Politics + Religion

A homily, based on Luke 1.39-55, preached with the people of the Episcopal Church congregations of All Saints’, Clinton, SC, and Epiphany, Laurens, SC, at a joint Advent season service on Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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How oft I have heard, “Politics and religion don’t mix” and “Preachers need to stick to religion and leave politics out of the pulpit.” And I declare to you this night that the Magnificat, Mary’s Song, is a biblical rebuttal.

Now, I think I understand what folk mean when they wish to separate politics and religion. If I define politics as the act of my seeking to manipulate you to support my position and, if you don’t or can’t, then, I, by amassing more votes, run roughshod over you and your point of view and if I define religion as the act of our engaging in spiritual practices and disciplines so to deepen our connection with God in preparation for our lives in eternity, then, yes, I, too, would want to keep them apart.

However in the first century of the Common Era (and, I dare to say, in any era!), politics and religion were inseparable. In the Roman Empire, political leaders held religious office. Caesar was considered to be a divine ruler.

And that same Roman Empire, by the force of might and right, by power and authority earthly and heavenly, occupied and oppressed Palestine and the Jewish people; restricting their liberties, taxing their labors, and, if they rebelled, shedding their blood.

And the Jews, our religious and political forebears, believed that the only way to rid themselves of Roman oppression was for God to intervene, not after their deaths, but in their lifetimes, in the present now of their daily suffering by the coming of Messiah who would bring, who would bear, who would be spiritual relief and physical release by driving the Romans from the land.

This social, religious, and political context is the lens through which to see the meaning of the Magnificat, Mary’s Song.

The angel Gabriel had come to Mary announcing “Do not be afraid…you have found favor with God…you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and…called the Son of the Most High.”(1)

Then Mary, visiting her cousin Elizabeth, hears confirmation of Gabriel’s proclamation, for Elizabeth refers to Mary as “the mother of my Lord.”
The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary, an ealry Eastern Christian fresco of the Visitation, St. George Church, Kurbinovo, Macedonia

Mary, believing, knowing that she, as theotokos, God-bearer, has a role in bringing about God’s salvation, the divine healing of spirit and flesh, bursts forth in a song of praise: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Mary magnifies and rejoices in God who looks favorably on the lowly…

God who has mercy on the reverent; those who know what, where, and who truest power is…

God who scatters the proud…

God who uproots the powerful…

God who lifts up the lowly…

God who feeds the hungry…

God who banishes the rich.

Rightly understood and righteously sung, Mary’s Song is a subversive protest against the way of this world in which the first remain first and the last, last and in which power, prominence, and prestige are held and wielded in the hands of the few and lorded over the many.

When we rightly understand and righteously sing Mary’s Song, then we know that we, by the Holy Spirit, as Mary, are Christokos, Christ-bearers, that we bear in the wombs of our souls Jesus, that we are to care for the least, the last, and the lost, to comfort the suffering, to console the marginalized.

For this is the living essence of spiritual politics and political spirituality.

 
Footnote:
(1) Luke 1.30-32

Illustration: The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary, an early Eastern Christian fresco of the Visitation, St. George Church, Kurbinovo, Macedonia

4 thoughts on “Politics + Religion

  1. Good Morning PRA!!

    So true confession….. I read this last night… BUT couldn’t respond because I needed to do homework first, specially I had to Google the words to the song!!!

    Now that they are in front of me, I’ve read them several times!! Unfortunately i sing the songs but don’t always process the power and meaning of them as I sing.

    I LOVE your words “truest power” and all of the descriptions you use of God’s power…. Stunning!! We know all this but to see it all laid out in front of us, not only for reading and listening, but also for ACTION.

    This is indeed a protest against the world where the first remain first and the last remain last… Amazing how applicable these words are today…. I think about the caravan into this country as a perfect example. Some of the media has used all types of derogatory or hateful words to describe them, and never sees or describes them as Children of God, which they are. We should be loving and feeding them and everyone else who needs love and assistance, YET we don’t (though many groups have tried)…

    Let us all work harder to do as you urge us to “to comfort the suffering and console the marginalized”…

    Thank you for that last line of this sermon…. I’ve never (ever) thought in these term but it’s soooo powerfully accurate!

    Love you!

    Like

  2. Always, Loretta, I appreciate you, that you read and reflect and comment on whatever I write.

    The words of yours that stand out to me at this moment are these: “…Amazing how applicable these words are today… I think about the caravan into this country as a perfect example. Some of the media has used all types of derogatory or hateful words to describe them, and never sees or describes them as Children of God, which they are. We should be loving and feeding them and everyone else who needs love and assistance…” This is so because there is a part of this sermon/homily that isn’t in the text, for it occurred to me in the moment, on the proverbial “fly,” which your words bring to my mind again this morning…

    Last night, in the moment, I digressed (don’t I always?!), recounting an instant in the weekly ecumenical clergy Tuesday morning Bible study when someone remarked, in the light of the words of the Magnificat, how we are to see the face of Christ in the faces of others, all others. (This comment is in line with your sense, your belief that we are to behold the members of the migrant caravan as Children of God.) We all nodded in agreement. Then I said, truly, I was led to say “And not only are we to see the face of Christ in the faces of all others, we, by the indwelling Spirit of God, are TO BE Christ for all others.” This revelation, for, again, I believe I was led to say it, that is, it was given to me from above, resulted in my reference in the sermon that we, with Mary, are Christokos, Christ-bearers.

    Yes, we are! Isn’t this absolutely extraordinary that God comes to us, just as the angel Gabriel came to Mary, telling us that in the wombs of our souls we bear Jesus?! Yes, it is!

    Love you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your sermons are great intellectual stimulants for me!! I need to always be reminded that I need to do homework and study in spiritual matters as well, and not limit myself to security and Caregiving topics. Thank you for ALWAYS reminding me that’s there’s still a lifetime of stuff for me to learn about Spirituality, especially my own!!!

    Much love!

    Like

  4. “Your sermons are great intellectual stimulants for me!!” Loretta, you bless me with this high praise! I am grateful. Thank you. As for spiritual matters, aye, you, I believe, are right, indeed, most right: “…there’s still a lifetime of stuff for (all of us!) to learn about Spiritualit…!”

    Love

    Like

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