Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mary's melody: a revolutionary hope V

3. A revolutionary life
The humble lifted high, the proud brought down. This is what God is like. This is what his king Jesus is like. This is what his kingdom is like: many who are first will be last and many of the last will be first (Mark 10.31). God turns the world upside down to set it the right way up. This is God’s revolution.

And he invites us to join in. We are to be revolutionaries. We are to see the world upside down to see it the right way up.

Back in the first half of last century India was under British rule. The Anglican bishop William Temple, later archbishop of Canterbury, warned his missionaries to India not to read the Magnificat in public. He feared that it would be so inflammatory that it might start a revolution!

Martin Luther, the great 16thC reformer, said that Mary’s Magnificat “comforts the lowly and terrifies the rich.” The upside down God is a comfort to the distraught, the destitute, the downtrodden. But he’s no comfort to the comfortable. If Mary’s song is true, it “comforts the lowly and terrifies the rich.”

My question to us is: are we terrified? If not, perhaps we haven’t yet grasped the negative side of this divine inversion. We like to hear about the last being first, but remember: many of the first will also be last. We’re quick to see ourselves as victims, as the poor and needy, whether it be financially every time interest rates go up, or emotionally every time we are overlooked or our ego are bruised. But the reality is that most of us are far more rich than poor, more those with full bellies than hungry mouths, more those who benefit from the status quo than those who suffer from it. For all our gripes, even for those of us with left-wing sympathies, we’re more likely to be the ones up against the wall being shot than amongst those storming the palace.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
                   - Luke 1.51-53
I suspect we ought to be terrified. Will we be scattered? Brought down? Sent away empty? These are real possibilities if we are proud in our inmost thoughts, if we act as if we own the place, if we seek security in work of our hands. Are we secretly, or not secretly, full of ourselves? Am I too full to have room for others? Am I amongst the first, the top, the best, the most important, the most influential? Is this where I seek to live? Is this how I think of myself? Is it from the popular, the powerful, the attractive that I seek attention? Whose approval do I crave? Whose life do I envy? I suspect we ought to be terrified.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII.