Wednesday morning and I’m sitting in my home office trying to pull together this Sunday’s sermon, getting some inspiration by playing through one of my all time favorite Patti Griffin songs, “Mary.” Here’s a beautiful rendition of her performing it with Emmy Lou: http://www.youtube.com
I’m gonna combine this song with Mary’s song in Luke chapter one to construct a homily that probably sounds a bit more Catholic than Methodist, but I can’t help the fact that Mary is so inspiring to me. Her story is one of ultimate hope and complete loss. She is the character that stays the same while mystery moves through her, while her son saves the world and completely breaks her heart. She stays the same, consistent, trusting, hopeful, prophetic, while others move in and out of her story, leaving their things behind. As Patti Griffin explains:
Jesus says “Mother, I couldn’t stay another day longer,”and he flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face, while the angels are singing his praises in a blaze of glory, Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place.
She is mother and janitor.
Sometimes being a pastor is a bit like being Mary. Birthing hope and newness in an atmosphere of anxiety and institutional deathliness while cleaning up after a hundred meals for the homeless and disenfranchised, feeling my heart break one more time as they return to their tents underneath the interstate or disappear to some abandoned porch for the night; feeling helpless; dusting the cobwebs from the corners of the sanctuary; picking up the trash and beer cans from the urban church yard. Reorienting, pointing towards a greater truth than the one that shouts the loudest in the marketplace. Remaining calm in the midst of great change, my arm wrapped tightly around the arm of God. Staying behind as others move forward, move away to greater opportunity, remaining neutral, waiting for God to fill that hole in my heart that they leave behind. Welcoming the new faces, encouraging their newfound sense of belonging… staying, remaining. Loving. Still, as I allow these deep grooves to be formed in my heart, I sense a unique bond between my spirit and God’s spirit, I think it feels like strength and resolve and a bit of longing, an enormous amount of letting go. At the same time, I realize something is letting go of me.
Mary teaches us how to let go and at the same time to realize that something is letting go of us. The darkness, the mundane, the future without a hope, it’s all letting go of us now as we allow the light of the world to be born in us. The way ahead may be uncertain and the cagey, wild holy spirit might be somewhat unpredictable at times, but the arm of God is always there, stabilizing us, there to hold on to, to hide under, to escort us into new experiences, new ways of being as the old ways let go. This Christmas, it is Mary who is helping me to remain.