Series: Angels Among Us: #DoNotBeAfraid – Flying in the Face of Fear at Advent
Title: “Nothing is Impossible: #morepeace”
December 9, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Monday night I received a Facebook message from a woman I had never met. She asked if our church adopted families for Christmas. She went on to explain that she and her children were homeless, staying with friends and although she was working now, she had nothing for them for Christmas.
I explained to her via Facebook messenger that we supported Emergency Aid’s Angel Tree program and they could help her get gifts for her children as long as they were Boulder City residents. Sadly, she reported that they live in North Las Vegas. I then asked her if she had reached out to other churches. I was trying to figure out how this woman, who is way north of town, found us, the UMC in Boulder City?!
The woman’s name is Missy and she found me in a most incredible way. She shared that no, ours was the only church she had messaged. I agreed to meet with her and met her downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday morning. She was delightful. She shared part of her life story, the struggle she had after the death of her mother and twin brother, and how life just fell apart. She described the three years she and her children were homeless, living in shelters and some nights, on the street.
Then she shared how she found sobriety and got a job and was working hard to regain all that she had lost. I asked her how she found us, and she related that Monday night she had been on Facebook and saw our church logo pop up on the side of her page. You know the one, with the rainbow heart? We all know that there are algorithms on Facebook that pop up advertisements that match things that we have looked at during a previous browsing session online.
She had said she had never seen us before and was drawn to our rainbow heart logo. She felt immediately encouraged because you see, her 16-yr. old daughter is gay. I want to share with you that we don’t have an “ad” currently out on Facebook. I am still mystified how she found us, how our rainbow heart logo popped up on her Facebook page. I know in my heart that the Holy Spirit brought us together. She and I both felt the presence of God, there in the downtown Starbucks as we embraced and cried together.
Nothing is impossible! Especially when you put God in the center of your world, the way that Mary did. You see, Zechariah freaked out when the other-worldly creature appeared to him. But Mary was simply “perplexed.” Why would such an incredible message come to a common girl just barely a woman? Then her reply to such a foretelling about her purpose in life was also simple:
“Let it be so.”
Have you ever struggled with finding your purpose and being at peace with it? Or are you yearning for more peace in your life and relationships? Peace in the world happens when all of us feel more peace within ourselves and live out that message each day.
The opposite of Peace that derives from fear: Denial. Mary had every right to deny the message from the angel, who could blame her? Mary’s acceptance is extraordinary – she would be stoned…because being pregnant before marriage could have resulted in a severe and humiliating sentence if Joseph rejected her.
Mary sees the possibilities, not the reality of her current view. Instead of focusing on the negative possibilities, “surely I will be stoned,” she instead views through God’s eyes and proclaims her faith that nothing is impossible with God. If God is asking her to do it, she’s all in; she refused to succumb to our human nature which is to find all the reasons why it couldn’t be done and then stay in that space.
Mary moved into the “what is” of the moment rather than sticking with the “how can this be?” denial, and that allowed God to use her in a most powerful way. How often do we slip into denial of our calling, when tremendous blessings are waiting for us to say “yes” to God?
We spend so much time wishing things were not the way they actually are. Our ability to creatively see how God might be working within our undesired situation, is diminished by all the energy we spend on the denial or the passive waiting for things to change for us. Remember our waiting in line last week? Are we passively waiting or are we purposefully waiting? Are we open to the possibility that God is working through our challenges? Through our heartache? Through our suffering?
Peace comes when we accept what is (our present circumstance) and we are able to use our energy to live into the what’s next. Instead of waiting for things to be more peaceful, how can we be the ones to offer more peace? What if Mary had told the angel Gabriel, “no, thank you. This really isn’t a good time for me, could you come back after Joseph and I are properly married?” Who would want to risk being ostracized by their community, let alone being killed for the implied indiscretion.
All annunciations in the Bible are about communicating something of identity. Mary is called “favored” by the angel – but what the angel is telling her is far from what we usually expect to be “favored”– she is put in a precarious position and ultimately her son is executed, some favor! And yet from our perspective, we can see how favored she was. Are we in predicaments about which we cannot yet see the blessing?
Peace comes from obedience and can be seen as “moving toward God”–the lure of the good is sometimes different from what the world says is “good.” Peace comes only with humility, not grandiosity and fame; peace comes with struggle to know the “other”–to listen and abandon our preconceived notions about one another in order to see them, hear them, and know them better.
After Mary accepted her call, her situation as described by Gabriel, she went to visit Elizabeth. Elizabeth prophesied at the sight of Mary. She becomes a “messenger” or an angel as well. She shared with Mary how her own baby leaped with joy in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit in that moment as she proclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
We are called to tell the story ourselves, again and again of the Holy-One, born as human, in this world because it contains within it that which assures us of God’s presence among humanity… all of humanity… as is emphasized in Mary’s song that follows.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Through this beautiful song, Mary also becomes a messenger, offering a song of justice and peace on earth accomplished when the oppressed are lifted up. She uses the descriptor “savior” to announce that God is the one who saves the people from suffering… not a ruler with might, power and money. Salvation is born in “God with us”–the divine present in and among the people.
My new friend Missy has come to believe that nothing is impossible with God. In the midst of her most challenging time, she found peace in listening to the Holy Spirit and reaching out to a rainbow heart on Facebook. She and her family will receive Christmas gifts thanks to our church’s benevolent fund. We will continue to walk along side with her as she gets back into her own apartment.
With all the things she has gone through, she remains faithful to God and reached out when God nudged her to. She was in a predicament most of us can’t imagine. She has worked hard to regain her balance and with the help of God, and our church, she is experiencing the blessings of God through the messengers of our church!
“Yes, I believe there are angels among us. We all can be messengers of peace, flying in the face of fear, for nothing is impossible with God.”