Summary: Funeral sermon for Mary Henry, aged 101, prayer warrior and Bible student, who, like the Biblical Mary, could accept whatever the Word taught her.
Submission is not subservience. Humility is not the same thing as low self-esteem. In fact, it takes a strong and certain heart to be submissive and not subservient, to be humble and not cowardly.
If ever there was a strong and certain heart, that was Mary Henry. She knew how to submit to all that came her way, finding the will of her Lord in it; but she was never subservient to anyone. She learned, she perfected, the art of humility, but she was afraid of nothing. Like the great apostle, who told the church in Philippi, "I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances ... I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
Can you imagine how many times in 101 years of living Mary Henry had to make a decision about how her energies would be spent? Can you even dream about what it must be like, day by day, month by month, for a century, to consider how that time and that energy should be used? Some of us have trouble filling even one day with meaning; we get bored and resort to the boob-tube just to kill time. Others of us run frantically around, trying to do anything and everything, fearful we won’t have enough time. But somehow Mary Henry had the secret of neither being bored nor hurried, neither idle nor anxious. How did she do it? Whence came this calm, this quiet spirit, this centeredness?
This past Sunday a few of us were sitting around talking about our experiences with Mrs. Henry. Several spoke about the way she had of encouraging you and telling you she would be praying for you. Others said flatly that she was directly responsible, through her witness, for their being members of this church. And during that conversation Robert Faulkner said, "Mary Henry’s way was the way given in the Scriptures, ’Be it unto me according to your word.’"
That struck me as right on target. "Let it be unto me according to your word, (God’s word)". Submissive but not subservient, humble but not cowardly.
And guess what? That word of Scripture came from, of all places, the mouth of Mary. Mary the mother of our Lord. Now it may just be my peculiar way of looking at things, but sometimes I find that people with Biblical names pick up on the characteristics of the persons for whom they are named. Somehow, some way, if we connect with somebody in the Bible, we begin to reflect that person’s outlook.
And so Mary … Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary Henry, spiritual mother to many in this fellowship. Both of them, "Be it unto me according to your word"
You remember the circumstances under which the Mary of the Bible spoke this word. She had witnessed her cousin Elizabeth conceiving a child in her older years, and had felt the joy of what God was doing in her family. She had found a special personal joy with a man named Joseph, whom she was engaged to marry.
But suddenly one day the messenger of God ... suddenly one day a mysterious greeting and a perplexing message … suddenly her happy, comfortable little world turned upside down, for the message was, ’’You have found favor with God, and you will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the son of the most high ... and of his kingdom there will be no end."
It doesn’t take much of an imagination to feel what Mary must have felt. The consternation, the anxiety, the thousand and one questions. How can this be? I’ve never heard of anything like this before? Do you really mean me?
But the messenger’s word was all-embracing. "Nothing will be impossible with God". "Nothing will be impossible with God". And that was enough for Mary. Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. If God wills it, then I am willing too. If God is in it, I shall be in it too. If God’s work is to be done this way, then here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me, use me, according to your word."
Our Mary responded that same way before her Lord. In each task, each assignment, she found the strength to believe and the courage to accomplish, because it was God’s promise and God’s word.
So many of you were touched by her life, in such wonderful ways. I have heard the stories about the residents of her apartment complex, over here at Georgia and Aspen, who were invited to her apartment, maybe just for conversation, maybe for a meal, but there was a reason for it. It was sharing the will of God and offering a testimony for her savior. Many of us would be intimidated by that. We would be saying, "Oh, you never know about these folks in these apartments out here. Better not let them into your private space." But Mary Henry saw it differently. She saw God’s work and God’s will in it, and simply responded, "Let it be unto me according to your word." She knew how to be submissive without being subservient, humble without being cowardly. "Let it be with me according to your word."