Monday, 8 December 2014

Advent:Being Willing

Rahab and Mary. Willing: Social outcasts. #willingsocialoutcasts

Rahab. Great great grandmother of David. Not a Hebrew, but a foreigner.  Rahab, who became immortalised in the stories of Jewish history for saving the spies who were scoping out Jericho before the attack. "Rahab the prostitute ... was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road." Rahab, who James considered a great example of showing her faith by her actions, as did the author of the book Hebrews: "By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God."

And then, right at the end of the family history - HIS story - we find Mary: "Joseph, the husband of Mary,and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah."

And I think of words I read in Woman Alive magazine recently, in a study by Anne Le Tissier: "We are called to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us, making each day count...consider your mindset, your desires, your deeds, your lifestyle, your use of time, money, talents and resources. Where is your focus, who or what is the treasure of your heart, what is your goal in life, how does your lifestyle compare with Christ's, and what are you doing with the life He gave you?'

What am I doing, indeed? She says: "Whatever our role, if we seek daily to express God's loving care, then we shall be rewarded." 

What did Rahab and Mary do, before they chose obedience to God? Two opposites.  Rahab hardly lived a righteous life - she was a prostitute. But then, as she heard the rumours of this strange nomadic people who were taking the country with supernatural power, she recognised that this power was of God.

This changed her life. Ultimately, saved her life, yet she faced huge dangers before that would happen. She hid two foreign spies at great personal risk to herself and her family; lied; risked alienation and death, then bet her life that this people would indeed, with God's power, invade and defeat the city in which she lived.

And then she had her reward, as she asked: "Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you." And so she - and all her family - were saved from death.

Mary, the opposite. Mary, "Beautiful inside and out!". Mary, who had lived a quiet life, growing up a good girl, about to be married to a good man. Mary, who only needed the news of Elizabeth's unexpected pregnancy to convince her of her own future. Mary, who didn't then doubt God's word.

YET. Yet....with this unexpected pregnancy, Mary faced alienation from her family and community, exile and shame, prostitution her only hope of supporting herself; At worst,, she faced a mob lynching, pelting her with stones until she died. (As Anne Atkins, in December 11th's Thought for the Day says.) 'A woman of extraordinary learning, championing the rights of the poor...' What a role model!

Mary, magnificent in her praises. I never realised she was a prophet, but prophesy is exactly what she and Elizabeth did:
"I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten, (From now on all generations will call me blessed.)
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now."

And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking out as soon as she heard Mary's voice in greeting: "You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!

And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said, BELIEVED EVERY WORD WOULD COME TRUE"

Humble Mary, who accepted shame and disgrace, believing God, in faith.

What did Rahab and Mary have in common? They were both WILLING. Willing to be obedient. Willing to embrace the unexpected. Willing to give up control of their lives, as Whitney talks about so well:

"But God doesn’t call the qualified.
I already know it, so why do I so often need reminded? I’m frustrated in my own lack of faith that in the unexpected, God knows better than me. Listen, He always knows better than me.
But Mary.
Mary’s young, trusting hands were unclasped. She wasn’t paralyzed by fear when Gabriel told her she’d give birth to the Messiah. Oh, in human terms, it was shocking, unexpected, surprising, unplanned news to be sure.
But she didn’t hesitate.
She didn’t fall to the ground in a weeping, doubting mess.
She didn’t ask a million questions or raise her voice in anger, and she definitely didn’t fire back with, “Lord I can’t do this.”
No, she accepted her calling and lifted her humble voice in praise – not because she was confident in her abilities – but because she KNEW the One who had called her.
When the unexpected comes, we have two choices: we can either become paralyzed, or we can praise.
But listen, God always, always knows better than me....
Unexpected roads can paralyze, or cause us to praise.
The great thing? You don’t need confidence in your ability to walk your unexpected road well. You just need to KNOW the One who calls you – and then with unclasped hands – place your full confidence in Him.
"God doesn’t call the qualified, but He qualifies the called."
Embracing the unexpected on {The Road to Christmas} sounds a whole lot like this:
“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” ~ Luke 1:38
Can you say it?
Father I praise You, because the unexpected road is also a road that leads to unmerited grace. You are worthy… have your way in me."
Giving control of my life over to God. Ah, there's the thing...

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