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Luke 1:46-55 — The Magnificat and White Privilege

17 Dec

(My) Left half: Hear this text from the perspective of being poor, pushed aside, ignored by anyone with any influence, being helpless.

(My) Right half: Hear this text from the perspective of being rich, influential, privileged.

(Read again)

For those on (my) left, what did you hear?

God’s mercy is for those who fear him . . . God has . . . lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things.

Mary’s song, “the Magnificat,” is a song of hope, justice, the end of days when God will make all things right.

The gap between the suffering and the content will be closed. The divide between the helpless and the powerful will be bridged. When the promises of God are fully kept in the coming of the Messiah, everyone will be made equal. Everyone will have enough, and no one will have more than they need.

For those on (my) right, what did you hear?

God’s mercy is for those who fear him. . . . God has scattered the proud in the he thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones . . . . God has . . . sent the rich away empty.

The gap between the suffering and the content will be closed. The divide between the helpless and the powerful will be bridged. When the promises of God are fully kept in the coming of the Messiah, everyone will be made equal. Everyone will have enough, and no one will have more than they need.

I think that one of the reasons Christianity is hard for so many people in North America is that texts like these–which are the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ–are not heard as good news.

I am a white, middle-aged, middle-class, heterosexual male. I have virtually every privilege ever known to anyone is human history. The Magnificat, and so many other heart-and-soul themes from scripture, indicate that when God’s will is done, my privilege will change. It’s not just that the poor, and the excluded, and those without privilege will be raised up. Not according to God’s promises. It’s that the hungry will be filled and the rich will be sent away empty. The lowly will be lifted up and the proud will be scattered. Yes, the lives of the poor and disadvantaged will change for the better, but the lives of the influential and privileged will change too.

Nowhere is this great theme of scripture modeled more clearly than in the person of Jesus. In his epistle to the Philippians Paul writes that Jesus gave up the glory of heaven and came among us in the flesh. He didn’t live in glory and privilege, but in poverty. Instead of being exalted, he was killed. Soon we will celebrate his coming among us at Christmas–not being born into royalty and privilege, but in a barn, outside of a nowhere town where no one would make room for him.

We know God’s will is being done when those among us with nothing have enough. When the hungry among us are full and homeless among us sleep in a warm bed. We know God’s will is being done when those among us whose voices aren’t heard have influence.

But the other part of God’s will being done is when those of us with more than enough give away our extra. We know God’s will also is being done when those of us with plenty to eat give away the food we don’t need. We know God’s will is also being done when those of us with homes larger than we need downsize, giving away the profit. We know God’s will is also being done when those of us with influence go to bat for those who have none, even if it doesn’t seem to benefit us.

Because here’s the thing: this actually is good news for the poor and for the privileged! There is joy in Christ. There’s joy in being part of that work, that purpose. There’s joy in having enough, and there’s joy in extravagantly giving away what you have. The way of God is the way of joy. For the rich and the poor. For the proud and the lowly.

My prayer, my hope, is that all of us, regardless of our circumstances, would truly experience God’s joy down to our very souls this Advent. May our souls magnify the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior.

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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Sermon

 

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