’t exist but who simply is or even that you are always taking photos of people but no one ever asks if you want to take a photo. WELL IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!! It is about Christ in You.
They are not really hailing us as humans. But the Christ in us!!! He is the whole reason why we are here. He is the reason why people come to us because they want to see Christ[xiii]in us and from us. And maybe, just maybe when we ourselves are filled with the Holy Spirit and Christ is in us then and only then when we speak like Mary… the Child will leap, like how it did in Elizabeth. But the leaping of the Child was different this time, it was a confirmation of what the Angel Gabriel had said to Zechariah that the child will be filled with the Holy Spirit before birth[xiv]. You see that is what we are called to do, when people come to us, we should point them to Jesus. We should never be filled with people say to us or say about us but we should be full of the Holy Spirit. We should not waist the time of people who come to us, we should make haste and give them to Jesus. We should give them over to Christ. Those who come to us should leave with their lives changed because they have felt Jesus Christ through us.
Yes indeed when we leave here we should know that we are one step closer to the fulfilment of what was spoken to us by the lord and that is all that really matters. We too my dear brothers and sisters are called to make haste and take the Good News, who is Jesus Christ to the ends of the world.
Therefore my dear brothers and sisters Mary walks to visit Elizabeth.
The photo is by Josh Bean on unsplash.com