Luke 1:26-38 Alive
Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Every year when the Methodist Conference meets in the UK (and in other places), Methodists sing the hymn “And are we yet alive?
Here are the words of the hymn:
1. And are we yet alive, and see each other's face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give for his almighty grace!
2. Preserved by power divine to full salvation here,
again in Jesus' praise we join, and in his sight appear.
3. What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past,
fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last!
4. Yet out of all the Lord hath brought us by his love;
and still he doth his help afford, and hides our life above.
5. Then let us make our boast of his redeeming power,
which saves us to the uttermost, till we can sin no more.
6. Let us take up the cross till we the crown obtain,
and gladly reckon all things loss so we may Jesus gain.
Although it may be a tradition now, it was originally used as a means of reminding Methodists when they met to ask one another whether they were living the life God had given them through the gift of eternal life.
Is the promise of eternal life one that we only experience after we die?
For the Wesleys, this life was very much for now. John Wesley said, ‘I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist… But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.’ The first line of the second verse says, Preserved by power divine to full salvation here. This speaks of the dynamic power of God, the Holy Spirit living in us so that we may experience the fulness of life here and now – to be fully alive. Wesley was afraid that Methodists would settle for a form of religion, a shell, and forget to allow the life of God to live through them.
How can we live a life that is fully alive?
The response of Mary, to the news told to her by the angel that she would give birth to the Son of God, gives us a clue to living life to the full. Mary responds, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
The clue is in Mary’s intentional surrender to God. Notice the word intentional. She didn’t just roll over and accept her fate. She was not forced into it nor have no choice in the matter. She chose to participate in God’s plan of salvation. Mary aligned herself with divine kenosis – the self emptying of God.
As the Wesleys sang...
He left His Father's throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam's helpless race
'Tis mercy all, immense and free
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Matthew 16:24,25 - Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Surrendering in the spiritual sense and in the way that leads to living life to the full, to being fully alive, is not letting anyone and everyone walk all over you. It is not giving up and giving in. It is choosing another path, aligned with the mind and way of Christ.
The place of prayer is very important here. In prayer, in that place, where we are seeking to meet with and be transformed by the source of life, we learn to meet our fears head on and to welcome the fears that control our lives and in welcoming them they lose their power, and we can then consciously decide how to act not react. This kind of prayer is something that I encourage you to learn more about and practice.
Spend some time repeating Mary’s words over in your mind, let them sit in your mind and fall into your heart. Perhaps use her words as a prayer to be fully alive. Notice any changes in your life.
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Photo: Clonmacnoise, County Offaly, Republic of Ireland
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation