Gods Favor by maclaren1


									 SECOND                     PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
                                                                                                    Dr. Lewis F. Galloway
                                                                                                                          Senior Pastor

                                                            God’s Favor
Isaiah 61:1-4, Luke 1: 39-56                                                                                       December 21, 2008
This past summer, while Bunny and I were in language school           the people from bondage in Egypt; Hannah found favor with
in Mexico, we visited the shrine in Mexico City to the Virgin         God and become the mother of Samuel, who anointed David to
Mary, where she is known as our Lady of Guadeloupe. According         be king; Ruth found favor with Boaz and became the ancestor of
to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared over a period of a week        Jesus; Queen Esther found favor with the Persian king and saved
in December of 1531 to Juan Diego and told him to build a             the Jews in exile; Mary found favor with God and became the
church in her name. When Diego spoke the bishop, the bishop           mother of our Lord.
was unconvinced and asked for a sign. Mary told Diego to
gather roses and carry them to the bishop inside of his cloak.        The Psalms speak of how God looks upon the people with favor.
When Juan Diego opened his cloak, the roses had impressed             God’s favor brings people into abundant life; God’s favor brings
an image of Mary on his garment. Mary’s image on the cloth is         down the proud and lifts up the lowly; God’s favor rearranges
now the central icon of the enormous shrine built in her honor.       human affairs so that the downtrodden of the earth find justice
When we visited the sanctuary, it was packed with thousands           and the abusively powerful and selfishly rich find nothing. The
of worshipers gathered for mass. Ancient words were sung to           prophet Isaiah says that God’s servant will “proclaim the year
beautiful, rhythmic Mexican tunes. Our Lady of Guadeloupe is          of the Lord’s favor.” We know this servant to be Jesus. Mary’s
the second- most visited Catholic shrine in the world, with over      Magnificat, which speaks of the God who remembers the poor
ten million visitors each year. The Virgin of Guadeloupe is the       and brings justice to the earth, is what keeps Christmas from
patron of Mexico and the Americas.                                    drowning in sentimentality. Mary’s hymn of praise awakens us to
                                                                      the truth that what is at stake in the birth of Jesus is the coming
Drawn in by the words, the music and the prayers of the crowds,       of God’s justice to the earth.
I wondered about the power of Mary to speak to the hearts of
so many people. How did Mary became such a special figure of          In Jesus we, too, experience God’s favor. Such favor brings blessing,
hope to the people of Mexico? When I hear the words of Mary’s         but also frightening responsibility. In the evangelical tradition,
prayer, I begin to understand this.                                   we talk about “being saved” from sin and given new life in Christ.
                                                                      God’s favor brings salvation. Being saved is not an end in itself;
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God            it is not the goal of our lives. We complete our understanding of
my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his       what it means to be saved with an understanding that we are not
servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;    only saved from sin, but we are also saved for a holy purpose. The
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his      goal of our lives is to glorify God by serving God in the world.
name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to          Salvation is not about sitting back and enjoying some kind of
generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered      privileged or favored status with God; salvation means that the
the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down        Lord’s favor puts into motion a plan for our lives that aligns us
the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has      with God’s purposes.
filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
                                                                      Like Mary and the first disciples, we discover that hearing
The people of Mexico, in their struggles for freedom and justice,     and responding to the gospel means living as a witness to this
have seen Mary as the one who identifies with the poor of the         movement of God toward justice, in which God brings down
earth and with those who suffer injustice at the hands of the         the arrogantly proud and lifts up the humble poor. Why should
powerful. Through Mary, they experience God’s compassion and          we be surprised when bearing witness to God’s justice invites
justice.                                                              rejection and provokes resistance? Look at what happened to
                                                                      the disciples. Yet, did any group of people ever know more joy,
Mary says that the Lord “has looked with favor” upon her. To find     share greater love or live in such hope? To find favor with God
favor with God brings blessing, but also terrifying responsibility.   is an awesome thing in the original sense of that word. It is an
In the scriptures we find this same expression used with other        experience filled with “holy awe” or “terrifying mystery” because
great figures: Joseph found favor with Pharaoh and saved the          the Lord is at work in us.
people from famine; Moses found favor with God and delivered

