50 | 40 | 10 | Devotions Series: Dec. 11, 2019 – Bishop Emerita Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl

Devotions for the week of: December 11, 2019

Reading:

Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV)

“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, ‘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.’“


Devotion:

What I find moving in this text, as well as relevant to our Church’s celebrations of the ordination of women, is how these two women find each other and bond. They are mothers of our faith, and each one rises to the situation God calls her to. So different, yet so ready to lean on each other, to lift up the other and to confirm their separate callings are: the mothers to John the Baptist, and Jesus. They are an unlikely pair, yet they have a common strength and openness to follow where God is leading.

Literally, of course, Mary makes the journey to get to Elizabeth. But in cultural ways, Elizabeth makes a journey, too, to immediately accept Mary and celebrate her new (and daunting) role, instantly affirming her courage and faith.

I’m reminded of working with youth and young adults throughout my ministry who loved to hear that type of acceptance, celebration and affirmation from their elders. I’m reminded of many congregations who challenged themselves to be intergenerational, that is: to hear the voice of younger members and recognize God working in and through them just as surely as God works in and through the older members. I also remember when I was the young one, just learning what it meant to be a pastor, and how several older women gave me courage.

While I was still in seminary, I had the opportunity to be a supply preacher for nearby congregations. It was the early 1970s. These settings frequently had seminarians preach when their called pastors were away. Yet, all of those seminarians had been male.

When thinking about the unusual and beautiful relationship between Mary and Elizabeth, I’m reminded of the older women who came through the handshake-line at the end of the services. On several occasions, when an older woman shook my hand, she also pulled me in close to whisper in my ear: “You are doing what I always wanted to do. God bless you!” Then they’d walk away, husbands behind them who never let on if they knew what dreams their wives had once had.

I’ve never forgotten those whispers – when my call to ministry as a woman was glorious and celebrated, as well as when times were filled with struggle and challenge. I remember that God sent those women, angels of a sort, to whisper in my ear that I was called in a new way, a way my foremothers could not pursue, despite their inner callings. My gifts and skills were no better than those of the whispering women, but the times had changed and I had opportunities they did not have. Together we moved ahead, following a God who lifts up a new way.

Elizabeth’s words to Mary had to have stayed with her throughout her pregnancy, and her life of mothering: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Advent is all about the fulfillment of believing what the Lord has promised: the promise that God would send His Son; the promise that this infant would grow up to be a Savior; and, the promise that God still enters our lives and still has angels whispering messages in the form of family, friends, and strangers. Whispers and shouts – they urge us on, invite us to follow, and call us to new life.

Bishop Emerita Andrea Degroot-Nesdahl
South Dakota Synod, ELCA


Prayer:

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (ELW, 317)

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