February 26, 2013

Way Opens

Filed under: Congregational Development,Leadership,Lectionary,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 11:24 am

In this third week of Lent, Marian scholar Tim Perry asks his readers to consider how Mary models trust as an aspect of unreserved discipleship.[i]

What does Mary do immediately after hearing this remarkable news? She goes to visit Elizabeth. Note that in his annunciation to Mary, Gabriel gives no specific information as to time or timing; all he tells Mary is that she has found favor with the Lord and will at some point conceive the child of whom he speaks. In sharing Elizabeth’s news, however, he is very specific; Mary has concrete information, so that’s where she heads. When she arrives it is Elizabeth (or more accurately, a fetal John the Baptizer) who discerns immediately what has been accomplished.

Through it all, Mary is calmly accepting, not in a “blind faith” kind of way, but in a trusting way. When she offers herself as a servant of the Lord, she takes part in a rich history of faith and faithfulness. Like her forebears Abram, Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah, when Mary utters the words, “Here am I.” she tells us in the simplest, most elegant way that she doesn’t need to know when, where, or how. Her deep peace that way will open is enough.

That’s not to say that she is a passive figure, a servant in the “just tell me what to do” sense. Far from it! I am in love with this marvelous blend of acceptance and courage that I see in her—she accepts the call to vocation, while at the same time taking responsibility for what she will do next. She doesn’t sit around thinking, “Well that was interesting…” and wait for something to happen. She takes what she knows, does what makes sense, and trusts that the next steps will come clear in their time.

In my own life, I refer to these periods as “requiring more faith than I think I have.” Through prayer and study, through worried nights and moments of letting go, I have learned to embrace the truth that way opens. It’s not easy. It is, however, deeply true. And it’s good stewardship. Good discipleship.

How are you called to offer yourself as a disciple, without reserve, in this season? How is your congregation called to fulfill a mission that requires more faith than you think you have? With the season of annual meetings, elections, and budgets having passed, with new vestries settling in to the call at hand, how will we, as clergy and lay leaders, find that right balance of faith and action, of “Here am I” and “Here’s what I’m going to do next”?

I invite you in this third week of Lent to get in touch with your inner Mary. Embrace the journey that is only being written as you walk it. Give thanks for grace as way opens.

[i] Perry, Tim, Blessed Is She: Living Lent with Mary; Morehouse.


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