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With Mary We Magnify Our Maker

St. Luke 1:46-55

Pastor Mark Schlamann

St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord
Our Savior/Redeemer  
Pettibone/Woodworth, ND

View Associated File

Sun, Aug 15, 2004
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
 

IN NOMINE JESU

A major shift in the worship life of the people of God was in the making. The

location of God's presence among His people was in the Ark of the Covenant, in

the Tent of Meeting. For centuries God had made His presence in the Temple, in

the Holy of Holies—the Most Holy Place—similar to the area of the chancel here.

But God had left the building. He established His presence in a new temple, a

temporary temple, one with duration of nine months. The presence of God—His

temple—was now found in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her womb was the

new temple, if only for nine months, but God showed He wanted His presence to be

personal, and it cannot be any more personal than that. The first act of

Christian worship took place at the house of Zechariah. There were Elizabeth

and the baby in her own womb who would become St. John the Baptizer, cousin of

our Lord, as well as St. Mary, mother of our Lord. Blessed is Mary among women,

and blessed is the fruit of her womb. Elizabeth rejoiced that that Mary, her

cousin and the mother of her Lord, visited her. Elizabeth rejoiced, as did the

baby in her womb who leaped for joy. And Mary responded by singing the

Magnificat, the first of four canticles that St. Luke includes in the first two

chapters of his Gospel. Mary's hymn is not about God's gifts, but it is about

God Himself, the Giver of the gifts. She begins by singing, "My soul magnifies

the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (v. 46b-47). It is only

after this that Mary tells why she praises God. The focus of Mary's hymn was

never on herself but on God and what He did to her and for her. It is Mary's

witness that we celebrate and thank God for today on this Festival of St. Mary,

Mother of Our Lord.

Some may ask if bestowing such honor on Mary is, so to speak, "too Catholic."

It is a catholic practice, but not in the Roman sense. It is in the Christian

sense. In fact, the Confessors of the Lutheran Church in the sixteenth century

hailed this salutary practice in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

Our Confession approves giving honor to the saints. This honor is threefold.

The first is thanksgiving: we should thank God for showing examples of His

mercy, revealing His will to save men, and giving teachers and other gifts to

the church. Since these are His greatest gifts, we should extol them very

highly; we should also praise the saints themselves for using these gifts, just

as Christ praises faithful businessmen (Matt. 25:21, 23). The second honor is

the strengthening of our faith: when we see Peter forgiven after his denial, we

are encouraged to believe that grace does indeed abound more than sin (Rom.

5:20). The third honor is the imitation, first of their faith and then of their

other virtues, which each should imitate in accordance with his calling. (Ap XXI

4-6)

In keeping with the Lutheran Confessions, we thank God because, as Mary says,

"His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation" (v. 50), and

Mary's spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. We pray that God would strengthen our

faith, even as He strengthened Mary's faith and led her to be His servant. We,

by the Holy Spirit, imitate Mary in her faith and her subsequent obedience in

her humility. Mary realized God could have looked with favor upon anyone, but

He chose a lowly servant girl to house His Temple. For this we thank God and

remember Mary, the theotokos, the mother of God.

But God has drawn a line a line as far as honoring the saints is concerned. We

do not pray to them. We do not ask them to redeem us. Such practices are

sinful, for they go against Scripture and put forth the false teaching that

there is more than one Redeemer, that Mary would be a co-redemptrix, changing

the Holy Trinity into a quartet. Scripture clearly teaches that we have one

Mediator and Intercessor, Jesus Christ. The Confessors also state:

Granted that blessed Mary prays for the church, does she receive souls in death,

does she overcome death, does she give life? What does Christ do if blessed

Mary does all this? Even though she is worthy of the highest honors, she does

not want to be put on the same level as Christ but to have her example

considered and followed. The fact of the matter is that in popular estimation

the blessed Virgin has completely replaced Christ. Men have invoked her,

trusted in her mercy, and sought through her to appease Christ, as though He

were not a propitiator but only a terrible judge and avenger. We maintain that

we dare not trust in the transfer of the saints' merits to us, as though God

were reconciled to us or accounted us righteous or saved us on this account. We

obtain the forgiveness of sins only by Christ's merits when we believe in Him.

