Summary: JB Phillips translates Luke 1:38 like this, ’I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say.’ Mary’s response of simple, humble faith challenges us to respond positively to the Lord’s call. How will we respond when he next calls us?
When God first called you what was your response?
When God next calls you to something new, something different, what will be your response?
The key to this Bible reading is Mary’s response of obedience. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary said. “May it be to me as you have said” (1:38). JB Phillips translated it like this: “I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say” and Bishop Tom Wright’s translation reads: “Here I am. I’m the Lord’s servant girl. Let it happen to me as you’ve said.”
Now let’s be clear. In one sense there was nothing particularly special about Mary. Yes, she had ’found favour with God’ (1:30), and the angel Gabriel told her that wonderfully and miraculously she was going to give birth to a son, she would name in Jesus, and he would be called the Son of the Most High (1:31-32).
Unmarried, soon to be pregnant, definitely still a virgin, facing potential scandal, highly favoured.
Luke’s orderly account of the events (1:3) shows us that Mary did not argue. Mary did not refuse. Mary did not reject God’s call upon her life, as odd as it must have sounded. However, she did question how it could possibly happen. She asked, ’how will this be, since I am a virgin? (1:34).
Questions are good! Lord, how will that happen? Where will the resources come from? How will I be able to do that job without the necessary skills?
Mary’s response was a simple, humble response of faith: “I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say”; and the Holy Spirit came upon Mary to enable her to do and be more than she could by herself; just as the Holy Spirit will enable you to do and be more than you can by yourself.
Some of you will have met my friend Chris Page. He preached here at Christ Church about two years ago and it was a joy to meet up with him in Rwanda in November 2007. About eight years ago Chris firmly believed that God was asking him to go and live in Rwanda to work amongst orphans and to start-up businesses, employing orphans over the age of 17. Chris was not an entrepreneur. He had no business skills or training whatsoever. He could not speak the national language Kinyarwanda. Humanly speaking it looked a very unlikely prospect! However, the first business he started (Cards from Africa) now employs more than 80 orphans. They earn a good salary and are able to feed and educate younger brothers and sisters and the business runs using Gospel priorities and principles. Chris was a young man who could easily have said no, but when the Lord said go, Chris said oh, and off he went! “I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say”. Isaiah said, ’Here I am. Send me’ (Isaiah 6:8).
The Lord called Jonah and he ran away. Jesus called a rich young man and he was full of excuses. Until God heals me, is God calling me to be a vicar with a disability? What is my response?
God’s call is upon each one of you. He has a perfect plan for each one of you. Jobs to do, prayers to pray, telephone calls to make, ministries to perform, people to spend time with, all in the name of Jesus. “I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say”. Responding to the Lord’s call, Samuel said ’Speak, for your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:10).
Of course, we do need to be careful that we are responding appropriately to the Lord’s voice, and so we need one another as we discern and respond to what the Lord is saying. In other words, if you’re not sure what the Lord is saying then ask a Christian friend to talk and pray with you.
RT Kendall tells of a friend who was out ploughing corn in the fields one-day when he saw the clouds in the sky above him form the letters ’PC’. He immediately realised that the Lord was telling him to ’Preach Christ’. So in obedience to the message, he gave up ploughing corn and started preaching Christ. RT Kendall adds that some of his congregation later suggested that perhaps what the Lord was really saying was, ’Plough Corn’! (With thanks to Simon Coupland’s book ’Spicing up Your Speaking’).
When God says “go” I dare not say “no”.
I must go with the flow. It is the Lord’s show!
He delivers the commission to be part of his mission.
So if I’m his servant I must be observant.
When God wants to bless may my answer be “Yes”.
Yes, I belong to the Lord, body and soul.
Let it happen as you say. Amen.