The Revd Rachel Young, Succentor
Song of Songs 2: 1-7; Acts 1:6-14
There is much that we see in the life and person of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to inspire us in our Christian discipleship.
Mary – who is described in the Gospels, a Jewish woman living in a male-dominated world, fulfilling her calling from God...
... and Mary - who was quickly venerated by the Early Church and who became a Saint and an icon.
We heard in our New Testament reading from Acts chapter 1 that Mary was among the disciples waiting in the upper room, just before Pentecost. This is the final mention of her in the New Testament, and she, like all of them, was constantly devoting herself to prayer.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the writer of Luke’s gospel describes the story of the early church, and verse 8 of Acts chapter one summarises its plot:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Mary’s role in this epic story had begun, of course, before any of the other disciples or followers. She had already been touched by the Holy Spirit, thirty or so years before, chosen by God to give birth to Jesus. And so we hear that, years later, she was also among those who believed that he was the long-awaited Messiah.
What sort of person was Mary?
Luke, in his Gospel, describes her as devout and faithful, willingly submissive to God’s plan for her.
We hear what he wants us to hear…
...there is much about her that we don’t hear, but perhaps we could use our imagination to grasp some idea of what life was like for her.
What was it like for her:
When Simeon warned her of the sword that would pierce her own heart…
When she and Joseph lost their 12-year old son in Jerusalem, finding him in what he described as “my Father’s house”?
When she instigated the first miracle of Jesus, at the wedding in Cana…
When she and her other children went to find Jesus, thinking he’d lost his mind in leaving home as an itinerant healer and preacher… and then were rejected in favour of his ‘new’ family…
What was it like to:
Hear that Jesus had been arrested?
To witness his crucifixion…and gain a new son, his disciple John?
And maybe, to be amongst the group of women at the empty tomb…but certainly, as one of the tight-knit group of followers wondering what was going to happen next?
She must have been resilient, to say the least. And she wouldn’t have known, as a young teenager, where saying ‘yes’ to God was going to take her…
We can all be inspired by Mary, not just those of us who identify as women. We can all be inspired by her to stay-on in there:
when life gets tough or challengingto continue to live within the church, to experience life together and to sustain and support each other and, like her, to give as much of ourselves as we can; to be touched by the Holy Spirit, to help in building the kingdom of God “to the ends of the earth”
Since a church was built on this site by the river, maybe, maybe around the year 606, but who’s counting, we’ve been under the patronage of Mary. That means that we believe she prays for us and holds us in her heart. But the convent and the priory that succeeded it weren’t just called St Mary’s but St Mary Overie. It’s a strange name, a strange title, there’s no other church with that dedication. It makes us unique amongst all the hundreds and thousands of churches dedicated to Mary, Our Lady, in every part of Christendom. We’re unique because the word ‘Overie’ is about where we are and where we stand.