Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent 3 Wednesday: The Temple of the Lord

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.... a light no darkness can overcome!

Our reading this evening is from Luke 1:26-38; and also the Magnificat of Mary, 1:46-55. We are reading the Common English Bible translation.

26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”
38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

"The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Turner

Those who wish can click here for Lectio Divina instructions, and then return for the meditation, music, and prayer. 


Last Sunday, in the midst of the glory that was our church's Christmas cantata, I slipped in an odd little reading. (A fuller version of it was published as part of Sunday's meditation, "Home.") I guess, technically, our liturgist slipped it in. It was the one about King Cyrus of Persia, who suddenly had an idea so good he couldn't resist: Build Yahweh the Lord a House in Jerusalem. 

The background of the story is this: About seventy years early, another king, the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar, had destroyed the first Temple, the one built by Solomon.

Imagine the loss of your church. Imagine it burning down-- which, actually, happened here, a little over a hundred years ago. Then imagine that, along with the loss of the building, all the people who worked here... say, hundreds of us, thousands, even... were kidnapped, carried into exile.

Imagine, there was no other church. This was the only one.

Imagine, the loss of the church mean, in literal terms, that God had gone away. If there was no sanctuary for God to dwell in, then God was absent.


And then, seventy years later, another occupying ruler, Cyrus of Persia, decided to hedge his bets and let the Israelites have a Temple again. Let them go about their worship. Who knew? Maybe this God was a powerful God. Maybe this God would look kindly on Cyrus's other exploits.

They built it, but it was not the same. They built it, but some of the people, the older people, who remembered the Temple's former splendor, wept when they saw it. It wasn't the same. It would never be the same.

And then another five hundred years went by. And after that second Temple was destroyed-- because even Cyrus the King of the Persians was a man of flesh and blood, and his works were not eternal-- someone wrote down the words we know as the gospel of Luke.

And in that account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, we read a story of a young woman named Mary, who would become another kind of Temple of the Lord.

A Temple not of stones, but of flesh.

A Temple, not of sacrifices, but of nurture, as a child was knitted together in its mother's womb.

A Temple, not made by the sweat of slaves, but of the frail form of a human being, who gave her consent, who, when asked by an angel, said, "Yes."

Behold, the Temple of the Lord: Young Mary.

"Young Mary" by Madeleine L'Engle

I know not all of that which I contain.
I'm small; I'm young; I fear the pain.
All is surprise: I am to be a mother.
That Holy Thing within me and no other
is Heaven's King whose lovely Love will reign.
My pain, his gaining my eternal gain
my fragile body holds Creation's Light;
its smallness shelters God's unbounded might.
The angel came and gave, did not explain.
I know not all of that which I contain.

"Magnificat" by the Daughters of Mary (Latin Chant)

46 Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”


Great God, with whom nothing is impossible, let us praise you for wonders we cannot explain or understand. Let us magnify you with our words and our lives. Let us say "Yes." We pray in the name of the One who is coming. Amen.

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