(Ap XXI 27-29a)

All that we really know about the blessed virgin, and all that we need to know,

is what we read of her in the Bible. There are some widely held beliefs about

her, though, that are not supported by the Word of God. In fact, Scripture is

silent about these things; so the Church ought not make these notions out to be

doctrinal statements. For instance, the "immaculate conception" of Mary cannot

be proven. The pious thought is that, for Jesus to be born holy, His parents

also had to be born holy. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin

Mary. So God, according to this belief, stepped in and made her holy at her

conception so that she could later conceive, bear, and birth the Holy One of

God. It is a pious thought, but it is not supported by the Bible. There is

also the thought that Mary remained a virgin forever so that Jesus' holiness

would remain intact. Whether Mary's perpetual virginity is true, we do not know

for sure. The Lutheran Confessions speak favorably of the semper virgo, but

Scripture does not tell us one way or the other about this pious opinion. Many

also hold that Mary, in her holiness as the mother of God, did not die but was

assumed into heaven. Again, God's Word on this is silent; so be ought not make

that assumption, either.

Nor can we assume that we can build ourselves up on these pious thoughts. Nor

can we hold ourselves up by virtue of our standing in this world. Mary was

humble; we are not. Mary let the Holy Spirit talk as she sang the Magnificat.

We let ourselves do the talking so we can hear ourselves talk, so we can hear

ourselves in our pietism, our false piety. What does Mary say about us? More

importantly, what does God say about us? "He has scattered the proud in the

imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones…and

the rich He has sent away empty" (vv. 51b, 52a, 53b). The power belongs to God.

Mary's little phrase, "He who is mighty," cuts down all who seek to puff

themselves up before God and before others. Saint Paul reminds us: "But God has

chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has

chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are mighty; and

the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen,

and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no

flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who

became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and satisfaction and

redemption—that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord"

(1 Cor. 1:27-31).

Mary boasted in the Lord. Her soul magnified the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced

in God her Savior. She confessed her faith in God: "For He who is mighty has

done great things for me"—I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of

heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; "and holy is His

Name"—Hallowed by Thy Name; "And His mercy is for those who fear Him from

generation to generation"—Lord, have mercy upon us; Christ, have mercy upon us;

Lord, have mercy upon us; "He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of

His mercy"—A Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Your people Israel;

"As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever"—"God, who at

various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the

prophets, has in these last days has spoken to us by His Son…" (Hebrews

1:1-2a).

The promise God made to Abraham was that those who placed their trust in the

Messiah who was to come would be his true descendants and heirs of the promise

of eternal life in heaven. They have received their eternal reward. We, the

spiritual descendants of Abraham and, by Holy Baptism, children of the heavenly

Father, are the blessed recipients of God's promise of eternal life through

faith in His Son, the Messiah who was, who has come, who is, and who will come

again. God has given us the promise, not because of anything we have done, but

of what He has done, looking with favor upon us in our lowly, sinful estate,

showing mercy on us who fear Him. He has done so by giving us Jesus Christ, Son

of God and Son of Mary, true God and true Man, to be our Lord and Savior. When

Jesus was born, God's presence was no longer in the temple or in Mary's womb but

in the very Person of Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem. The Word of God

became flesh and tabernacled—made His dwelling—in a barn because there was no

room in the inn, and He lay in the altar of the manger. As Jesus went about His

earthly ministry, His presence was among the people because His body was the

Temple. When Jesus cleansed the temple of the Jews, He said, "'Destroy this

temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews then said, 'It has

taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three

days?' But He was speaking about the temple of His body," as St. John notes

(St. John 2:19-21). Jesus made the supreme sacrificial act of worship upon the

altar of the cross. Jesus, our Great High Priest, made Himself the Sacrifice

for our sins. Mary watched as the fruit of her womb died for her, for all

mankind, for you and for me. Jesus has done great things for us. He died in

our place, and He has risen that we would live with Him forever, joining in the

eternal worship of our Lord that marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom,

which has no end. He has shown His strength and His power in defeating sin,

death, and hell forever by His death and resurrection, rendering them powerless

over us. Thanks be to God!

Our Lord exalts those of humble estate. He exalts us by sending His Holy

Spirit into our hearts, calling us by the Gospel, enlightening us with His gifts

of Word and Sacrament, sanctifying and keeping us in the one true faith, so that

we may hunger after our God and the gifts He gives us. We come to Him hungry.

He, who has established His presence among us, now fills us with good things—His

Means of Grace. He feeds us on His Word, for we do not live on bread alone but

on every word from His mouth. He feeds us on His body and blood, the body and

blood once present in Mary's womb, on the cross, and now at His Table in His

Sacrament. Here, in His house, at His altar, our Lord fills us with His good

things—His gifts of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. And by

His Spirit, our souls magnify the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in God our

Savior. We are blessed, and we are invited by our Lord to be given His gifts,

His good things. He bids us to come to the Feast, to eat, drink, and be like

Mary, and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures

forever. Amen.

SOLI DEO GLORIA





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