Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Feast Day of the Visitation and the Reminder that So Much More Is Possible

Today is the Feast Day of the Visitation, the feast day that celebrates Mary, pregnant with Jesus, going to be with Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist.  We could celebrate this feast day in any number of ways:  we could celebrate intergenerational support for each other, the ways that God doesn't abandon women who are on the margins of society, the ways that improbable situations can be harnessed for hope, and the hospitality that is evident on so many levels (the wombs of the women, Elizabeth welcoming Elizabeth).

The story in Luke leaves questions, of course.  Did Mary travel alone?  How did she stay safe?  What did Mary and Elizabeth talk about in the month (months?) that she was there?  Why did she leave before Elizabeth gave birth?  What did Joseph think about all of this?  Was Joseph even part of this narrative?

We get more of Joseph's perspective in the gospel of Matthew.  What I love about this feast day, however, is that it's focused on the women.  We don't have much celebration of women in the Christian tradition.  We should hold on to what's here, in addition to looking for ways to add more women to our celebrations.

I love this story because it reminds us that God doesn't choose those who are already ready and waiting for the call.  Imagine how many lives could have been changed if the earliest Church had emphasized this aspect of a call, this being worthy in God’s eyes even if one is not worthy in the world’s eyes. Imagine if we had centuries of the message that God loves us before we’ve done anything special at all, and even if we never live into our full potential in the eye’s of our society, God will see our value. 

Imagine if the church had given emphasis to Elizabeth, along with Mary.  I love the message that we're not too old, that our hopes and dreams might be answered after all.  We're not cast away if we're not a young woman, like Mary, with years ahead of her to be of service to God.  The definition of fertility enlarges.  

On Sunday, we heard that God doesn't call the equipped, but God equips those that God calls.  There's a bit of troubling theology here.  I believe we're all called, over and over again, a wide variety of calls.  God offers us invitations, and even if we say no, God will return with more invitations.  And when we say yes, God has resources, even if we don't.  We might even discover that we have all that we need.  God may not need to equip us at all.  Our weaknesses might turn out to be strengths.

It's a great day to celebrate those possibilities.  And even if we've been feeling like our time is passed, that it's too late for us, it's great to remember that God doesn't see us that way.  If we feel like we're too inexperienced, that we don't know what we're doing, it's great to remember that God doesn't see us that way.

It's great to remember Elizabeth's blessing:  "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill the Lord's promises to her!” (Luke 1:  45, NIV, gendered language corrected).  Elizabeth gave Mary this blessing, but I believe it extends to us all, if we're open to the idea that with God and community, so much more can be possible than if we rely on our solitary selves.

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