"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hail Mary

            It's not a Weather Lady who always predicts storms. And it's so much more than a prayer Catholics constantly repeat, hoping to do penance for their venial sins.
            The Bible doesn't say what occupied Mary, daughter of Eli, at the moment God's messenger Gabriel appeared to her, but Mary's reaction prompted the angel to say, "Fear not." Anyone who's dentist has told them, "This isn't going to hurt," can relate to Mary's response. And when Gabe called her, "Favored by God," she might have countered, "You scare the Gee Willie's out of me and I'm favored by God? Tell God not to do me any more favors." And I wouldn't have blamed her for it.
            But then God's special messenger told Mary, "The Lord is with you." Like Mary, that would've shut me up. And when he said, "You're going to bear a son and name him Jesus," she really began wondering.
            The rest of Gabe's announcement was just icing on the cake.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
(Luke 1:32-33 ESV)
            We know when someone speaks with authority, and so did Mary. We know that from her next action; she packed up and headed out on a three or four days' journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. And why did Mary go to all the trouble of traveling along a bandit-infested road to visit her favorite cousin? Gabriel's announcement had included the news that Elizabeth had conceived a son and was in her sixth month of pregnancy. And Liz was not a spring chicken.
            If confirmation was what Mary had wanted from Elizabeth, confirmation is what she got. As soon as the baby—who was to become John the Baptizer—heard Mary's greeting he leaped in Elizabeth's womb.
            And they say an elbow in the ribs gets a mom's attention.
            What would it be like to hear the announcement, "The Lord is with you"? Not the well-wisher's, "God be with you," but the authoritative declaration that the Lord is with you, and will be in you.
            But we have that promise, spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
(John 14:15-21 ESV)
            As He prepared His disciples for His departure He gave them the basics of what they—and we—would need to know and do as His faithful followers. But don't be deceived by His words' apparent simplicity. Contained within them are God's eternal wisdom, a finite code revealing infinite truth.
            As the film script writer penned, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it ..." But while that fictional mission was reputedly impossible, Jesus' mission for us is quite possible, through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. If you and I want to become Jesus' true disciples, not simply church-goers, we are in for the ride of our lives.
            Are you in? Then get out, and live for Him as His followers throughout history have done. The world won't like you for it, but your reward will be infinitely worth it. But don't wait for old Gabe to say, "Hail Mary," or whatever your name is. Just do it.

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