50 | 40 | 10 | Devotions Series: Dec. 4, 2019 – Bishop Constanze Hagmaier
Dear members of the South Dakota Synod:
You are invited to join us on a journey over the next year as we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women as well as the 40th Anniversary of the first woman of color to be ordained, and the 10th Anniversary of LGBTQIA+ siblings to be ordained. Throughout this journey, we will be lifting up voices from rostered ministers across this synod in this new weekly devotion series beginning this month.
Bishop Constanze Hagmaier kicks off this series in her devotion below.
Devotions for week of: December 4, 2019
Luke 1:28-38 (NRSV)
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” These are the opening words of a spirited conversation between God’s messenger Gabriel and Joseph’s fiancée Mary. There are lots to be marveled at in this conversation, which we can read about in Luke 1:28-38. But, in the light of the ELCA’s 50-40-10 anniversary, I would like to invite us to go deeper than the Mary-meek-and-mild cliché.
Like the prelude in worship is often drowned out by our gathering voices, this passage can easily be drowned out by the “real” story – the account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2). Yet, just as essential as the prelude is to worship, this holy conversation between Gabriel and Mary is essential to the entire story of Jesus. In fact, I would say, everything following depended on the outcome of this conversation. Bold, I know!
Mary is anything but meek and mild. She is resilient, gritty and deeply steeped in her faith tradition. At the end of the conversation, only after Gabriel answers all of her questions and she is able to connect all the dots, does Mary boldly accept God’s holy calling: “I am the Lord’s servant … May it be to me as you have said.”
As we pause to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women, the 40th anniversary of the first ordination of women of color and the 10th anniversary of the ordination of our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ, we must be mindful of the resilience, grit and faithfulness of the saints gone before us. They too had encounters with God’s messengers who interrupted their ordinary, to coax them into a deeper and richer relationship with Him and the world. They too wrestled, counting the cost, asking the hard and obvious questions: “Who? Me? Why?” They listened to God’s message and boldly answered the call along with Mary, saying: “I am the Lord’s servant … May it be to me as you have said.”
You have heard people say, “Change is hard.” Yes, it is! We know that the change of plans in Mary’s life was not her idea, and to say the least, it greatly inconvenienced her. She surely did not ask for it, but neither did anyone that we remember and celebrate during this 50-40-10 anniversary celebration. You see, it is never really about Mary or us. It is always about God, what He is up to and what He is inviting us into. It is my prayer that like gritty-and-resilient Mary, we too find the courage to hear God and answer God’s call in new and bold ways when His messengers show up in our lives, saying:
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Bishop Constanze Hagmaier
South Dakota Synod, ELCA
Thank you, God, for Mary, mother to Jesus. Like Mary, may we find the courage to hear You and answer Your call in new and bold ways. When Your messengers show up in our lives, calling us highly favored and telling us the Lord is with you, let us respond in grit and gratitude. Amen.