Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Risks of Fruitcaking (Luke 1:39-45)

What do we who share the common lot of the LGBTQ+ umbrella have to learn from this encounter? Nothing? Everything?  

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped insider her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry:
          "You are most blessed of women,
           and your child will be blessed!
How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!"
                                                                                                                              Luke 1:39-45 (HCSB)

Annunciation by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin

Why did Mary seek out Elizabeth? Was the unplanned teen pregnancy too much for the parents and this teenager? Was this their hastily arranged plan for getting Mary out of the village before whispers started?

It is a risky thing to be in conversation with our elders. Their wisdom is polished by experience and hardened by lived truth. The younger might learn something about life they have not understood. The younger might learn some truth about themselves they prefer to turn a blind eye to. Elders rarely have time to play the game of pretense that the younger invest so much energy in. Once the pretense is up, there is but the cold hard steel of reality: “You are an unwed pregnant teen Mary. You have brought shame upon your family, upon your affianced, upon your God.” 

Yes, it is a risky thing to be in conversation with our elders. I can hear the elderly Elizabeth asking, “Why did you come Mary? Did you think that just because we are both pregnant that you are welcome here? My pregnancy is a noble one, born out of a closed womb now open like Sarah, Rachael, and Hannah - the great mothers of our faith.” This is the right of the elders to understand the deep connections of action and reaction to the history of their people. The elders understand they are not the first, nor will they be the last, to face a particular situation and lessons learned can be lessons taught.

Mary is at risk. In her naivety did she not understand the consequences if this encounter had gone wrong? It is one thing to be spurned by those outside our circumstances, it is another thing altogether to be spurned by those with whom we share a common lot. What if Elizabeth was jealous? What if Elizabeth did not want a detractor to her long awaited maternal joy? How easily she could turn Mary out to the street, another wayward teenager with poor impulse control.

Elizabeth was at risk too. As an elder she knew well the consequences of meeting with the young. The young, not yet made cynical, have a way of questioning the foundations elders have built their understandings upon. Mary could easily come and scoff at a woman who yearned toward one late-life pregnancy, while Mary’s own conception seemed readily easy in comparison. Mary could laugh at ancient tradition far removed from pressing contemporary issues. 

Yes, there is risk in this meeting. Far more than the text can acknowledge. The old and the young grappling with their common lot. The scene could fly apart, except that it doesn’t. Doors could be slammed, except they aren’t. Tears of anger could be spilled, except they don’t flow.

Mary is warmly greeted. Recognized for who she is.  Celebrated for what she has done. That is the deep wisdom of the elder Elizabeth. Mary is not repeating the history of her tradition, she is opening up new horizons with new possibilities. That is the true gift of the young. 

What do we - who share the common lot of the LGBTQ+ umbrella - have to learn from this encounter? Nothing? Everything?