A few years ago, in my first or second year of priestly ministry, I was standing in the sacristy of the parish with our interim rector as we vested for the next Good Friday service. As we were vesting for the service, I shared a remark along the lines of, “Well, today we get life and death on a single day – incarnation and crucifixion.” My interim rector paused and asked what I was referencing, and I pointed to the liturgical calendar that showed the day as both the Feast of the Annunciation and Good Friday. On a single day in the liturgical calendar, we had the opportunity to recognize life and death – incarnation and crucifixion.
This morning, I opened up my prayer book to be reminded that today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. After readings from the Gospel according to John with a decidedly Lenten focus all week long, it was a bit jarring to then read Luke 1:26-38 when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary to bring her glad tidings of great joy. On this day, Mary learns that she is chosen to be the Theotokos, the Mother of the Christ child. In the story, which we all know so well, Mary has to entertain some rather disconcerting news that invites her to say yes to a rather complex announcement. She is faced with being ostracized socially, politically, religiously by being with child prior to her marriage to Joseph. In a moment, her life is turned upside down, and she still says to Gabriel in response, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NRSV)
Throughout the Lenten season, we have been invited to go deeper in our relationship with God in and through Christ Jesus. It is a season that invites life and joy through our walk with Christ, but it is also a season that can carry with it rather surprising twists and turns for us as we walk the way of faith. The full invitation of Lent is to consider how we can grow more fully as disciples and live into one of the natural conclusions of the Incarnation as posed by St. Athanasius when he wrote, “For the Son of God became human so that we might become God,” (On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius of Alexandria)
The season of Lent is a time in which we are asked to discern how each of us is invited to participate in the divine nature of God through the Son. Indeed, it is through the incarnation that we are afforded the opportunity to participate in the divine nature of God, and it is through the incarnation that we, baptized members of the Church, are able to receive divine inheritance. St. Paul writes of it in Romans 8 and in Galatians 3 when teaching about Holy Baptism, and we practice it each time we baptize new members into God’s household or renew our own baptismal vows.
The season of Lent is a time for us to faithfully discern the ways that we are to put our faith into action. We are invited to discern how to walk our faith. As we come to the close of Lent and turn towards Palm Sunday and Holy Week, I think it is important for us to recognize that the ways in which we live our faith, in which we incarnate God’s love in our own lives and participate in the divine nature will lead us to the cross. It might be that we are crucified in the public square for standing for our beliefs as followers of Jesus. It might be that we are rejected by certain people groups because we claim to be followers of Jesus. It might be that we experience humiliation in front of powerful people. Whatever form it takes, we know that living faithfully into the double love command will bring us to the foot of the cross where we see the depths of God’s love for creation.
The week that is approaching is the holiest season of the year, and it is punctuated by the Great Vigil of Easter on the Saturday evening before Easter Day. I hope and pray that you will join us for the whole of Holy Week and that you will experience the in-breaking reign of God’s love as we journey with our savior. I pray that you will join us as we travel a troubled road and ultimately are able to experience the overwhelming love shared with us through God the Son.
Like Mary, we will receive disconcerting news from some unexpected source. We will travel an unknown road, and we may be ostracized socially, politically, and religiously when we faithfully follow the way of love. Like Mary, we will be gifted the opportunity to say, “Here am I, a servant of the Lord: let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NRSV)