Hearing the prophetic voice

My sermon for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary which, my 13 year old critic tells me, was really good. Glad I got the voice right =)

But before you read my ruminations, since I am preaching about the prophetic voice of youth today, I want to share a post from one of my favourite tweeps and bloggers, @thunderclap, over at as you like it. We met at General Synod and I have appreciated her profound. political and witty thoughts. This is her reflection on the 9/11 Site Mosque Controversy.

And here is my offering for today:

Year C
Feast of St. Mary the Virgin
August 15, 2008
HE: Trinity Aurora
Focus text: Luke 1:44-56

One of the most profound, poetic and challenging prophecies in our Scriptures comes from the mouth of a young girl. She was pregnant. She wasn’t married, but she was engaged, and her fiancé was not the father of her child.

Her name is Mary.

As we hear the words of our gospel today, a song that is commonly known as the Magnificat, Mary is nothing like we would imagine a young teenage mother. I say imagine deliberately. If this were any other teenage girl, we would imagine she would be terrified. We imagine a teenager would rebel or scream “Rape” at the angel Gabriel. We imagine she would skulk away to have the baby then put her or him up for adoption, or not carry the baby to term at all.

Instead, she takes off, alone, confident, across the hill country to share her news with her cousin, Elizabeth, and then proclaims these words to Elizabeth and Zachariah. Her words are full of love, power, confidence, authority and strength.

And we imagine how Joseph, a teenage boy, would react at the news that his beloved was pregnant. He would be furious. We imagine his parents would keep him from seeing Mary ever again. We imagine he would be terrified, too, and would just drop Mary and find another bride, denying the baby was his.

Luke doesn’t tell us a great deal of what lies on their hearts, but their actions speak for themselves. Joseph and Mary are spiritually mature and remain faithful to God and to one another. They become parents to a child neither knows, and they raise him as their son.

We think that these are remarkable young people. Actually, they aren’t. They are young, and what they do is generous and faithful and admirable, but they aren’t remarkable. They are probably 8 out of the 10 kids that I have met in my ministry, whether they come to Church or not.

Take a moment and imagine a prophet. What are the qualities of a prophet? Passion, wisdom, articulate, poetic, transforming, life changing.

We imagine the prophets of the Bible as near the end of their lives, looking back to gain wisdom from their experience, but most of the prophets of the Bible are young, passionate and spiritually mature who have gained their wisdom through prayer and a forward looking perspective on what is happening in the present. Miriam, Solomon, David, Samuel, Elisha, Joshua, Jonah, most of the disciples, Paul, Timothy and Phillip, and others are young women and men, probably called by God before or at the age they would marry. They were teenagers and young adults.

The wisdom of ages reflects back on our history to learn lessons for the present. The prophetic wisdom, the wisdom of youth, observes our present and looks forward into our future. This makes sense, because the future belongs to them.

A prophecy is not the same as a fortune. It can be many things, but it is very much grounded in the present. It could be a warning, or a declaration of victory. A prophecy communicates the love and grace and will of God. The Magnificat is proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes that Mary is “no politician, no revolutionary; she simply wants to sing a happy song, but all of a sudden she has become an articulate radical, an astonished prophet singing about a world in which the last have become first and the first, last”.

In a world and economy like ours, these are threatening words. We are the powerful who will be thrown from our thrones. We hold the top 1-2% of the world’s wealth. According to Mary, the salvation the little one in her womb will bring means we will lose so much that we treasure, and that those who have little will hold power over us. This salvation is not for individuals, to claim in their own hearts, but for a whole world.

Because this makes us squirm a little, we are tempted to dismiss passionate, divisive words such as these as the idealistic words of a young girl who has not even held down a job and is still living with her parents. We live in a world where our value is directly tied to our ability to contribute economically to our society. If you haven’t held down a job, or are still living with your parents, or have moved back in with your children in your older age, or live on social assistance, we will listen politely, but more often than not will find a different way than yours. Children and youth face that attitude every day.

And yet, these are who God has called throughout our history to prophesy to the world, to tell us how we are reflecting God’s will for God’s people, to correct us, to bring us hope and share God’s grace. They have been called before they are 18, before they are confirmed, even before they are baptized, to minister and prophesy to us, God’s people.

The next time you are blessed to hear the prophetic voice, I hope it will be from someone far younger than me, but I want to share with you some of what I have been privileged to hear as I have walked alongside children and youth.

Concern for God’s creation is HUGE. We are handing a mess to our next generation, and they are crying to us to change our ways. They are furious that our dependence on oil resulted in the destruction of so much of the Gulf of Mexico. They are tired of us setting targets and then breaking them with our greed. And they are right, we know it.

There is also fear as they are graduating into a fragile economy (that we created) with the great pressures and expectations we place on them to get a degree, get a good job, experience the world and buy a house. They see our short-sighted solutions of tax-cuts as self-serving and leaving less in our social safety net for their future health needs and their current education.

They are passionate about fair trade and local engagement. We may not see this because traditional institutions like Rotary, Lions and the church are seeing a decline. And yet, volunteerism is actually up, because young adults are forming less bureaucratic, less institutional ways of serving their community and their world.

We are all feeling the burden of the pressure of living economy driven lives. We sit here tired, enjoying the relaxation of summer and already starting to ramp up again for the rat race of September. Young people are seeking enough money to live lives of meaning. Two weeks ago we read about a man who was only able to enjoy his life when he had amassed a great deal of wealth. Young people are teaching us to seek joy and meaning in every stage of life.

And, believe it or not, they care about the Church. They want to belong. They want to know Jesus and believe in the Good News of the gospel. The best hope for us is young people who want to help, be part of our leadership and share their creative energy with us.

Roots Among the Rocks, the play that is coming to Trinity on the 26th, is a phenomenal opportunity to experience this prophetic voice. You are in this performance because it is your story. The actors have brought their own experiences alongside the stories of grandparents, fellow parishioners, mentors and friends, to reflect to us, our story. This play is a prophecy, the actors are prophets, and I hope you will come to experience God’s power and grace in your story.

Mary, this young, brave, passionate, confident woman, who models so many of our young people, is calling us to value the creative gifts of children and youth, especially their prophetic voice, and to look and listen for God’s voice and handiwork, not in spite of youth, but because of it. We are blessed when we walk together across ages and across generations and we honour all voices.

Open your heart and your mind to hear the challenging, powerful, caring and generous voice of the Holy Spirit as you encounter the children and youth of Trinity. They have so much to teach us. God is using them to bear Christ in our midst. Listen, for the voice of the Holy Spirit and for the direction of God, in the proclamations of our children and youth.

More sermons from the preachers at Trinity Aurora