When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Mary’s faith

December 16, 2019

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you….” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-28, 38, NIV)

Mary is thought to have been a young teenager when she became engaged to Joseph. She lived at home in a protected environment, cared for by parents who brought her up according to faith and tradition. A part of that faith and tradition included the way a young woman was to behave prior to marriage. Another part of that faith and tradition was the expectation that God was going to do a new thing and would send a Messiah. Every young woman wanted to be the mother of the Messiah. Every young woman expected that to happen neatly, within the bounds of what faith and tradition taught were proper regarding marriage and the birth of children. No one expected God to do a new thing in a way that was outside the human-created boundaries of both faith-filled expectations and tradition.

But that’s what Mary heard was about to happen. She was highly favored by God and would become the mother of the Messiah! Can’t you just imagine how her heart jumped at that news? She! Mary! She was the one chosen by God to give birth to the one who would save her people! Amazing! But there was a catch. It would happen in a manner she didn’t expect. Can’t you just imagine her heart sinking when she realized that part of the news the angel was sharing? Me? A mother? And I’m not married yet? What will people say? What will my mother and father say? What will Joseph say?

Young women who were found to be with child outside of marriage faced a gamut of possibilities that included a lifetime of shame, never marrying, being thrown out of her home and into the streets to survive however possible, or being dragged to the town square and stoned to death. Mary knew this. Life was about to get harder than it had ever been. Mary faced a choice. Say no and life would return to the normal that she knew and expected. Say yes and life could become very difficult without any expectation of normal.

We have Mary’s answer recorded by Luke. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (NIV) “…let it be to me according to your word.” (RSV) “…be it unto me according to thy word.” (KJV) Mary answered with faith. She believed that the stranger was an angel from God. She believed the words of the angel that with God, all things are possible. She believed in the God of her ancestors who sent the angel. She believed that that God – the great I Am – held the future and that she could walk into that future sure of his eternal provision. Would the future be easy? I doubt thoughts of easy ever crossed Mary’s mind. But faith did.

Faith filled Mary’s heart and mind. The words of the angel – that with God all things were possible – echoed in her ears. And she said yes. Yes to God. Yes to a lifetime that she couldn’t begin to imagine. Yes to all of the generations of humanity to follow.

I want Mary’s faith. I want faith that not only says that I believe, but lives that belief every day. I want faith that acts on the belief that with God, all things are possible even when the path lies outside of my expectations. Dear Lord, give me the courage of a young woman willing to say yes when everything around her might have told her she was wrong. Give me faith like Mary’s to answer your call even when I don’t understand and can’t see the outcome. Amen.

Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at nitac@sgaumc.com.

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