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About the episode

Mary’s Magnificat prayed for the day those excluded from societal greatness would have a measure of God’s greatness and have a reversal of their societal standing.  As a governing body, you don’t ban a song unless it encourages the lowly in society to have hope for a reversal!

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about Mary, The Magnificat, Joseph, and betting big on God in 2024. Mary trusted God, and her big yes was a big bet on God to break into the world as one of us! Listen in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.

Transcript

Bishop Wright: 0:00

She’s also praying for the day, longing for the day when the people who are excluded from societal greatness are going to have a measure of God’s greatness and it’ll reverse their standing in society. That’s what we don’t talk about in terms of Mary right. You don’t ban a song from a teenager as a matter of a governing body or a nation state, unless that kind of a song would encourage the bottom tier of society to hope for reversal of status quo.

Melissa: 0:30

This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright. Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rau, and this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. Mary, merry, bishop.

Bishop Wright: 0:59

We’re almost there, merry Christmas almost.

Melissa: 1:03

Or maybe it’s Mary. Advent and Happy Christmas.

Bishop Wright: 1:06

So is it M-A-R-Y, m-e-r-r-y.

Melissa: 1:10

You’ll see, I really like that. You went there. So today we’re talking about greatness. That’s what you called your devotion, based off of Luke, chapter 1, verses 46 to 55. And it’s really. I mean, I know, bishop, that you love the Magnificat.

Bishop Wright: 1:26

I do.

Melissa: 1:27

And the Magnificat. You kind of say like, look, this is really about magnifying God’s greatness. And so it’s Christmas time almost, as we’re barreling towards this weekend. What’s kind of hitting you today about what God is doing in Mary’s life? Can we just talk about Mary? Let’s just talk about that for now.

Bishop Wright: 1:50

Let’s talk about that.

Melissa: 1:51

Let’s talk about that. What’s hitting you, about the ways God impacted or intruded or pushed in or blessed Mary?

Bishop Wright: 2:02

Well, I mean, I’ve said this countless times before and I’m still stuck on it. We really swoon and we hear these beautiful choirs sing the Magnificat, and we should. But I think we might want to slow down or maybe just take a time as a group to sort of read the words. I mean, mary’s song was banned in any number of countries. We look away from some of the things that Mary said about God’s intervention, that God means to intervene in the economy, that God means to intervene in how we do power, that people excluded from the benefits of health and wealth and safety and security are going to get those things, and those of us who hoard those things are at some point going to know what it means to lack those things. I mean, there’s a great reversal in Mary’s song. I mean. So this young teenager, you know, her rap lyrics have a bite to them, you know. And so the way that lots of the prophets poets do, you know, whenever you hear the prophets speak or sing or their words are captured like the Magnificat, they’re trying to tell us two things. They’re trying to tell us that they love God and they’ve got, they have a higher awareness of God and they also have a higher awareness of the state of their neighbor, and that is true for Mary. So it’s at once personal and also communal. She’s aware how she’s experienced God’s greatness, and I go on about that. But she’s also and I think this is a beautiful movement she’s also looking for the day, praying for the day, longing for the day when the people who are excluded from societal greatness are going to have, you know, a measure of God’s greatness and it’ll reverse their standing in society. That’s what we don’t talk about in terms of Mary. Right, you don’t ban a song from a teenager, you know as a matter of a governing body or a nation state, unless you know that kind of a song would encourage the bottom tier of society to hope for reversal of status quo.

Melissa: 4:17

You know who’s coming to mind.

Bishop Wright: 4:18

I bet you’re sorry.

Melissa: 4:19

You asked now you know who’s coming to mind right now. Is it gosh? Is her last name Gorman, Amanda Gorman.

Bishop Wright: 4:25

Amanda Gorman sure.

Melissa: 4:26

Holy cow, she’s just like what you were saying. I was picturing her because I think if there is a poet who is to be banned in our time, and they tried. I know.

Bishop Wright: 4:38

Well, you know I mean Walter Brueggemann goes on about this about you know, what we’re able to distill in poetic language, we can’t distill in prose necessarily. And this is why, you know, what I like to say is that there’s no wall that you can build that’s high enough to protect you from the poetic image and from the poetic word. And so here she is. But what I, what we, you know. Before we get going on all that, let’s pause a moment and just and realize that you know past legitimate concerns and legitimate fears that Mary had, that she expressed at Gabriel. The Angels whisper. She still bet big. She still bet big on God. You know and I guess maybe that’s the Christmas word there is for all of us is that how will you bet big on God in 2024?

Melissa: 5:23

How will you bet big Wow?

Bishop Wright: 5:25

On God in 2024, because Mary is betting on God’s trustworthiness. If you read the document you know, read the Magnificat. She understands who God has been as a good little, you know, jewish girl. She understands what our tradition has said about God’s radical interventions in real world history, and so she wants to bet big on that. And she finds herself, you know, with her, yes, as sort of exhibit A she wants to be, she is exhibit A, she wants to be, exhibit A Passed a few questions that she has for the angel, like how does God do this beyond biology? I mean, she’s like, yeah, let’s do this, and it’s quite amazing.

Melissa: 6:05

Yeah, I love that too. I’m also struck by the fact that there are so many pageants. You know, one of the things that I get to do is is is help plan the Christmas pageant that we do at church every year. Good, and yeah, I love it. And yet I’m struck by the fact that, in this one instance especially, we really lift up. Mary and Joseph is kind of like in the background always in the background, and yet he kind of magnified God as well.

Bishop Wright: 6:36

There’s no doubt about it.

Melissa: 6:38

I’m not trying to take credit away from Mary at all, because whoa girl props.

Bishop Wright: 6:43

Yeah right, Girl power, right yeah.

Melissa: 6:45

I just I’m very painfully aware that sometimes people look for themselves in the story.

Bishop Wright: 6:50

Yeah.

Melissa: 6:51

And and Joseph also did a thing.

Bishop Wright: 6:54

Well, joseph did a big thing. Let me tell you, mary, mary, we don’t get a sense from scripture that Mary has a sort of a plan. Mary’s just kind of bopping along, you know, and, and, and Gabriel interrupts her day, right, and so, you know, mary is, you know, hail, high and highly favored one, right. And so Gabriel sort of lays out a plan and again, past one you know very legitimate question, mary’s like, yeah, let’s do this right, joseph, we find Joseph in an entirely different state. Joseph had a plan. And so, you know, if, if we were really preaching here and making a point, you know, we, we might say that maybe Joseph gets the upper hand here. I mean, he doesn’t get to bear the baby, but I mean maybe Joseph gets the upper hand here in terms of faithfulness. Joseph has a plan for his life. He’s, he’s affianced a nice young lady, he’s. He has an idea about what his life will be. He’s got, you know, maybe he has an imagination about where he’ll live and what they’ll do together and how many kids they’ll have. I mean, he has, he has designs right, and then now, all of a sudden, all of that has come to, you know, a big tragic stop. You know, and it’s not going to be what he thought it was going to be, and the scripture is very clear. He endeavors to think about how he can dismiss her quietly. I mean, he has integrity. He doesn’t even want to make a public, you know, matter of this. He doesn’t want to shame her and he could, even under the law he could and he does it. And so, you know, I mean, the question for all of us is is that, you know, when the whole thing falls apart, will you still be committed to gentleness? Can you still be committed to kindness when you feel, you know, betrayed by someone you wanted to build something with? I mean, you know, look, there’s all kinds of, you know, inconvenient questions in this story, and and and Joseph is ready to get a divorce. He’s standing on the precipice of that. You know, maybe he’s thinking, well, god can do whatever God wants to do, but God can do it somewhere else. You know I. You know I wasn’t asked that. You know I wasn’t asked, I wasn’t consulted at the, at the genesis of this idea. But the angel, the same angel that whispers to Mary, whispers to Joseph. And somehow Joseph meets in that angel enough comfort and consolation and clarity that he continues. And you know, look, I’ve been married for a while now, I love my wife, and if my wife would have told me very early on in the marriage hey man, you know, in advance of our wedding day, you know I’ve got news, and the news would have been you know, I am with child and it’s God’s doing and it’s marvelous in my eyes. I like to think that I’m faithful, I like to think that I certainly aspire to be, I really do, and I don’t know if I would have been half-demand. Joseph was, and so I think that Mary is due her regard, but I think we’ve not given Joseph his due.

Melissa: 10:12

Yeah, so I’m aware of the word magnify and you know when we think of magnify in our context, like I think of making bigger or you know, honing in or whatnot, and so I don’t know what the Hebrew or the Greek is. Hebrew, I would imagine, well, greek, who knows? I don’t know, because it was the New Testament but the Hebrew people.

Bishop Wright: 10:37

Right, that’s right.

Melissa: 10:38

Really, I don’t know what the words were or are the original, and so I’m just curious about that choice of words. It’s not just I praise God, but my soul magnifies the Lord, and I think that can notes that you talked about trust.

Bishop Wright: 10:56

Yeah.

Melissa: 10:57

And I think that’s what is trust compound what God can do in the world.

Bishop Wright: 11:01

Oh well, I mean, it seems like this is the currency, right? I mean, you know, we want to bring lots of things to God, we want to give God some stuff, and sometimes that’s appropriate. And you know, we want to give God our questions, and that’s appropriate. And sometimes we want to give God our intellect, but stop at our intellect, and that’s fine too. But the Bible is clear. You know, we cannot please God without faith, right? So there’s something that’s like rocket fuel to the relationship between us and God that can only be delivered through faithfulness, which is trust boiled down, right. And trust is about consistent behavior over time, right? And so this is where, when I look at Mary’s song, I realized that Mary is talking about the faithful God of her ancestor. She’s picking up those threads and she’s pulled them into her life, and now she can verify that for herself, and that is what she’s amplifying, magnifying, that is what she’s holding up, she’s saying. This is also true, you know. This is also true for me, this thing. You know, one of the most poignant things about a trip I took to Montgomery Alabama a long, long time ago with my kids was to see that first church that Dr King had. Dr King had not finished his PhD, he was a brand new husband, had a brand new baby and this whole bus boycott thing happened. And you know, he was the bright kid with all the education, came from a great family. He finds himself in Montgomery. He finds you know, all the racist attacks and assaults on him. He finds jealousy and other pastors who wanted the spotlight but didn’t get it. He finds himself at a table at midnight and he’s just, he’s lost, he’s disoriented, he can’t find any comfort in coffee, he can’t find any comfort in his academic books and he says to himself you know, now is the time I’m going to have to trust the God that my mom and dad talked about. So it’s interesting to me that, you know, in that moment this great theologian, perhaps one of the greatest theologians, practical theologians that we have experienced in American history, you know, is working on the faith of his family and the faith of his tradition. And it’s only in that moment, when he’s pressured and he’s tested by time and circumstance, that he calls it into his own life and somehow he hears a whisper that, martin, if you’ll stand up for truth and justice, I’ll be with you even to the end of the ages. Even what he hears comes from you know, beyond himself and into words that have been used in scripture. So I think that’s what we’re talking about here, a trustworthiness that Mary is saying, hey, me too. I understand that is too. I understand it to be true as well, and I think that’s what pulls us together as people of faith. Look, think about what church is supposed to be. Church is supposed to be a once a week gathering perhaps, where you look to your left and your right and you say, hey, I found him faithful too. Hey, me too, hey, me too. And I’m aware you know. So that’s that great congregational affirmation, that’s that great congregational amen, rather than sort of a polite place where we sort of suffer through an hour and 15 minutes, you know, with weird words and you know all this sort of stuff. It’s actually like, oh, people have come from wherever they’ve been during the week and the hills and valleys of what they’ve been through over the week, and we’re lending and we’re borrowing strength from one another because we’re not all in the same place at the same time. So I may come through the doors of a church and I may be running on fumes, I may be weak, my faith may be being really tested and I don’t have strength to stand on my own. But you may be absolutely buoyant on that particular Sunday and so in the singing and in the fellowship I get to borrow from you, and then maybe vice versa. That’s a great and dynamic understanding that I think of a lot about what congregations are and why they are still necessary for gatherings like that, for us to say, yeah, you know, I’ve been through this too and I’ve found God to be trustworthy. I have all the answers, but find God to be trustworthy.

Melissa: 15:44

Well, I’m really interested in getting to that trustworthiness, like making the decision to trust and remembering to trust. And I’m not sure that the story in the Bible, like so many other stories, tell the full thing. Maybe it does, but I imagine if I were Mary first of all, I don’t even know that I would have gotten to the Magnificat, let’s be honest. But I’m really interested in that period of time before acceptance comes and before trust comes and the just the brokenness of the distraught, you know, that feeling of oh my gosh, like what the heck has just happened.

Bishop Wright: 16:35

Sure, you know, you said something really, really big there, and that was, you know, before we get to the Magnificat. And so you know, what do we have within our own power, right? So that’s what I’m interested in. What I’m interested in is is that you know how many young ladies were approached before we got to Mary? How many? How many knows that Gabriel get? You know, I mean, I don’t want to mess up anybody’s religion here, but you know, I wonder about things like that. You know, mary goes down in history as having said yes, and then you know writing a song about it. That’s what we’re talking about today, right, and maybe there were Mary’s or Betty’s or Judy’s before that who said, no way, jose, right, and Gabriel said Gabriel, you’re out of your mind man. And maybe they said to Gabriel hey, man, I just, I just attend worship. You know, I don’t want to be worship. I mean, look, the brass tax of this thing is, you know, I’m sorry for the rough edges of this, but this is what is true is is that you and I, as people of faith are, you know, over our lifetime are gorged on these words and on these songs. And so the invitation always no condemnation, but the invitation always is let’s make it real today. Let’s make it real today. Let’s let’s do these ridiculous things that the Bible says let’s forgive, let’s give. You know, let’s be kind, even in the midst of hardship. You know, let’s make sure that there’s enough for everybody. I mean, every day, in a matter of speaking, we’re invited to be Mary. Every day we’re invited to be Joseph. You know that’s. The only thing that’s wrong with Christmas is that we only celebrate it once a year. I mean, you know, there’s a perpetual Christmas that is happening, where God is breaking in. The invitation has been issued and God is waiting for a faithful response. Here’s the good news about God God doesn’t give up, you know, god doesn’t get, you know, captured in frustration and just leave us. You know, I don’t know how God does it, but God’s always, always keeps a hand outstretched. I mean, think about it when Jesus breaks in, you know, to Palestine. You know, 2000, some odd years ago, it wasn’t because they were getting it right and God was just there to punctuate. I mean, it was tragically wrong. People were being oppressed, people were being abused, you know. I mean you know, everything that was wrong with our world now was wrong then. And yet, you know, somehow, this is the way God distinguishes God itself. God breaks into these situations and provides the spark.

Melissa: 19:14

But that’s God breaks in, that’s right, god breaks in, it’s not gentle.

Bishop Wright: 19:21

Well, look, I mean, it’s not gentle. I’ve seen childbirth. That’s not gentle, you know. Let me tell you something. You know we have five kids. You know I was there, I can tell you know, let me just say praise the Lord, and Mother’s Day should be what it is, it should be bigger than Father’s Day, and God bless you. I have been there. And so God breaks in, but God breaks in in flesh and blood. God breaks into the real world. God doesn’t break into TikTok and Instagram and you know our soft, you know hallmark card imaginations. God breaks into our visceral, you know real world and that’s where God does God’s best work. So, in terms of process, you talked about process and people always want to know process. I mean, I think the process is is that you’ve got to decide? Do you want to bet on God? And I think you’ve got to allow yourself. I mean, this is what happens to you know our enlightenment sort of you know lens that we look at religion through. I mean, you know what the ancients knew was? Is that a lot of what we’re talking about is really beyond cognition, right? So you know, in the Episcopal Church we affirm intellect, we affirm gray matter. Reason, memory and skill are a gift from God, but they’re not all that God has given us right. At some point we have to get to the place where we have to take what they call a leap of faith. And so if you’re going to just sort of circle the runway, in terms of intellect and intellectual curiosity, you’ll never sort of land the airplane. At some point you’re going to have to say, okay, god is more than my small intellect. And so again back to the question how may I bet? How can I bet big on God? You know today, tomorrow, in 2024? And here’s what we know, right, that the majority of the reason why we’re not betting on God has to do with fear. Fear of what other people will think about us, fear that there’s no God, fear that I’ll fall and not fly, fear that the whole thing is a ruse. I mean, the fears go on and on and on and on and on, right. And so this is why I think the message of Christmas, ultimately, is the most important message. So what breaks in An idea? You know, a warrior, a fully developed, muscular warrior, on a blazing white stallion. What breaks in A baby? A baby breaks in, right, I mean. This is God is a genius, right? I mean, how would you break in? I mean we would come in with tanks and drones and the whole nine? Right, he breaks in as a baby because he’s looking for square footage in hearts. That’s what it is right, cause what we know is is that policies alone, military sort of acumen alone, won’t get us there. What will get us to the place where we can actually make room for each other? And that’s when our hearts have more room, right? What will end our sinful warring madness, both at home and in Gaza and everywhere else, if our hearts get bigger, if I start to see that there’s no other, really, that they’re all siblings, right. And so he comes in, humble, vulnerable, he comes in so low so as to lift up everybody, and so it’s breaking in, love is breaking in, and I could tell you and I think personally, you and I most of both agree you know I’ve not been guilted and shamed into anything that’s been sustainable in my whole life, but when my heart was really moved by some extraordinary inclusion or gift or extravagant acceptance or unbelievable forgiveness, that is what changed something in me. You know, didn’t get me all the way, didn’t make all the shadow sides go away, but that is the thing that moved the needle and those are the things I go back to when I get stuck is how I was so clear and then this happened, and that thing had to do with love, overcoming some aspect or manifestation of fear in my life.

Melissa: 23:43

I really don’t have much more to add. Bishop, I was listening to you and I thought, yeah, it’s like that part of the song where who is it Carrie Underwood talks about? Jesus, take the wheel. Yeah. Am I right, is it Carrie Underwood? I hope it is.

Bishop Wright: 24:00

You got me on that one.

Melissa: 24:01

I hope it is. Anyway, it’s like your fear, you’re so clinging, we so cling to fear, and then when we remember, or something gets our attention, like God, when we let that fear go, that feeling, that feeling of resignation, to me is the feeling that we’re finally agreeing to trust God to take it. And so I guess I just did add something.

Bishop Wright: 24:27

You did it, and wonderfully so.

Melissa: 24:30

Bishop, thank you so much. Happy Merry Almost Christmas.

Bishop Wright: 24:34

Happy Merry, Merry.

Melissa: 24:37

We’re grateful for you to listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.