The angel came to Mary in what must have been a frightening scene for the young girl. “Greetings!” announces Gabriel. And I can’t imagine it being subtle. Can you? To be fair, I don’t know what angels sound like, but I can’t imagine this one being a whisper. In my imagination at least, it’s a loud, thunderous sound that echoes and reverberates.
And please, sound system, don’t take this as a cue!
But I think it would be just a little bit scary. And sure, Gabriel says to her, “Don’t be afraid!” But come on, can you imagine poor Mary?
I’m sure she was scared to death. The text says she was “perplexed” but that hardly seems realistic for the circumstances. After all, she was a 13 year old girl who was just told by a celestial being that she would be pregnant with God’s son. And although engaged, she wasn’t married yet which could cost her her life. That’s enough to scare most people I know.
But regardless of her feelings, her response is really the ideal response to God. A combination of humble trust and obedient service. From a position of faith, she ultimately answers, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word.”
Don’t you wish we were all like this?
God breaks into your life, calls you to a new direction; maybe even a new life, no details, really and lots to fear, and your response is an unequivocal “here am I” or in other words, “send me.”
I think many of us push back on these urgings from God and instead convince ourselves that our paths are the correct paths. We allow fear to dictate our decisions and push forward with our own agenda rather than discerning and honoring God’s will. It’s human nature.
This is what makes Mary’s response so awe-inspiring.
Because in doing so Mary becomes the model for the ages for Christian discipleship—the person who all Christians should emulate. She embodies faith and faithfulness.
There are lots of examples of this type of faithful response in Scripture, which makes you wonder if maybe it’s a theme that God wants us to pay attention to.
Consider the responses of others in the Bible:
Mary? She answers, “Here I am”
Abraham? “Here I am”
Moses? “Here I am”
God calls and people answer. And these are folks just like you and me.
All of these examples- and there are others- are regular, ordinary people being called by God and their responses- ultimately, not always at first, are along the lines of “Send me”. The Bible gives us models of faithful responses in all sorts of situations for which to emulate.
The Hebrew word for this is Heneni. It’s a courageous response and means you are ready, willing, and able for whatever God has in store for you. Fittingly, it was the focus of the sermon given at my graduation from seminary.
In addition to “Here I Am”, another translation of heneni,” is “Here I Stand” which is interesting considering our Lutheran heritage. For those new to the Lutheran tradition, “Here I Stand” were the famous words believed to have been uttered by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms as he is asked by officials of the Roman Catholic Church to renounce his claims and calls for reforms of the church; reforms he felt were mandated by Scripture. His steadfast resolve, guided by the Holy Spirit, moved him to stand his ground, despite the risk to not just his career, but his life. His famous words are, “Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God.”
When faith is our lens, we can trust that whatever we feel God calling us to will be the right path. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but our fears will have no license over us because we can trust in God’s loving protection and provision.
Mary is told not to be afraid. That God is with her and will not abandon her. God will walk with her and be with her the entire way.
The message is the same for us today.
With our faith in God’s loving presence and provision as our lens, we can respond to our circumstances with confidence and resolve.
With faith as our lens, we can respond to whatever God calls us to with trust.
Mary doesn’t have all the answers- she doesn’t know what all of these things will mean for her. She doesn’t know how it will all work out. But she trusts in God and God’s capacity. And she is able to step out in faith.
The same is true for us. We rarely have all the answers, but we are still called to respond.
Perhaps the most important words in this passage, ones that should calm our fears, are “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary knows this and responds accordingly.
Nothing will be impossible for God.
Friends, these words are true. And I want you to hear that today. Nothing is impossible for God. So there is no need to be afraid.
God’s got this!
So when you feel God calling you to whatever task or challenge it might be, you can rest assure that even if it seems impossible, even if it seems outrageous, with God all things are possible. My buddy used to have a saying, “If it’s God’s will, He’ll foot the bill!”
My friend Carol was enjoying a successful career in Corporate America when God began luring her in a new direction. She was pulled toward helping those in her community living in poverty, in particular those who were in the midst of crisis. For a multitude of reasons, they had lost their homes, or had their electricity or water shut off. Or they had no money to feed themselves or their families. After 18 years at Duke Energy, she followed God’s call and took the leap, abandoning the comforts of a big, corporate job and went to work for Crisis Assistance Ministry, a local non-profit helping those in poverty. 17 years later, she is now its Chief Executive Officer, only the 2nd in its history, and has made a tremendous impact on our community.
When God called, Carol said, “Here I am”
My buddy Clint and his wife Angela were living a comfortable life in Chapel Hill- already a busy one with their 4 young, beautiful children going in a million different directions with sports and activities when God called them to add to their family through adoption. What in the world were they thinking?, all of us asked. And they were most certainly afraid of what it all might look like- and they weren’t necessarily sure how they would manage. But God was pulling that thread, as Pastor Ginn mentioned last week, leading them to Ethiopia where they met 2 year-old brothers, who are now part of their family.
God called, Clint and Angela both said,”Here I am.”
There are countless stories of people in comfortable circumstances being called by God into new terrain. Sometimes it’s a new career.
Sometimes it’s a new relationship.
Sometimes it’s a move to a different part of the country or even world.
But God never leads us astray. We don’t always have the full picture, that’s to be sure, but we can trust that if God is calling us somewhere, we can be confident it is for our good.
Although we tend to think of the dramatic examples of God calling and brave souls fearlessly responding in the affirmative, these are not the only examples.
God is breaking into our lives and calling us each and every day.
Sure, sometimes it’s in big, dramatic ways but also it’s in more subtle, gentle ways.
But the message is the same. Do not be afraid. God is with you. And with this knowledge you can respond, “here I am”
So where is God calling you?
Where do you feel that gentle tug toward an area that might seem a little scary?
Maybe it’s taking on a new responsibility at work or even starting a new business.
Maybe it’s picking up that instrument you abandoned years ago.
Maybe it’s trying a new committee here at church in a completely unfamiliar area.
Whatever it might be, trust in God’s guidance. Trust that our God will not lead you on a path you aren’t intended for.
Mary was called by God to an unimaginable task. And we all know it was far from easy. But in faith and courage,she heeded the angel Gabriel’s advice and was not afraid, choosing trust over fear.
May you, too, have the same faith and courage to respond to God’s call however it might surface in your own life. And maybe you be richly blessed as a result.