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The blessed Theotokos…

December 17, 2007

vladimiricon.jpgChristians in the Eastern Orthodox tradition remind us of a remarkable truth when they honor Mary with the technical term theotokos or “bearer of God” in their special hymn:

Today is the beginning of our salvation,

The revelation of the eternal mystery!

The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin

As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.

Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, O Full of Grace,

The Lord is with You!


Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent.  Here is the last part of my sermon-“Making Room, Creating Space….”  The application.  The call to reflection and ongoing conversion/transformation.   


Are we, like Mary, willing to make room for missio dei?  Can we, like Mary, say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with it be with me according to your word.” 

If we are going to continue to live into our vision of being a missional community, it will mean continuing to make room, to create space for Jesus to be incarnated.  What does it look like to make room?  I want to quickly touch on three overlapping dimensions in which we are being called by the Spirit of God to make room.


We are being called to make room PERSONALLY:   

The question is:  how am I, how are you, making room for Jesus in our days? 

Are we making room through the disciplines of prayer and silence?  Listening for, being receptive and being shaped by God’s word.

Are we making room through how we manage our time and priorities?

Do our lives revolve around work, consumption and entertainment?

Are we making room in our personal space—our homes, our family circles…?

I imagine that the last several weeks, Caleb, Katie, and Clara have experienced in a very real way what it means to personally make room.  Sharing Mom and Dad, making room in their home, in their routines, so that God’s love might be made visible to two foster children.  They know firsthand that making room requires making sacrifices so God’s love can be expressed in visible ways. 

We are being called to make room COMUNALLY: How do we make room communally?   

Can we make room for Others–the Other, whoever that may be?


Here is where personal overlaps with both communal and missional dimensions of making room.  At SMC, we say that every member is a minister.  That means that gathering for worship is a priority, making room for Jesus to use me in the gathered community.  


Do we ever lay aside personal plans in order to make gathering with God’s people a priority?  If I always choose personal plans and pursuits over gathering with the worshipping community of Jesus, am I making room for Jesus to be incarnated?  When making a decision about whether or not to be “at church,” how often do we consider that when I’m not there, a part of the body is missing–that unique grace, gifting and ministry will be missed. 


Making room for the Other also means that we will consider how we think about and tell God’s story.  What kind of language do we use?  Do we (in ways that we are many times blind to) place ourselves at the center of God’s story?  When we do so, we alienate those who do not share out history, our socio-cultural perspective.  We make it hard for them to find room among us in meaningful ways.  They are welcome among us as guest, but do “they” ever become one of “us.” 


What if they didn’t grow up where we grew up?  Didn’t go to our schools?  Don’t dress like us, keep houses like us, know our traditions?  Can we make room for them?  Can they become one of us?  Can we become one of them?


I think the study by Conrad Kanagy is one way the Spirit of God is at work to uncover these patterns.  Are we in our church systems and structures willing to be transformed so we make room for others who are joining God’s story from a different historical, cultural context?  Where is the center and where are the margins?  Where do we place ourselves, our tribal story, within God’s Great Story?


We are being called to make room MISSIONALLY: 

We are being called to make room in lives—personally and communally—to be involved with God’s mission in the world.  It happens right in four-inch patch of grass.  That’s how it was for Makeesha.  Here is her story in her own words:


This afternoon/evening was very trying and emotionally draining for me. Our next door neighbor (we share a wall, they live right next to us in our apartment complex) came to our door when my oldest was at school and I was home with my youngest. She had just been beaten up very badly by her husband and adult son. Her face was actively bleeding from several places and she had blood from her head to her toes. I took her in, locked all the doors and called 911. Taking care of her, having to talk through it all with my 2 year old who saw everything and then going through the aftermath of written statements for the police and knowing that these drunk violent men were still on the loose affected me more than I ever thought something like this would.

They ended up taking her to the hospital suspecting a broken nose and basically just told me to be alert and call if they come pounding on my door (yeah thanks, very helpful). I called David asking him to pick up Shayel from school. We usually walk to pick her up (1 car) but I didn’t really feel like walking alone with Aliyah after all that.  When David came home we took the girls out for ice cream (I needed to leave for awhile) and we just got home about an hour ago to find 3 police cars in our complex – we saw them taking the husband into custody but the officer who came to our door to update us said the son had fled. I’m pretty freaked out right now and really could use prayer. I have never been in a position of fear like this but also dealing with the sadness and anger that comes from being involved in someone else’s tragedy is a lot to bear..esp. when it comes into my safe space, my home and erupts into my safe little world. We’ve tried to be Jesus to this family since we moved here last year and I’m finding the “messiness” of missional life to be really tough right at this moment.

Makeesha’s story is a Mary story.  It is a story of making room.  Mary surrendered to God’s call on her life with three words: “May it be.” Because she was willing to make room, even within her own body, the work of God was birthed.  Literally.  Jesus was incarnated, because she was available and willing to make room.  Because she made room, God used her to set loose the power of God, the gospel of the kingdom.  May we too be available and willing to make room for Jesus to be incarnated in our lives–personally, communally, and missionally.







3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2007 10:31 am


    Here’s an article about the “Vladimir Mother of God” icon you use:

  2. December 18, 2007 12:48 pm

    Good word Brian. A lot like Mary, we are impregnated with “Missio Dei”. God has placed within us, his mission for us in the world. The challenge is allowing God to birth it in our lives. Because we know if we allow God’s mission to birthed in us, our lives would never be the same.

    The same is true for community. God has impregnated congregations and faith communities with his mission. But we struggle to allow it to be birthed because we fear the maintaining of our institutions. The missio dei of God could “ruin” the way we have done church and upset the status quo. We wrestle with this within our own congregation. Or worse yet, we don’t wrestle with it at all.

    Giving birth to the mission of God in our lives requires a relinquishing of self and structure. I pray God helps us all as we wrestle through this.

  3. Jason permalink
    January 19, 2008 4:12 pm

    C. H. Spurgeon, in his autobiography The Full Harvest recounts a visit he made to Antwerp; Belgium, “That city is so full of images of the Virgin Mary that you cannot turn the corner of a street without seeing them, sometimes under a canopy of many colours, arrayed in all manner of imitation jewelry, and at other times in neat little niches, picked out of the wall for their special accommodation.”

    The term Mother of God is justified by Catholic and Orthodox Christians by Luke 1:43 in which Elizabeth greets the Virgin Mary as the “mother of my Lord.”

    Mother of God or bearer of God and the ‘mother of my Lord’ is two different concepts. Theotokos is not in Scripture as far as I know. This is another human intervention. Jesus existed before the world was formed therefore she is the mother of my Lord but not of God.

    Blessed art thou among women, not blessed art thou above women

    Mat 12:48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
    Mat 12:49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
    Mat 12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

    So we can say blessed art thou among men he who does the will of the Father. I am the mother of my Lord when I carry His spirit in an honorable way such as Mary did. Do not separate one individual out of the crowd for special honor. We all are saved by mercy, for all have sinned . Rom. 3:23 We say Abraham was blessed, Peter was blessed, Mary was blessed. Type in blessed in the Bible search and see who is blessed. God did not create man so that we would perpetually honor him or her. We pat someone on the back and move on to glorifying the most honorable one.

    I live in Mexico. That image would have candles burning in front of it. They would kneel before it, pray to it, sing to it. In the spanish translation of the verse below in place of serve it says ‘honor’. Thou shalt not make or buy or have or honor or serve or whatever else is clearly described here. Do the jews have images? I do not think it is necessary to put these sort of worshipped images on here to make a point. Who coined the term theotokos?

    Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them

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