St. Mary, Mother Of Our Lord
Dear friends in Christ. Observing a day remembering Mary, our Lord’s mother, does not smack of Romanism. Just because the Roman Church has invented all sorts of false doctrines of Mary, placing as much, if not more emphasis on her than on Christ, does not mean that we should ignore her. Just like any of the other saints who have gone on before us in the faith, Mary is part of what Scripture calls that [Heb. 12.1] great…cloud of witnesses that now surround us and serves us as an example of what the Lord, in grace, does in and through us. Our Lutheran Confession [AP XXI, 27] rightly note: Granted that blessed Mary prays for the church, does she receive souls in death, does she overcome death, does she give life? What does Christ do if blessed Mary does all this? Even though she is worthy of the highest honors, she does not want to be put on the same level as Christ but to have her example considered and followed. That’s exactly the reason why today we remember Mary—to give our Lord thanks that He has given us concrete examples of those to whom He has shown grace and shows that He wants to save sinners; second, so that our faith may be strengthened; and third, that we may imitate first their faith, and then their other virtues [Ap XXI].
In fact, Mary is truly a picture of each of our Lord’s Christians. We will see that as we examine our text from Psalm 34 and let it serve as a commentary on Mary’s hymn of praise, the Magnificat, recorded in today’s Gospel, the longest section of Mary’s words the Holy Spirit saw fit to record. Again let us remember what our Lutheran fathers wrote: Mary does not want to be put on the same level as Christ but to have her example considered and followed.
Jesus tells us [Mt.12.34]: What you say flows from your hearts. What do we read in Mary’s song? It is nothing but quotes or references to the OT, especially the psalms. That teaches us that Mary knew the Scriptures. She trusted the Lord’s word. She thought, pondered, meditated on what God had said there and of His promises of the Savior. She filled her heart not with the worthless things of the world, flighty trivialities that seem oh so important to so many today, the worthless mind-numbing things that flood us from all sides today, but she's filled her heart with the Lord and His word, on which she obviously meditated day and night. Because her heart was filled with Scripture, the Lord and His word, when she spoke, it showed. As she treasured and pondered God’s word, the Holy Spirit was at work; she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Like all of the OT saints, Mary looked forward in faith to the coming Savior and was saved by God’s grace through this faith, as she herself confesses: and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
1. David begins our text: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. As an OT Christian, David speaks for all Christians. David blesses the Lord at all times because he is always recognizing that the Lord is working in his life. The Christian doesn’t think of the Lord as an afterthought; that things that happen in life are coincidence or happen just because they do. The Christian doesn’t think that God is merely watching us at a distance, as a mere unattached observer. Instead, the Christian knows that the Lord is working everything in his/her life; that the Lord is “weaving a grand tapestry.” That’s why the Christian can bless the Lord at all times, because everything that happens to us or comes to our attention is ultimately from the Lord, either by what He gives us in blessing or by what He allows to happen to strengthen and purify faith, which will ultimately serve us spiritually well. The Christian recognizes that everything good that comes about is because of the Lord’s blessing and does not say [Dt. 8.9]: My power and the might of my hand have gained me this…
Also by always looking to the Lord, we are reminded just who exactly He is and who exactly we are. By always having His name in our mouths and on our lips, we are reminded that we are not supreme, not the judge of all, but He is. We, then, are reminded that not only is He is almighty Creator and Preserver of all, but that He is the holy God. That means that we are led to confess our sins, that we have gone against His just and holy will.
As we are always looking toward the Lord, recognizing that He is working all things in our lives and that we are still receiving blessing upon blessing from Him, we then see that it is all by grace. Recognizing our sin, we then see that we have in no way deserved to have Him work so wonderfully in our lives—but He does. This then leads us all the more to bless the Lord at all times and to have His praise…continually in [our] mouth. With Mary we exclaim in wonder: He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant.
How humbling to realize that the almighty God is not only working in our lives, but that He is working through us. We see that we are the Lord’s instruments, that the almighty God wants to and does work through us. Think of the extraordinary way He used Mary—to be the mother of our Savior; the Holy Spirit had come upon her, the power of the Highest overshadowed her. Her Son, would be conceived without the taint/ tinge of Original Sin; her Son would be in one and the same Person both true man, a Descendant of the woman, born of a virgin and also true eternal God. Because her Son is the eternal God, she would rightly have the title Mother of God. Mary, who confesses her need of a Savior, calling God her Savior, says in her song of praise: For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. Certainly though less extraordinarily, the Lord works through each of us. That gives meaning, significance, to the work of our calling that we do day in and day out, as we are husband, wife, son, daughter, student, teacher, employee, boss, butcher, businessman, etc. As we look always to the Lord and see that He works through us, we praise the Lord, the mighty one who has done great things to us—letting us be His instruments to carry out His will in the world.
