Sermon for Sunday 14 August 2022: Evensong
Mary was deeply disturbed by these words, and asked herself what this greeting could mean. (Luke 1, v.28)
Once upon a time, there were two queens: an old queen and a young queen. Both of them had to pass through a long, dark passage before they could emerge into the light, where everything was clear again. Both of them became famous because of what they achieved, and both of them had the same name. Let me tell you first about the old queen.
In 1926, they decided to build a tunnel under the River Mersey, so that the people of Liverpool could cross safely to experience the glories of Birkenhead. But the locals were very doubtful that it would ever work. They thought it was impossible to make such a long tunnel under that water; that people would go in at one end and then never be seen again, being drowned or buried alive. And in spite of all the opposition, it was eventually built.
And so to prove that it would work, they invited an old queen called Mary to come and open the new tunnel. And so the glorious day came when she cut the red tape, climbed into her carriage and was driven through the long, dark tunnel to feast her eyes on the wonders of Birkenhead.
Now let’s look at the young queen. She, too, was called Mary and was not even married when she was told that God had chosen her to have a baby, to have his own son. She didn’t understand; she was disturbed. And yet she trusted completely: so completely that she was able to say ‘yes’ and enter a long, dark tunnel where nothing was certain.
Her faith was tried and tested again and again: when they fled as refugees to Egypt; when they searched for somewhere to live; as she struggled to understand her son and what he was trying to do; when she stood at the foot of the Cross. We sometimes imagine that it must have been easier for her than for us, but of course, it wasn’t.
That queen who eventually came blinking out into the light, who shines in glory with twelve stars on her head for a crown, is the one who bears all those scars – and when we realise that it will teach us how we can respond to God.
There will never actually be a time, until we emerge into that light with her, when we’re not surrounded by fears and uncertainties: in our own lives, in the world, in the church. She knows what it’s like. Talk to her about it, because she’s your mother, given to you by God. Tell her about your worries, share with her your joys, because then she will share them with her son, and make those burdens just a bit lighter to carry.
But, more than that, she teaches us how to care for one another. Mary’s song of praise, her Magnificat, talks about freedom for the oppressed, princes toppled from their thrones, and the rich sent away empty-handed. It turns all our usual sets of values upside-down.
And every day, we shall come across individuals who’ve lost their way; who need, at that moment, the support that only we can give. You’re about to walk past hundreds of them during our procession. The ones who are most in need, of course, are very often the ones where that need is least obvious.
Mary will teach us how to share their burdens, to provide a consolation and a support which comes from God. As she prays for them, she will help them to glimpse that light at the end of the tunnel. And so now we prepare to walk with her into the world redeemed by her Son: a redemption which began with her fiat. We’re simply going for a walk with our mother, who smiles on all her children; and when we come to realise that, she will lead us on into the light.
Fr Graeme Rowlands