Sermons That Work

My Soul Proclaims…, St. Mary the Virgin – 1996

August 15, 1996

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord – for the Almighty has done great things for me and holy in his name.

In most human societies, singing plays an important role as an expression of human feelings. In most African societies the song is an important vehicle for expressing one’s feelings. There is singing at almost every occasion of the community’s life. One will hear singing at the birth of a child, singing at weddings, at the time of planting, at harvest time, in times of famine, at funerals. The song is sometimes a vehicle of narrating the history of the community to the youth extolling the deeds of the past heroes of the tribe or nation and reeducating the timid and cowards.

Therefore one who does not sing or does not react to singing by dancing or clapping the hands or by nodding the head in rhythm is supposed to be dead. There is a proverb which says “take the song from the heart of anyone and that person dies.” The human heart is full of song when the feeling is good. And in African communities if an elder or chief of the tribe does something that will benefit the community, someone in the community composes a song in his honor.

Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea and after exchanging greetings with her Elizabeth says “blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of you womb.” Mary immediately breaks in to song to express her feelings. “My soul proclaim, the greatness of the Lord – for the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.”

Mary is joyful in God and praise Him by acknowledging God’s greatness who had shown favors on her by choosing her to be the mother of the savior. Though Mary was of low status in life, of a humble home background God chose her. Mary would not have stood the chance if that choice was made by the religious leaders of the day. In our world today she would not have stood a chance because we tend to look at social status, family background or level of education. But God does not look on status in life, God looks at the soul. God does not need a curriculum vitae to make choices and his favor rests on those whom he chooses.

God’s favor brings along with it blessedness. Throughout the age, different peoples of different tongues, of different colors and different cultures acknowledge Mary to be blessed, they acknowledge her to be the mother of the savior – the “God bearer.” Throughout the ages God’s favor rests on those who do His will and give him respect by acknowledging him as God. He shows his greatness to those who believe that he is almighty, the giver of good things, the protection of those who trust in him, “without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy.”

On the other hand those who do not acknowledge him as God, the all powerful but trust in their own strength, intellect and abilities so that they do not recognize him as the source of all things – these are brought low. They may seem great in their own eye, but in spiritual things they do not carry weight. But those who are lowly in heart and spirit are lifted and given spiritual status.

Mary continued in her praise of God by saying God “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” In our world the rich continue to be rich and the poor continue to be poor because very often the rich exploit the poor. But God is on the side of the poor and gives, them abundance of spiritual graces. The poor do not have material possessions but very often they learn that they have to give more of themselves, not more of things. By so doing they develop quality relations with God and their neighbors. But some rich people tend to keep themselves, to themselves thus they become blind to the needs and suffering of others.

Those who hunger after righteousness, after justice equality, peace and stability in society are filled with spiritual grace. Such people may face opposition and persecution but God is on their side. In the eye of the world they seem to be poor and hungry but in God’s eyes they are rich and well fed. We who are Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ must be on the side of God contributing our share in relieving poverty, sufferings and oppression thus making the live, of people worthy of living and the world a better place to live.

As a bishop of a very rural diocese in Africa I often spend weeks visiting the remote parts of my diocese. In these parts the roads are dusty and rugged, there is no electricity and no pipe-born water. Our Christians live in poor villages in humble houses in simple environments, eating what they can grow themselves. But these Christians are joyful in their worship, simple in faith and they radiate a spiritual joy that is infectious

I have to travel for weeks, sometimes hours a day, and I come back home very tired physically but inwardly I am always spiritually filled. God speaks to simple hearts and gives them that kind of joy that cannot be described in words.

Again God continues, his mercy on his chosen people, the Israel of God, the christian church in all lands. Christian people with different cultural backgrounds, of different languages and colors live under God’s mercy. God blesses and shows His mercy on those who are children of Abraham in spirit. Those who believe as Abraham did are descendants of Abraham. As St. Paul puts it “Abraham is the father of those who believe. Those who share the faith of Abraham are his children by spiritual kinship.” (Roman 4: Galatians 3:29).

Mary is blessed because of her submission to the Divine will “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.” The reward of obedience to God’s will is blessed, the reward of submission to God’s will is abundance of spiritual grace. Mary’s blessedness is extended to our grandmothers, our mothers and our sisters throughout all generations who have labored and labors to look after their families and to bring up their children to be useful members of their communities. Mary stands for all that is best in womanhood.

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Christopher Sikkema