Another great comfort is given in the words: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. We bless, we give the Lord praise and thanks at all times—including the bad times. In the bad times we can still praise and thank the Lord because we have His glorious assurance [Rm 8.28] that all things work together for good to those who love and Lord and are called according to His purpose. Even the bad the Lord is using for our spiritual good, to crucify the old sinful nature, to keep us close to Him, to purify faith. In the midst of hurt and trial we can bear all things—even with thanksgiving, because we have the sure promise of the Lord. Even through the tears we can smile and give Him thanks—perhaps not understanding why, but we can do so because His promise to us is certain. His grace comforts and helps us in bad times, which leads us to thank Him always. On top of that, since the Lord is in control, who/ what can hurt or harm us? We have a gracious Lord who has promised us: The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them.
2. Not only do our Lord’s Christians, like David in our text, like Mary in today’s Gospel, look to the Lord at all times, but we are humble—we don’t look to ourselves but the Lord. We rely on the Lord, like David says in our text: My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. Our reliance is not on human wisdom, might, riches. We rely on the Lord. Our boasting is not of ourselves but of the Lord, as Scripture says [1 Co 1.31]: He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.
The Christian is humble because the Christian turns away from self and to the Lord, to His word and promise. Instead of boasting of ourselves and what we have done, instead of wanting to hear the sound of our own voices, we want to hear and receive God’s word. We submit ourselves to it; we believe and accept it, even if it seems contrary to our reason, even if it seems God is not acting or is faithful to His promise. Mary couldn’t understand how she could be the mother of the Savior of the world but she simply bowed her head and in faith said [Lk 1.38]: Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word. Looking to the Lord and humbly accepting His promise made thousands of years before, Mary said: He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
What a glorious peace our Lord’s Christians have as they turn away from trust in themselves and their own strength and humbly look to the Lord for His help in every trial. Our text: I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. In true reliance, with the eyes of faith, they look to the Lord and seek His word and pray for His leading and guidance, His help and rescue. When Christians pray, we are certain of a kind, gracious heavenly Father who will hear and answer our prayers in a way that is best for us. Our faces are radiant because we have a wonderful peace in that humble reliance upon our heavenly Father—even if we are/ remain in trial, need and suffering.
3. As the Christian always looks to the Lord and humbly seeks out His word and His help, the Christian’s life will then be marked by a life of pointing to, confessing the Lord. After Mary found out she would be the mother of the long promised/ awaited Savior, found out how graciously the Lord dealt with her, she doesn’t pat herself on the back but turns around and gives all praise to the Lord. After all, always looking to the Lord, she recognized how wonderfully the Lord worked in her life and in humble faith received His word to her. In her Magnificat, hymn of praise, she recognizes the simple fact that For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. But she throughout points to the Lord and His grace and mercy to her: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant. What is in the heart overflows through the mouth. Praise and rejoicing outwardly proclaim God’s gracious love and deeds. We truly honor God first by faith in the heart. Faith always looks to the Lord, recognizing His working in our lives, and humbly relies upon His help; faith receives the Lord’s word. It is the highest worship as it says “yes and Amen!” to God’s promises and receives the gifts and blessing He wants to give us in Christ. The apostle puts it this way [Ro 10.10]: With the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. But this faith then shows itself by deeds of love and by confession of that faith.
As faith is confessed, that is the praise of the Lord that is in our mouths. Mary, and all Christians down through the ages, first honored the Lord by faith in the heart and then by confession of that faith from the mouth. That’s why we’re here in Church—to receive by faith the Lord’s blessings of forgiveness of sin and every grace from the Lord. Once receiving it we then can’t help but honor our Lord outwardly by confession of faith. As we confess our faith, confess what the Lord has done to/for us, we encourage our fellow Christians to believe and trust in the Lord further: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! We have experienced the Lord’s grace and trustworthiness and we invite and encourage others to experience that same sweet, precious, life-giving comfort He gives us through His Word. Oh, magnify the Lord with me. And let us exalt His name together.
As we today remember Mary and the special role and privilege the Lord, in grace, gave her, let us also consider and follow her example as she recognized the Lord’s work in her life, as she humbly received from the Lord what He gave her, and as she honored the Lord first with faith in her heart and then by confession of that faith, which is praise. INJ Amen.