The Rev. Lisa Fry
St. Mark’s, Little Rock
Picture this: a teenage girl, minding her own business, is confronted by a winged messenger who greets her unexpectedly.
“Greetings, favored one. God is with you.”
Now I ask you—what would you do if suddenly one morning you looked up and a rather intimidating looking creature appeared in your living room and said, (modern translation): “Hello, you have been chosen. God is here.”
What would you think?
What would you say?
This intimidating creature—which probably did not look like a childlike cherub with a bow and arrow, or even like a blond goddess with wings—but probably looked more like a powerful, “not-quite human” creature—this creature stands in front of you and tells you—doesn’t ask you—that you have been chosen – or favored—by God. God is favoring you with attention.
If it were me, I would probably think—if not say—me? Why me?
I’m not powerful, or wealthy, or special in any dramatic way. Why me? I’m just an ordinary person. I’m hardly perfect.
But perhaps that’s the point. Mary is an ordinary being asked to contemplate the extraordinary, and to picture herself doing it.
She imperfect. Which makes her perfect for the task.
I have a friend who is Navajo, and she told me that when her people weave any authentic Navajo rug there will be a clear imperfection worked into the pattern of the rug. The Navajo place the imperfection there deliberately, because they believe that this is precisely the spot where the Spirit of God moves in and out of the rug.
This concept of deliberately including imperfection may be difficult for those of us more comfortable with our western tendency toward “linear thinking”, supported by Greek logic and rational thinking. We are more comfortable with the notion of God’s perfection and our quest to be as nearly perfect as possible. Don’t believe it? Witness how many Type A personalities we have in the US.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan theologian suggests that the Semitic mind, the Jewish mind, — the Eastern mind—is much more comfortable with paradox, with mystery, with messy non-linear thinking. Jesus would have been very comfortable with this non-linear eastern, paradoxical mindset.
To the Navajo, or to a good Jew of Jesus’ time, perfection is not the absence or elimination of imperfection. Divine perfection—in both the Navajo and Jewish mind– is the ability to recognize, forgive and INCLUDE imperfection.
To the good Jew, God moves through us in precisely the places where we are imperfect.
God chose Mary for a special task. She was called to do more than she thought she was capable of—but isn’t that true of all heroes?
If you think about the great heroes— heroes in literature, or movie heroes like Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter, heroes in our communities, or those that serve the country– not one of them is perfect. Each one has flaws. Each hero has his or her Achilles heel. And each one of them finds themself going beyond what they thought they were capable of doing when they began.
The difference between heroes and those who are not yet heroes is that when a task is required, when a challenge is put before them, when someone or something offers them the potential to change the world against nearly insurmountable odds: they say, “I will do it.”
They may not know what the ending will be- at the beginning, but it all begins with them accepting the challenge.
Mary agreed to the challenge, not knowing what would happen. Would she be believed? Would she survive it? Would there be a happy ending? Would it have mattered to her?
When heroes accept a task, a quest, an opportunity—they don’t expect it to be perfectly executed, they don’t expect that it will happen in the perfect way they envision it—but they accept that it is the right thing to do. Their task is to make things right—not perfect.
They allow the Spirit of God to move through their imperfections. And we can too.
Mary was an ordinary human being asked by an angel of God to contemplate the extraordinary, and to picture herself doing it. Like all true heroes, she found herself going beyond what she thought she was capable of doing when she began. NOT because she was perfect, but because God recognizes, forgives and works through imperfection.
God continues to send opportunities and challenges, not because we are perfect for them, but because it’s through our very imperfections that the Spirit will work through us.