We are almost done with our 40 days of Lent. As this time of discipline and focus and prayer comes to a powerful climax during Holy Week may all of our times and forms of worship and devotion be blessed.
The good news of Easter is that there is life in the face of death. The grave is not the end.
As almost a lectionary/liturgical reminder of the promise of life while facing death tomorrow, March 25, is the day that we commemorate the annunciation of Jesus. 9 months prior to Christmas (~ 40 weeks if you like to work in round, Biblical numbers) Gabriel visits Mary with good news of great joy for all the people.
This week we will use the appointed gospel text for the annunciation to shape our devotional time together.
Blessings on your Holy Week.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Gabriel comes to Mary offering words of blessing and assurance.
Mary is perplexed and questioning.
Gabriel responds with words of assurance and promise.
Mary responds with questions and indisputable facts from her own life.
Gabriel responds with words of promise and accounts of miraculous events.
Mary responds with faith.
Our lives and our journey through Lent and through Easter are shaped into the forms of Mary and Gabriel’s exchange.
God comes to us offering words of blessing and assurance. We are given great promises throughout scripture and from the very lips of Jesus about God’s abiding love for us and for all.
We are perplexed and questioning. We look at our own lives and don’t always feel so very blessed. We look in the mirror at our own lives and don’t always feel so assured that God will continue to love us. We find the need to turn from God and cower. Adam and Eve were the first in a long line of us who try to hide from God’s holy presence knowing sin and knowing sin in our own lives.
God responds with assurance and promise. In the very face of the death in our lives God offers promises of hope. Adam and Eve are provided clothes. Cain is given a mark of protection. Noah and his family are given a means of salvation in the ark. Joseph is blessed so that he might be a blessing to his people in the time of famine. Time and time and time again God thrusts life into the places where we have chosen death.
We respond with questions and with indisputable facts from our own lives. “But how can God love me? Surely God knows how far I have strayed.” “I am just a _____________. That can’t work into God’s plan.” “How can this be?”
God responds with acts of promise and miraculous events. In particular God will be killed on the cross. God will die speaking words of forgiveness and tending and promise. On the third day God rises again to deliver on those promises. What is thoroughly impossible for people is not only possible but remarkably accomplished by God.
We respond with faith. “Here we are God, Your servants. Let it be done to us according to Your word.”
Have your way with us, Lord. Bless our lingering in Holy Week and help us revel in the empty tomb. Amen.