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Sunday 21st January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

Sunday 28th January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant: Rev'd Nathanial
Preacher: Jack Noonan

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31st December – First Sunday of Christmas – Jack Noonan

Focus Scripture: Luke 2: 22-40

The liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas draw into sharp focus the birth and infancy of Jesus. Emanuel, God with us…But it will take thirty years before this Child hears His prophetic cousin john tne Baptist’s, public declaration of Him:
‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

Today, however, my focus is not on Jesus, but on His mother, Mary. St.Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Today’s sermon will be the first of a series as I work through some 12 episodes involving Mary/Miriam ,a 12-14 yr old girls who came from Nazareth ,a town so small that archaeologists once believed it never existed.

Within the Christian Church there is a wide spectrum of opinion in relation to the nature and status of Saint Mary. Generally our viewpoint depends on which Church tradition we grew up in and what teaching authority our denomination placed on the authority of tradition.

My upbringing was Irish Roman Catholic.

The Western Latin and Orthodox churches have evolved over the centuries a substantial body of doctrinal teaching in relation to Mary. Some of these doctrines also find adherents within the High church Episcopal and Anglican tradition. Particular devotion to Mary, however, garner little or no support, within the denominations of the Reformed Protestant and Separatist tradition.

The doctrines in question are The Bodily Assumption of Mary into heaven; the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that she was conceived without sin; that Mary is co Redemtrix and finally that Mary was forever virgin, meaning that she never engaged in sexual relations with her husband Joseph and never had children subsequent to Jesus.

All discussion really hinges the denominations view of the teaching authority of tradition.

Within Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations tradition has a teaching authority, in and of itself, independent Scripture. Tradition is seen as part of the ongoing promised teaching work of the Holy Spirit within the Church, so these teachings and drawn from church tradition stand independent of Holy Scripture. They are essentially extra biblical doctrinal developments.
Within the Reformed Catholic and Protestant expressions of Christianity the understanding is different. The principle is that tradition, while of distinct value and merit, is ultimately and in the last analysis, subject to the Holy Scriptures and must not run counter to them.
Scripture, opened by the Holy Spirit of God, is the final authority and best test against possible doctrinal error.

This is where I find myself standing… and as the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception, The Assumption, the perpetual virginity of Mary and Mary being Co Redemtrix with our Saviour , have no clear warranty from the New Testament they are laid aside in my building up an understanding of the strength of character, faith, courage, obedience, love and beauty that is in the humanity and person of Mary, mother of Jesus.

The Gospels
The Gospels refer to at least 12 incidents connected with Mary. Seven events centering on the early life of Jesus. And the remainder referring to episodes in His public life. Today I would like us to consider just 2 episodes :

The Annunciation

It is well to realise that Mary was a young girl of between 12-14 years of age,engaged to a decent fair minded carpenter called Joseph, when the Archangel Gabriel issued God’s momentous invitation to her.

What was it about her that drew God into her life in such a radical way?
What spiritual maturing had already taken place in one so young, that enabled her to stay put in that room and not run away in utter panic….not only at the appearance of the Great Angel but also at the radical invitation of God?
God called on Mary to risk all… and lose her reputation among her family, neighbours, and the honourable man she was engaged to. She risked shame, isolation and the penalties of the Mosaic laws by becoming pregnant outside marriage. Had a married man been suspected of Mary pregnancy; Mary would have been sentenced to death by stoning. I think the shadow of gossip fell on Joseph.
.
God asked a great deal of her and she in faith answered ‘Yes’…. ‘,be it done unto me according to your word’. Demonstrating a humility, and a trusting faith in the faithfulness of God the Father.
Mary was “graced/blessed” by God. In that moment of acceptance, she became the channel through which God the Son took human form and entered our world. In saying ‘Yes’ to God her life ,our lives, and human history changed forever.

The Visitation to Elizabeth
Mary made her decision to visit Elizabeth on the basis of Gabriel’s revelation.
Is it that she instinctively knew that Elizabeth would also give her the emotional support, assurance and mature spiritual counsel that Mary’s unprecidented pregnancy warranted.

It is well to note that when the emotional high of saying ‘Yes’ to God settles down, and we are in a hard place adjusting to the consequences of drawing God’s will into our lives…we need solid, experienced godly, faith-tested friends to help us navigate the path of life in Christ. A Christian seeking to journey this alone is really an oxymoron; )) We need each other. Iron sharpens iron.

The meeting between Elizabeth and Mary is a meeting of Old and New Covenants.
Significantly the Old and New covenants embrace each other in joyful recognition .
Similiar to Sarah, Rebecca, and Hannah, the aged Elizabeth’s pregnancy is a miracle.She bears the last OT prophet whose prophetic drive is to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’.
Elizabeth embraces the pregnant unmarried teenage Mary carrying the seed of the Incarnate God…Mary is unassumingly inaugurating the new kingdom which her Son would proclaim.
This is all happening because Mary believes that what the Lord has promised ,He will accomplish.

The dominant unseen personality overseeing this meeting is the Holy Spirit.
The 6 month old John, who was filled with the Spirit even from his mother’s womb leaped in the womb.
His mother Elizabeth speaks in the Spirit and Mary’s response is a song of the Spirit. Holy Spirit to Holy Spirit.

Mary in her song ,the Magnificat expresses the joyful experience of being in and doing God’s will…..

If we carefully listen…we all have our own Magnificat……..

Our souls yearn, and glorify The Lord… despite our worries and concerns.
Our spirits in hope, rejoice in Jesus our Saviour.
It amazes us that God took time notice +call us.
We recognise that God, the Holy Spirit, has touched something in us…and will not let us go.
That the Lords mercy + love is there for all those who seek it.

C+A.

Hold to the image of the gestating seed….the creative Word.

The image of the supernatural seed of the Spirit of God is the invisible underlying reality in the Christian experience.

It is important to be aware that the Way of Christ is not a ‘natural’ but a supernatural Way.

This is vital for our church to hold on to, for without the supernatural we emasculate the gospel ,,,,and a church without power, has nothing to offer beyond words …. words stripped of the power to transform.

Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Mary accepted in faith the gift of the divine seed and birthed greatness.

This we are also challenged to do.

What new thing does God want to birth in your life?
Your dissatisfactions will give you some clues.
What do you need to let go of?
What do you need to embrace?

Pray unceasingly. Search the scriptures.

God has a plan for each of us. Seek it out. Accepted it.
And with Mary, say ‘Yes’. Submitting and obeying; ‘be it done to me according to Your word’.
The rest then is history , sooooo fasten your seat belt for with God nothing is impossible. Amen

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Part of a Holy Week collection of poems. Here Mary is at the foot of the cross…

MARY , MOTHER.
Son…….
Minejoys fade
With each laboured breath,
Your weight stretched body makes.

I do not understand God’s promise,
That gave my womb life.

Can it be for these
Bloodfilled soulseared agonies?
Since youth my spirit
Rejoiced in God, my Saviour.
But dreaded dreams
Of Simeon’s sword,
My sleep, many mornings
Broke.
Nightmares now stalk this hill.
Relentless Death wrenches you.

This is Eternity’s womb,
Nature groans in expectation
Of my Son.
His breath exhaling
Life through Death,
Where nails and lance pierce.

Transforming fault
Pinned on timber!

Still labouring birthpangs,
Dwarfing forebirths.
Reeded gall’s no comfort.
‘Eli… Eli…!‘, he cries.
With shuddering spasm
Death dies. Selah.
From this driven stake
Newbirth’s Spirit flies.
Let go,
Let go, my Son,
Let go
It… is… finished…