"And ain't I a woman?"
Sojouner Truth, in 1851
March 25th is Anunciation Day in the Catholic Church calendar. This day celebrates the revelation of God, through the angel Gabriel that Mary was to carry the baby Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). While this day is not celebrated in my own protestant tradition (mostly in reaction to the Roman Catholic doctrine nearly deifying Mary), the calling of Mary has profound implications for woman today.
I am always careful when writing about what it means to be a woman or the self-identity of women. I know, that no matter how sensitive I am, that as a male I have certain cultural predispositions that may make it difficult to adequately describe the essence of womanhood. I humbly accept my limitations and submit this as a perspective based upon my understanding of Scripture, amplified and illuminated by God's spirit.
Mary is poor, adolescent, ethnic minority in an occupied nation, where she had no rights, privileges, or voice. Most likely, living was day to day. Her hope, as was common in ancient Palestine, was to marry into a good family and have children who would be her legacy. The fact that she was on the margins of society often is neglected in understanding who she was. She was not this sinless, angelic person who knew she had a uniqe destiny. She was a scared, forgotten, voiceless, child, who the God of the universe chose to carry the single most important person in the history of humanity.
From her story, we can deduce a few truths about God's ministry to and among women.
1. Despite the fact that women and children disproportionately feel the affects of poverty in the world, God cares deeply. God could have chosen a more regal family, a more noble background, or a more accomplished woman, but He chose to use Mary as a model to every single, impoverished, hopeless, helpless, and voiceless girl. God's choice of Mary reveals his care and compassion. That did not end with Mary.
2. Mary is the model of modern ministry: A servant of God carrying the God within. She carried the baby Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that our bodies are the "Temple of the Holy Spirit". We now carry the Holy Spirit within us and serve God that way. God chose a woman to foreshadow this. Elsewhere in this blog, I did an entire series on women in ministry, so I will not rehash that, but suffice it to say that God is liberating women to serve God in ways that are not imprisoned by culture, tradition, or sexist interpretations of scripture. It began well before Mary in women such as Deborah (Judges 3-4) but is confirmed in Mary.
3. What was done in Mary was exclusive of a man. Although she would marry Joseph, her carrying of Jesus was not of his conception. Joseph would complement her, but he did not complete her. We have grown up in settings where women today feel that they need "a man" to complete them. That is not Biblical and never was. Men and women complement one another, but we are completed in Christ. Jesus was never married but complete. The seeking of a man by women as a neccessity of being complete or whole has led to countless problems and incredible disappointment and discouragement when they see that wholeness is not found in any person or relationship other than God.
4. The humility of Mary is the key. She obeys God even though she does not understand the implications of her calling altogether. Its her obedience, despite the social and relational consequences of the revelation, that allows God to do incredible things in her and through her. She yields to God by asking to "let it be according to your word". The humility to know that God desires to do incredible things through you by obeying his word is a profound truth for both women and men, but women in particularly who have been told by soceity that they must take secondary roles in God's story for humanity.
Perhaps today, we need to celebrate womanhood by empowering women to know who they are and how God deeply desires to bless them and be a blessing through them. Take time today to encourage the women in your life. If you are a woman reading this, be encouraged to know that in Mary, God was giving you a glimpse of the unique role He has for women. You too are "Highly favored" (Luke 1:28).
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor