The Annunciation | Luke 1:26-38
So much of our conversation regarding faith is centered on what each of us is doing about it. We are preoccupied with human liberty, some notion of “the individual,” and overly concerned with the subjective experience of God. We tend to want to play the leading role in the story, which we are writing, and we offer God a supporting role in a cast of thousands. We like to be in control of our universe.
The Annunciation is a reminder to me that what I'm doing about my faith is always in response to what God is first doing in my life, even when I'm not thinking of it in that way. God sent Gabriel to make an announcement to Mary about the role she would play in God's story, not to ask her to "volunteer." Like Mary, we are often perplexed when God enters our lives uninvited and calls us to do what seems humanly impossible.
Reflect with me on that thought today in pursuit of a more God-centered and objective life of faith.
St. Augustine was aware of the divine initiative when he wrote, “Thou didst strike on my heart with Thy word and I loved Thee.” - from Confessions (397-398 A.D.) If you know anything about Augustine's life, you know he started out as a very self-absorbed and strong-willed individual. It would take a major epiphany to get his attention. God's undeserved grace knocked on Augustine's heart and by God's grace he was able to love God in response.
C.S. Lewis offers this perspective:
Christianity “does not tell of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about Man. And the way in which it is done is selective, undemocratic, to the highest degree. After the knowledge of God had been universally lost or obscured, one man from the whole earth (Abraham) is picked out. He is separated (miserably enough, we may suppose) from his natural surroundings, sent into a strange country, and made the ancestor of a nation who are to carry the knowledge of the true God. Within this nation there is further selection: some die in the desert, some remain behind in Babylon. There is further selection still. The process grows narrower and narrower, sharpens at last into one small bright point like the head of a spear. It is a Jewish girl at her prayers. All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that” (Chapter 14, Miracles:A Preliminary Study, Harper Collins, 2001).
And, because I love the poetry and music of our faith so much, this 19th Century hymn comes to mind:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee.
Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
'twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
as thou, dear Lord, on me.
I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;
for thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
always thou lovedst me.
(Author: Jean Ingelow 1820-1897)
Maybe today would be a good day to say with Mary, “Let it be with me according to your word.”
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church