Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

St. Mary Visits Elizabeth

Sermon / Homily on Luke 1:39-56

Gospel Analysis: Mary's Visit To Elizabeth - The Magnificat - Luke 1:39-56

by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, WA

Scripture: Luke 1:39-56

-In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb.

-And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, This is the second reference to a person being filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit, just as the first Christians in the Book of Acts were filled with Godís Spirit.

-"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, we praise Jesus Christ.

Circle the words, "my Lord" in the phrase, "the mother of my Lord comes to me." This is the first reference in the New Testament to Jesus being called "my Lord." Throughout the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, the author wants us to call Jesus "my Lord." Underline the word, "my." The word, "my," is intensely personal and Luke wants you and me to know Jesus as "my Lord."

Up to this point in the story, we heard that the words, "the Lord," referred to God. Now the words, "the Lord," refer to Jesus.

See John 20:28 which is the climax of the Gospel of John: Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"

-And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Circle the word, "magnifies" and write the word, "Magnificat." This is the first hymn in the New Testament. We often hear the words of the Magnificat sung on Christmas Eve.

Circle the three instances of the use of the word, "my." My soul. My spirit. My Savior. The word, "my," is intensely personal.

When a personís heart is filled with joy because of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, such a heart overflows with praise of God. This is one of the first stories in the Gospel where a personís heart is filled with joy and begins to praise God. This is precisely what God wants to happen to us and in us.

Underline the phrase, "looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant." Mary was nothing more than a slave girl, the lowest person on the totem pole, her fatherís property when she was part of his household and engaged to Joseph.

One of the most important themes of the New Testament is that God chooses the lowly to accomplish the divine purposes. This statement is symbolic of God choosing the foolish to shame the wise, the poor more than the rich, the sick more than the healthy. People in Third World countries often realize that people in First World countries have much to learn from people who live in poverty.

-Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed. All generations are to recognize Mary as blessed.

-For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; Underline the phrase, "the Mighty one has done great things for me and holy is his name." That is the way it is with God and us. God has done great things for us. Stop, pause, and hold your breath and listen to that one sentence: "The Lord God has done great things for me." Underline those words. Highlight those words. Write those words on page 362. These are words that need to be memorized for our memory banks.

We know not to take this passage about Godís arm" literally. That is, God does not have an arm or a pair of arms. Rather, this is a poetic anthropomorphism. The sentence could end with the phrase, "God has shown strength."

-He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

Often we are so mesmerized by the beauty of these words that we do not fully comprehend what is being said.

The Gospel of Luke has been called the Gospel of the Poor because there are so many references to that gospelís bias for poor people. The Magnificat has been called the most revolutionary document in the world because it reverses the values of the world and turns them upside down.

A primary question for people living in First World countries is how to be a comparatively rich, First World Christian, and live in a planet where the majority of the worldís population lives in poverty.

The following are quotations from famous scholars about the Magnificat.

E. Stanley Jones, a famous preacher of two generations ago, said that the Magnificat is "the most revolutionary document in the world."

Geldenhese, a Dutch theologian, said that the Magificat "announces powerful revolutionary principles."

Murrow, another theologian, talks about the "revolutionary germ" found in the Magnificat.

Barclay, an English theologian, says that the Magificat is "a bombshell" and has "revolutionary terror." It takes "the standards of the world and turns them upside down."

Barclay teaches that in the Magnificat, there are three revolutions: "an economic revolution; a political revolution; and a moral revolution."

Still another author says that the Magnificat "terrified the Russian Czars."

Martin Luther says that the Magnificat "comforts the lowly and terrifies the rich."

Gilmore said that the Magnificat "fosters revolutionaries in our churches." He says that "the Church needs the leaven of discontent, and the Magnifcat makes the church restive against poverty and wretchedness."

In the Magnificat, God totally changes the order of things. God takes that which is on the bottom; and God turn everything upside down, and puts the bottom on top and the top on the bottom. God revolutionizes the way we think, the way we act, and the way we live. Before Godís revolution, we human beings were impressed with money, power, status and education. We were impressed with beauty, bucks and brains. But God revolutionizes all of that; God totally changes all of that; God turns it upside down. The poor are put on the top; the rich are put on the bottom. It is a revolution; Godís revolution.

The Magnificat clearly tells us of Godís compassion for the economically poor; and when Godís Spirit gets inside of Christians, we too have a renewed compassion and action for the economically poor. Our hearts are turned upside down.

Listen carefully to the words of the Magnificat. Not the poetry of the words, not the beauty of the words, not the loveliness of the words. Listen to the five important verbs. In the Magnificat, God tells us that God regards or respects the poor, exalts the poor, feeds the poor, helps the poor, remembers the poor.

In that same chapter in Luke, we hear the story that God chose a slave girl, Mary, to be the mother of Jesus. God didnít chose the beauty queen of Ballard; God didnít chose a mother who was a millionaire; God didnít chose a bride with brains. God chose a little thirteen year old girl from a fourth world country, with dark skin and dark brown eyes and dark brown hair to be the mother of Jesus.

The Bible didnít call her a handmaiden. The word, "handmaiden," sounds so pretty. The Greek word is, "doulos," which means slave or servant. Mary was a servant girl. God exalted a servant girl from a third world country to be exalted and lifted up.

And this servant girl sang her song and it is called the Song of Mary. It is not that Mary actually sang a song, but these Bible verses have been called "The Song of Mary." The actual words are revolutionary. The Song of Mary is a revolutionary bombshell because it turns the values of this world upside down.

-He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

-And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries, Bible Analyses on St. Mary's Visit to Elizabeth

Malankara World Special on St. Mary

Malankara World Special on Shunoyo of St. Mary

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