                     7700 North Meridian Street • Indianapolis, Indiana 46260 • SecondChurch.org • 317-253-6461
As the year draws to a close, these words of Mary have special             Like Mary, he understands the risks and responsibilities that
meaning in the midst of a global economic crisis that exposes              arise when the God, who brings down the powerful and lifts up
some of the deepest problems in human behavior and human                   the lowly, looks upon us with favor.
society. They reveal how far we are from achieving the kind of
justice God envisions for humankind. The insatiable desire for             We do not have to go to Africa to join in God’s transformative
more holds the human heart captive. The $50 billion deception              work. Last weekend, we completed our annual Christmas
of a fund manager and the greedy and unwise practices of some              benevolence event. I estimate that over 1000 people in our
mortgage banking schemes are laid bare for all to see. The                 congregation work throughout the year to make this Christian
aftershock continues to rock businesses, institutions, charities           outreach into the community possible. Led by the deacons in
and individuals at every level and in every field. In the church           our church, there are planners, organizers, clothing sorters,
we face the pastoral issue of helping people find security and             contributors, gift purchasers, turkey donors, prayer partners,
peace in the midst of anxious times. We also have the pastoral             packers, box movers and delivery day drivers. This enormous
responsibility as a community of faith to care for one another             effort brings food, gifts, clothing and furnishings to 193 families
and especially for those who are in danger of losing their homes           representing over 800 individuals. God is planting the seed in
and have lost their jobs.                                                  a number of hearts to continue this outreach throughout the
                                                                           year. Some of our members are already working to insure that
Rev. Bob Hunter, our Director of Stewardship, wrote this week              families remain in their homes, have heat for the winter and
in a memo, “The number of people turning to their pastors                  opportunities for work and school.
and their church for encouragement, support and emergency
assistance is already increasing. Yet, those who are able to               This past week, one family in our church who tutor a young
lend support and offer assistance are also stepping forward to             girl found that her family was about to be evicted from their
respond to the needs at hand. The ministry of support, care                small apartment. Her father works as a roofer, but has only had
and compassionate intervention are needed now more than                    several days of work a week. They went with the family to the
ever. These are times and dilemmas that call for a thoughtful              rental company to insure that the rent would be paid. They
conversation about the mission of the Church, our core                     gathered food for the family and a collection of small gifts for
commitments and our response to the crisis at hand.” (Holding              the parents to give to the children at Christmas. They have built
Fast to Our Core Commitments, December 2008).                              a relationship of trust with the family. It was not always so. The
                                                                           father, once suspicious of the relationship or of any outside help,
If we know God’s favor, then we have an awesome responsibility             has now agreed to allow the daughter to participate in the 21st
to seek mercy and to work for justice. If we can provide                   Century Scholars program. As the friends in our church said,
emotional and spiritual support to those who are troubled, then            “This could be her ticket to a new life.”
this is our calling. If we can provide vocational counseling and
jobs to those without work, then this is our calling. If we can            God’s favor brings us blessing and salvation; God’s favor also
give so that those who have nothing can live, then this is our             brings awesome responsibility. God’s favor changes us and
calling. Even in this crisis - especially in this crisis - we are called   awakens us to the way God moves the earth to justice by bringing
to align ourselves with what God is doing to lift up the lowly             down the powerful and the proud and lifting up the hungry and
even as the proud are brought down by their foolish and selfish            the humble. Like Mary, we, too, are God’s servants “to bring
schemes. As witnesses to Jesus, we understand that salvation is            good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to
not only about leading people to Jesus, it is also about helping           proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to
them discover a transformed life through Jesus.                            proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” God has looked upon us
                                                                           with favor. Now, what shall we do?
This past week I met a man who has been a very successful
business person. He was active in his church and shared his
faith with others, but he never really stepped out of his comfort
zone to become engaged in Christ’s transforming work in the
world. One day, he decided to go to Africa to visit a missionary
who was working with very poor and underemployed people in
Zambia. What he saw changed his life. He saw the suffering
and hunger of people; he saw the faithfulness of those who were
giving their lives to help them; he saw the possibility of using his
gifts as an entrepreneur to help them. He knew he could help
them develop cottage industries and small businesses to provide
a more abundant life for the people. He is making a difference.

                       7700 North Meridian Street • Indianapolis, Indiana 46260 • SecondChurch.org • 317-253-6461

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