15 August 2019Galatians 4:4-7
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman. (v. 4)
Psalm: Psalm 45
Today is the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; not a feast that figures very highly in most Methodist churches. It is rather a strange idea to my mind of Mary bodily assumed into heaven, though I have a lovely picture, surely modelled on some image of Mary, of our very own John Wesley experiencing something similar. Angels, presumably Methodists, holding him on his journey upwards. But setting aside the cultural, theological and historical difficulties a modern protestant has with ancient Roman Catholic traditions, what is being noticed in this day is something profoundly important. It may even be soundly Methodist! For the place that Mary is seen to have is extraordinary. She is sharing in the divine task of incarnation. "When the fullness of time has come, God sent his Son, born of a woman." says Paul. Some strands of Christian Theology emphasise the ‘utter depravity’ of human beings, but Wesley always had a more hopeful view of us. Human beings were precious creatures called to be changed from "glory into glory". Mary shares with God the difficult business of bringing a baby into the world and, not to strain a point, her "fullness of time" was considerably more practical and uncomfortable. In the fullness of time, Mary is full of God and the co-operation between the divine and the human being is significant. It is God’s modus operandi – ‘the way God works’. It is a theme repeated throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament. I wonder if it is most obviously to be seen in Mary. Perhaps we should pay more attention to this woman and not lose sight of her because of Protestant sensibilities.
Paul reveals more in his letter. Because of this event we become children ourselves – not slaves but able to call God ‘Abba’. We are "heirs with Christ". It is worth reflecting on this when you are next feeling grumpy with another member of the Church. This is how God treats us, and how God needs us. What makes Mary extraordinary is not that she was special, but that she was ordinary a crucial representative human in God’s plan to heal the world.
- How does God trust us with his work of salvation?
- Does this have an impact on how we see our fellowship?
- How might Methodism learn to appreciate Mary?