I’m a blogger. I’m also a pastor. Some of my better sermons have sprung forth from blogs that I’ve written.
I recently posted a blog seeking to convey the radicalness of Mary’s “magnificat” as described in Luke’s Gospel – “Jesus’ Mom was a Punk“. It was a very popular blog that many people shared around the internet. When something I post receives that much attention, I can tell that I’ve touched on something that speaks to people.
It occurred to me that perhaps the congregation of college students that I minister to might find some spiritual nourishment in being exposed to the insights I was attempting to express in that blog. However, reading a blog is not a particularly good way to preach the Word.
So, I tapped into my “inner poet-prophet” in hopes that the holy Muse might assist me in speaking to these young adults to help them to see how these ancient words are relevant to their world today.
Here’s what I came up with.
“rock of ages”
things weren’t right in israel!
i said things weren’t right in israel!
instead of God’s chosen people blissfully basking in the warm sun of freedom,
the air was thick with the heavy jack-boots of imperial oppression.
instead of the hebrews building projects of their own design,
her craftsmen and laborers were laboring under the thumbs of Roman task-masters who had them constructing temples to their pantheon of gods and housing for their legions of troops.
and whatever pay those hebrews received in pay — was excessively taxed —
they were paying taxes to fund their own subjugation and oppression!
a pax romana was the law of the land – a “roman peace”!
and there was peace alright — unless anyone dared to rise up to resist that roman rule!
those who rebelled were nailed to crosses — and their cities razed to dust.
to make matters worse, Yahweh wasn’t allowed to choose their king.
herod was a puppet – a viscious lap-dog of rome
– and their religious leaders were colluding with it all.
israel. damnable. god-forsaken mess.
then, along came mary.
i said, then along came mary!
mary comes from miriam – a hebrew word that means “their rebellion.”
what are you rebelling against mary?
“what da ya got?”
she rebelled against that western superpower that turned her country into a banana republic that grew olives.
she rebelled against the garlic and oregano reeking soldiers who lusted for her young smooth brown skin.
she rebelled against the literally patriarchal notion that she was chattel – the property of men,
that she was born as the chattel of her father and then was being married off to become the chattel of another man.
chattel. cattle. she wasn’t a cow!
then the midnight flitters of angelic wings descended upon that rebellious lass,
angelic proclaims – “rebel girl, God’s got a plan – and She wants you in on it!”
mary wondered as she wandered, she dreamed as she pondered,
and she said –
hell Yes! i want in on Yahweh’s mischevious plot!
hell yeah i want in on God flipping the script!
hell yeah, my womb wants in on this pussy riot!
divinely “knocked-up,” teen-aged, and not yet married mary was the first punk singer of the first punk rock band!
when she consented to bear the savior, she sang a song.
it was a song of praise. it was a song of protest.
not timid, but raucous.
not meek and mild, but bold and wild!
God’s about to do something new in the world!
God’s about to turn the world upside-down, knock the wealthy oppressors off their pedestals, lift up those who’ve been oppressed, and usher-in a new reign of social justice and reconciliation!
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
a lot has happened since she first sang that magnificat song.
though crucified, Jesus came, saw, and conqured the hearts and minds of millions and billions of men and women.
at our best we’ve joined in on mary’s song of justice.
at our best we sang the song that ended slavery.
at our best we sang the song that emancipated women
at our best we sang the song that ended the dark days of segregation and opened up the bright day of racial harmony
at our best.
at our best.
…but we aren’t always at our best.
sisters, it’s time once again to sing a new song!
and brothers, let’s join them!
let’s sing a song to end human trafficking in a world where there are more people enslaved today than at any other time in human history.
let’s sing a song that breaks through the glass ceilings that prevent women from being CEOs and that prevents women from earning more than 80 cents to a man’s dollar.
let’s sing a song that challenges the sanctimonious bigotry and homophobia that still remains in too many parts of christ’s holy church.
let’s sing a song that doesn’t tolerate the unjust status quo of 1 out of every 3 african american males ending up in prison.
let’s sing a song that rejects spending more on our military than all of the other nations in the world do on theirs combined!
let’s sing a song that gives a damn about the earth and its environment — so that many more generations of God’s creatures can enjoy it.
let’s sing a song that celebrates the power of people uniting in ending apartheid wherever it appears – in ways that seek truth and reconciliation instead of vendettas and bloodshed.
and let’s sing a song that denounces a pax americana just as vigorously as mary’s song rebelled against that pax romana!
some called her “theotokos” – “mother of God”
but mary’s also “punkotokos” – mother of all rebels with a cause.
friends we have a voice. we have a song,
– and Lord knows – we have a cause.
“for those about to rock, we salute you!”
let’s rock people.
The message was well received.
Pastors, please feel free to use any of my words in sermons that you may be preaching.
May God bless all of us as we seek to make the ancient texts speak to those we’re blessed to serve in this present age.
xx – Roger
Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who directs the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity