O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Faith is not a selfie
Faith is not a selfie (Midweek Advent Service)
Based on Luke 1:26-56
Preached on December 14, 2016
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” the pregnant Virgin sings. “My life makes the Lord very great, enlarges, amplifies Him. Don’t look at me, look at Him. He is mighty and merciful and holy. He puts down the proud, He lifts up the humble. He fills the hungry, He empties the full. He keeps His promises. My soul magnifies the Lord.” Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
The life of faith is not a selfie.
The world says, “Hey, look at you! You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re strong, you’re pretty, you’re handsome, you’re fabulous, you’re a winner!”
The devil says, “Look at you! You’re pious, you’re religious, you’re Lutheran, you do good works, you’re kind to animals, you help old ladies across the street, you sing old hymns, you have the catechism memorized. You should be proud, and God should be pleased. Just look at you!”
Your old Adam Flesh says, “Look at me! I thank God I’m not like everyone else, especially, well…you know…those people. You know who they are. Let me snap a selfie so you can admire me too. How about a selfie with Jesus. Me and Jesus, Best Friends Forever. Hey, don’t we look good together? Me and Jesus?
God places the magnifying mirror of the Law in front of your selfie and says, “Look at you. Idolator, blasphemer, despiser of God’s Word, rebel, anarchist, murderer, adulterer, liar, greedy. Sinner. Take a good hard look at your selfie. Want it up on Facebook? Care to Tweet about it? Proud of it? Want a parade?
If anyone had reason for a selfie, it was Mary. Why, cousin Elizabeth even calls her “Mother of my Lord” and blesses her. Wow! That’s worthy of Instagram. “God-bearer” the church calls her. Theotokos. She’s a teenager! And pregnant in her virginity. Yes, yes, I know, “It’s complicated,” as they say on Facebook. But she’s pregnant with the Son of God, conceived by the Spirit and the Word. God chose her out of all the potential mothers of Israel. He chose her, Mary, a nobody from Nazareth, to be the mother of Messiah. That calls for a selfie, doesn’t it?
My soul magnifies the Lord, she sings. “He must increase, I must decrease.” “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the glory.”
The life of faith is not a selfie. It’s not look at me, look at me, look at me. It’s look at Him, look at Him, look at Him. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith. The alpha and omega of your life and salvation. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Look at Him who made you, who redeemed you, who makes you holy. Magnify the Lord.
Mary magnifies the Lord. Her faith is the magnifying lens. Mary was faith-filled even as she was faithful. Before she ever conceived, she believed. Before the Word became Flesh in her virgin womb, the Word took hold of her sin-filled heart. Mary found favor with God not because she was prettier, purer, or more pious than the other girls of Israel, but because she believed. She trusted God’s promise to her forefathers, to Abraham and to His Seed forever. She was filled with faith by the Spirit. And being faith-filled, she was faithful. She is the Lord’s servant and instrument – full of faith and grace. Her faith magnifies the Lord.
Mary magnified the Lord as she heard the impossible news of the angel that she would conceive and bear a son. She pondered the proclamation of the shepherds on the night her Son was born. She magnified the Lord at a wedding in Cana when the wine ran out. “Do whatever he tells you,” she said to servant. Sound words for us as well today; her last recorded words in Scripture. Do whatever her Son tells you. Even when the sword of grief pierced her soul as she stood at the foot of the cross to watch her Son die to be her Savior, she magnified the Lord. Even as the religious world, and even Joseph, harbored doubts over whose child she really was bearing, she magnified the Lord.
Mary magnified the Lord because the Lord had magnified her. He had done great things for her and to her and with her. And He is doing great things with you too. You are baptized. The church sings Mary’s song as her own song, each of us within our own calling. Mary was called uniquely to be the Bearer of the Word. She got pregnant through her ears. She was called to be Mother Eve’s counterpart. Eve listened to the Lie and was deceived; Mary heard the Word by the angel and conceived. Eve brought Sin and Death and Darkness by her hearing. Mary heard the Word and conceived Life and Light and Forgiveness and Grace and Mercy. To be the mother of our Lord was uniquely hers to do. And you have what is uniquely yours to do, where God has put you, and however He has gifted you, in whatever ways you serve Him. He has magnified you – and you may not see it with your eyes (Mary’s earthly life didn’t look like much either) – but hear and know this truth by faith – for it will be shown on the Last Day.
In a way, Mary is a picture of every baptized believer, and so also then of the Church. For you too are graced by God, a recipient of His undeserved kindness. The Holy Spirit has come upon you in your Baptism, and the power of God working through the Word has shadowed over you. And while you don’t physically conceive Christ (that was uniquely Mary’s to do), nevertheless Christ takes up residence in and among you. He dwells with you by His Word as you dwell in Him by faith. You too are pregnant with the Word – filled with it. Ready with it to speak it back to God in faithful prayer. Ready with it to come forth for others in need. This is what makes us the Church – His Church.
“Faith toward Thee, fervent love toward one another,” as Luther taught the church to pray. There is no place for a selfie in that outside-of-ourselves, magnify-the-Lord, way of faith and love. Leave the selfies to Jesus. Magnify the Lord. And He will magnify you. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr