Just say, “Yes. Let it be…”

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 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.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by processes. Perhaps it’s the fact that I grew up in gold mining towns where the headgear wheels were spinning, the metalurgical plant was roaring, and the tailings were clattering onto the waste dump. There was always something going on. Gold was coming out of the depths of the earth. Rich ore was graded as containing fourteen milligrams per ton of rock milled. Small returns for a lot of efffort. Yet gold, that elusive beguiling metal, was at one time the backbone of South Africa’s economy.

So I find processes, mining, metallurgical or monetary altogether fascinating.

As I read the Annunciation Gospel for this fourth Sunday of Advent, I discern a process in the unfolding of Mary’s story. For the past two weeks we have contemplated John the Baptizer as that archetype of the Christ follower. This week the other archetypal Christian Mary asks for our attention.

Where John was all barren wildness, Mary is innocence in encounter with the Creative Life of the Universe we call God. Here Incarnation happens and “the dwelling place of God is with people”.
How does it happen?
There is no earth shattering explosions underground, no pounding and grinding of great mills, not even the fiery furnace of the alchemical gold extraction and pouring in the smelt house.
There is only a simple peasant girl saying, “yes” to an outrageous idea from God.

The Annunciation-Incarnation process seems to unfold in five stages for Mary:

  1. Comfort. “Do not be afraid.”
  2. Assurance. “You have found favour with God,”
  3. Annunciation of the plan. “You are going to conceive and birth a God-child”
  4. Questioning doubt. “How can this be?”
  5. Agreement to partnership. “Let it be with me according to your word.”

It strikes me that this process is archetypal for us who are invited into the Divine Domain, the Kingdom of God.

We begin by experiencing the comfort of God when God shows up disguised as our life. In the dark night, the fearful storm, the empty wilderness, God shows up and Consoles us. “Do not be afraid” I suppose it is outrageous of me to ask at what point Mary conceived? Was it before, during or directly after the messenger visited? I wonder if it matters? God showed up.

The next step in our Incarnating of God process is the Assurance that whatever has happened, is happening now, and is going to happen, is all in the presence and providence of God. We all have found favour with God, we know the favour because we sense our part of the plan. The worst hell possible to a human being is not to know that there is a favourable destiny to our lives.

The third step is the Announcing of the Plan. It is only at this third point in the process that we note that Mary has a specific and unique plan. Ours will be different, but the process remains the same. The plan is announced and revealed and we see the possibilities.

The inevitable fourth step of Questioning doubt is essential and inevitable. Any deep encounter with the mystery of God must leave us incredulous and asking, “How can this be?” Beware of any scheme or plan that is announced to you by messengers claiming to be from God and who won’t allow you to ask that question, or any other questions. The church is littered with the wrecks of deluded egos who claimed to be speaking for God, would not allow any doubt or questioning, and were later revealed to be nothing more than manipulators and controllers.

Having got through the fourth and challenging stage of Questioning doubt we then stand with Mary on the edge of mystery and miracle. All that remains is the “Let it be” This is the ultimate wording for an Agreement to partnership with God and Life

Great song it was by John Lennon, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Let it be. Let it be…’” John Lennon was not an obvious Christ follower, but he knew enough to know that Mary would know what to do in “times of trouble”
“Let it be”

It is the moment when Annunciation becomes Incarnation.
It is a process which was Mary’s but which is open to us all.
It is the way that God keeps being born into this world.
Just say ,”Yes. Let it be”

In all the years of my ministry, I have served the Divine Domain best when I have allowed this Annunciation-Incarnation process to flow. “Yes, Let is be…”

There is gold and God in those words.

Every time I have said, “No. The rules say…” I have hurt others and myself and sensed the thwarting of what God might have been wanting to do, if I had only said yes. It is perhaps the greatest curse on ministers in denominations that we are expected to serve both the Incarnating Life of God, and to keep the rules of the church. As if those two were in any way aligned and symbiotic?


4 responses to “Just say, “Yes. Let it be…””

  1. Jeanne English avatar
    Jeanne English

    I started the week watching The Today Show (from NY) where Brian Boitano (olympic skater from years ago) skated to “Let It Be”. This song has continued to come up for me day after day this week. There’s no doubt it is going into the sermon this week. A beautiful post and great discussion above as well. Thank you.

  2. Charis Varnadore avatar
    Charis Varnadore

    Peter, thank you for your reply; you flatter me when you associate my comments with logic – believe me, it was nothing more than a visceral response, Having been born a white writer instead of a black jazz pianist, which would have been my preference, I am more than sensitive to certain matters. And no, I don’t for a minute accuse you of being racist in your analogy.
    There are some Americans who do seek to ‘speak truth to power,’ but our country is so dominated by money and interest groups that we are sometimes hard to hear above all the clamor.
    I appreciate this opportunity to be able to exchange words like this with no physical or time barriers; I wish I had had this opportunity the decade I lived as a hermit. With respect and appreciation, Charis

  3. Peter avatar

    Hi Charis,
    Thanks for taking the trouble to comment.
    I cannot change the fact that I am a white South Africa, child of Apartheid, who comes from a working class gold-mining background. I didn’t own the mines, nor did I make the rules. My heritage does not imply that I am a racist, exploiter of others. Looking backwards, I with the world, see many things that I did not know then and which I know now to have been wrong. However, to try to obliterate the texture of my past with the wisdom I have now seems less than skillful?
    If I were to sanitize my vocabulary and images in the way that Americans seem to be obsessed with doing, I would be rendered voiceless and generically bland, which is where, I think, you and I began our conversation some weeks ago?
    If I follow your logic then Jesus should not have told any parables about slaves and masters?
    Once again thanks for taking the time.
    Bless y’all.
    The Listening Hermit.

  4. Charis Varnadore avatar
    Charis Varnadore

    Wow! While I very much appreciate your description of the five stages, it is difficult for me to move beyond your analogy to gold mining, which, for better or worse is not viewed so favorably in all quarters.
    The irony of my response is that I am replying to you in SOUTH Africa from my ‘home’ in SOUTH Carolina, both sites of extreme exploitation whose effects are still guiding forces in many lives here, and I assume there.
    I wonder what would be the response if I tied plantation houses built here during slavery by slave labor with, say, the biblical ‘house built upon a rock?’
    I apologize sincerely for my negativity, maybe I am just missing something or being presumptious, but, as I said, it is hard for me to move beyond the analogy.
    Peace… Charis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: