Devotional Thought of the Day:
46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 (NLT2)
Thus Mary shows by using this word (Magnificat) what her canticle is about, namely, the great acts and works of God to strengthen our faith, to comfort the lowly, and to terrify those of high degree. To this threefold use and purpose of the canticle we should focus our attention and understanding, for she sang this not for herself but for all of us so that we would sing after her.1
Thining about Mary’s words and Luther’s commentary on this-this morning causes me to think a bit.
When most of us think about God’s incredible works, I doubt we create the same list as Mary and Luther. We probably would include the miracles, the Resurrection, the Splitting of the Red Sea, the feeding of thousands and the raising of dead people to life. (and no, not as Zombies!)
Rather than listing the miraculous and highly visible works of God, Mary lists things done in our lives, things we desperately need. These are the magnificent works of God! These are the things that make people sing aloud, and sing with all the power in their heart and soul.
So let’s look at them.
We start with God’s magnificent work of strengthening our faith. This is needed, for most of us struggle to trust those around us, never mind trusting God who we can’t see. This faith is nothing more (or less) than trusting God for what He has promised to do in our lives. But that isn’t easy, and so the Holy Spirit creates this dependence in our lives (not easy for either of us!) breaking through our jaded hearts and replacing them with souls that are alive, and resonate to the love of God.
Next is God’s magnificent work of comforting the lowly, the broken folk in our world. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit share in the title “the comforter,” something that should never go overlooked. God is found the midst of our brokenness, even the brokenness we cause by our sin and idolatry of self, there to bring healing, and comfort as we just can’t deal with the pain.
He is there, carefully cutting away the parts of our lives that are dead, circumcising our hearts as the Apostle Paul describes, with the care described as so tender, that a bruised piece of grass will not be broken. There He is, doing what is necessary to restore to us a life that is described with the word “abundant”.
The last concerns me the most. God will terrify those of us who are “of high degree.” We may not think we are, but how often do we play the Pharisee, saying “Thank God, I am not like that politician, or that illegal alien/refugee, or that I am so better of than those Catholics/baptists, evangelicals, or “those” types of sinners, etc.
We play at being of high degree a lot more than we would admit, and it takes the love of God to do what seems so… harsh. To terrify us, to scare us by revealing the depth of our sin. God has to humble us to the point where we are ready to see Jesus the Messiah and find relief in His presence. Where we will seek Him, knowing that only in Him will we find relief. You see, God doesn’t terrify those of high degree to punish us, but to help us let Him enter our lives, to help us encounter the works above. This is true in all of scripture, as He works to see us all come to repentance, to return to our relationship with Him.
These are the magnificent works of God…
It is when we see them happening, even when God is terrifying us (remember His purpose) and it is when we encounter Him, seeing Him at work in this – that we praise Him, that we rejoice in God our savior, along with that young lady, who gave birth to Jesus our Savior, who gave birth, to God.
May we praise Him as she did… not from obligation, but because we realize the work He is doing in our lives. AMEN!
1 Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 101). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
10 Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4 When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” GNT John 10:1-5
This word is expressed with great fervor and overwhelming joy, in which her soul and life lift themselves from within in the Spirit. Therefore, she does not say, “I magnify God,” but “My soul magnifies the Lord.” As if she wished to say, “My life and my whole understanding soar in the love, praise, and sheer joy of God, such that I am no longer in control of myself; I am exalted, more than I exalt myself to praise the Lord.” Thus it happens to all in whom godly sweetness and God’s spirit has poured, that they experience more than they can describe. It is not a human work to praise God with joy. It is a joyful suffering and God’s work alone and cannot be taught with words but only by personal experience. As David says in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” David puts tasting before seeing because this sweetness cannot be comprehended unless one has experienced it for oneself. No one attains this experience without trusting God with one’s whole heart in the depths and in the distresses of life. Therefore, David adds, “Happy are those who trust the Lord.” They will experience God’s work and will obtain God’s sensible sweetness and, through it all, understanding and knowledge.
Some may resolve not to speak for the Lord, but like Jeremiah, they find they must: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9 NRSV).
J. B. Phillips said somewhere that, while he was doing his well-known translation of the New Testament, he often felt like an electrician working on the wiring of a house with the power on.
The first thing that struck me today in my devotions was this line from the middle quote, “ No one attains this experience (joy) without trusting God with one’s whole heart in the depths and in the distresses of life.”
That sounds counter-intuitive at first. And at second glance as well!
But Luther notes why in the sentences beforehand. That we have to discover the refuge God is for us, that coming to realize that He is good. To understand that though, there has to be something to compare to experiencing God.
God doesn’t have to prepare those times of being deep in sorrow, or being caught in distress. The brokenness of the world will provide it, and the brokenness we choose compounds it.
From the brokenness, we find something extraordinary. We find Jesus there, and He is there with only one intention. To deliver us, to rescue us, to bring us home to the Father. ( He is so different from the older brother in the story of the prodigal son!) Jesus knows the Father’s heart, a heart that is restless until His wandering children come home to be rescued.
That is why Luther holds Mary up, as he explains the words of the Magnificat (it is a letter to a prince explaining the Magnificat – Mary’s song of praise in Luke 2) That this comes. True Worship, praise, adoration is not possible without God, and without the experience of God rescuing us from the midst of brokenness.
We have to learn to hear our Shepherd’s voice, to trust it more and more, to rely on what He has promised to us, mercy, forgiveness, love and His presence in the most intimate ways we can imagine. His body and blood given to us, His Holy Spirit dwelling with us, His presence with us in the midst of darkness, even the dark valleys where death’s threat can seemingly suffocate. He is there,
That’s why Jeremiah, broken, threatened with death, scared, scarred and broken cannot keep silent about the goodness of God! Matter of fact, trying to do so exhausts Him! The power that is experienced when we encounter God. It is undeniable, it is incredible, it is the feeling that comes from knowing you are loved so much by God, that He will go to extremes to bring you into His peace.
And there, in the midst of peace, there is joy. Abundant, unexplainable, mind-blowing joy…found in His presence…
For into the darkness shines His marvelous light, a light that shined for them, for us. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 97–98). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.