The New Room is sharing a Friday reflection each week. We hope that these short reflections will act as a point of spiritual focus, enabling a moment of quiet thought and prayer.
This week’s reflection is from Jonathan Dean. Jonathan works in the Connexional Team as Director of Learning for Ministry, helping to look after the Church’s work in theological education, ministerial formation, schools, colleges and universities, and in equipping all God’s people for ministry today.
Luke 1: 39-56
This weekend (August 15th) the church across the world remembers and celebrates a very special woman: Mary, the mother of Jesus.
My favourite vignette in Mary’s extraordinary story in the gospels is this scene: early in her pregnancy, she visits her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with a special child despite her advanced years and her prior inability to conceive. These two unlikely women – one an unmarried teen, the other a frail senior way past an age society deems ‘useful’ any more – greet each other, and rejoice that God has chosen them, from among all the people more powerful, more wealthy, more suited, more qualified, more attractive, more experienced, more likely, more connected or less scandalous, to be the two to bring into the world a whole new world: the Kingdom of God.
The babies in the women’s wombs also recognise the extraordinary moment, and confirm their excitement. And Mary is prompted and inspired to sing, a song which centuries later still resonates for us with all the expectancy and hope and world-transforming vision of that same Kingdom, whose coming among us God still invites us to make possible, and prepare for, and give birth to.
How might we do that today, amidst all in our life which feels so strange, and anxious, and uncertain, and unknown right now? How might we do that, amidst all the violence, injustice, division and hatred of our world?
Here are two suggestions. Firstly, in verse 45, Elizabeth blesses Mary for her obstinate belief. Mary doesn’t give up. She refuses to let go of hope. She ‘treasures in her heart’ all that God has promised, trusting that, at the right moment, she will know how and when to act. She “believed that there would be a fulfilment” of all God’s gracious work of love. And, in due course, there was, in the life and work of her first-born son, a gift to the world made possible only by her patient nurture, labour and care.
Secondly, Mary shows us where to focus our attention as we wait and look for the Kingdom. Just look at those she singles out! The lowly, the humble, the hungry, the abandoned and forgotten, the marginalised and rejected. She points us to them. Jesus will later say that it’s in these people too that we meet and know him. As we cling to God’s promises now, these are still the folks who teach us about the life, the shape and the demands, of the Kingdom.
Loving God, nurturer of all life,
teach us the patience of belief in your promises.
Show us how to keep hold on hope,
and how to crown our hope with passion, labour and care.
Enable us to bring to birth the magnificent reality of your Kingdom,
in which the world is transformed and human community restored.
Show us where to look.
Open our hearts to those you send to teach us.
Bless our lives with the expectant joy and humble self-offering of Mary and Elizabeth.
In Jesus’ name,