Monday, 17 December 2018

Listening to the Women

A short sermon for the Bloomsbury Carol Celebration, 14 December 2018.

One of the frustrating things about the Bible,
            is that it rarely gives women the chance to speak using their own words.
Too often they are spoken about rather than spoken to,
            and on so many occasions we never get to know their names.

Which is why the story of Mary is so significant.
            Here we have a woman of no status,
                        a woman with no wealth, no power, and no rights.

Yet she is the one chosen by God
            to bring about a great change for good in the world.

And, not only that, we know her name.
            And not only that, she actually gets to speak.
                        More than once.

And what Mary says, I think, is quite wonderful.
            She speaks of God laying low those who have been born powerful,
                        of God confusing the conceited and humbling the arrogant,
            of God raising up the humble, and feeding the hungry,
                        of God sending the wealthy away empty.

Mary, the teenage mother, gives voice to a dream of social revolution
            that continues to this day,
                        to challenge the arrogantly powerful
                        and to give hope to the poor and the hungry.

As a church, here at Bloomsbury,
            we take our place alongside other churches, mosques, synagogues,
                        schools, universities, and community groups,
            as we work with them to challenge injustice in our society,
                        and to keep alive the dream of a better world
                        that Mary spoke into being two thousand years ago.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I helped chair an evening
                        with the London mayor Sadiq Khan,
            where over a thousand people brought together by London Citizens,
                        many of them schoolchildren of the same age as Mary would have been,
            gave voice to a hope for justice and equality.

This, for me, is what being a follower of Jesus is about,
            it is making real in this world
            the hope that we have for a better world.

It is about taking the words of Jesus’ mother Mary,
            words which took flesh in the life of her son,
and bringing those words of justice and equality to bear
            in the life of those who hear and enact them

This is why I am proud that my church works with the homeless and the vulnerable,
            it is why we celebrate same sex marriages in this building,
it is why we aspire to include all those whom others would exclude,
            whatever their gender, sexuality, social standing, or ethnicity.

And all of this, because a young middle-eastern woman was given a voice.

Let us pray.

God of love, help us to listen.

Help us to listen to you, as you whisper words of hope into our hearts.

In the middle of a world where so much seems hopeless,
            where vested interests and established powers seem so immovable,
where issues such as climate change and homelessness,
            and warfare and refugees feel so insoluble.

Help us to hear you, as you whisper words of hope and new life,
            through unexpected people in unexpected places.

Help us to hear you through the homeless person we stop and speak with,

            help us to hear you through the refugee family from the Middle East,
            who are just learning to speak a new language and create a new life.
Help us to hear you through children and teenagers,
            through those who never normally get a voice.

Speak to us as you spoke through Mary,
            and give us good news of peace, and justice, and equality.

May we hear that good news of your son, Jesus Christ.


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