Dear beloved of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who was and is and is to come, Amen.
A few weeks ago, I attended a fundraiser for a local organization called One2One. One2One is a mentoring program that tries to develop relationships between middle schoolers and young adults. They do really cool work, mostly in Brooklyn Park and Roseville school districts. One2One mentoring relationships are empowering youth, equipping mentors and connecting communities.
At the lunch, the executive Director Stefan Van Voorst shared some startling statistics with us.
He began by noting that since 1980, we’ve seen a 15% drop in the number of high school seniors who have their driver’s license. Today there are more than 30% of seniors who don’t drive. Compared with only 15% a generation ago.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg:
- There’s a 20% drop in teenagers who date.
- A 25% drop in the number of teens who get together with friends every day.
- A 15-20% drop in the percentage of students who go to parties once a month or more.
- A 10% drop, in the last 10 years of students who have a positive view of themselves or on the whole are satisfied with themselves.
But numbers are increasing when it comes to people feeling lonely, or useless, or left out of things. In the last 10 years, students are spending more than 20 hours a week online, outside of school and work.
Stefan articulated that we are living through a crisis of connection. We’re living at a time in which there is declining trust and empathy and increasing isolation, loneliness, depression and anxiety.
You didn’t need me to run through all of those stats though. You know it’s true. This is a lived experience. And it’s not just true for young people, although they are experiencing it with a different kind of intensity than the rest of us. All of us are touched by this, it’s just a matter of degrees. I’ve said this before, but I feel as though we are all more connected than ever before, but that those connections are shallow.
Relationships of depth, relationships that anchor us and ground us, relationships that help us make sense of who we are, are increasingly fewer and further between. I know more about people than ever before, but I know fewer people really well. But we aren’t actually seeing one another anymore. Too many people feel invisible or like they’re adrift in this sea of humanity and they could easily just float away.
For the third week in a row, we are reading from the first chapter of Luke’s gospel. Two weeks ago an angel visited Zechariah announcing that he and Elizabeth would have a baby at a ripe old age. Last week Mary and Elizabeth found were together, supporting one another through their shared time of pregnancy. Today we pick up right where we left off, with Mary’s response to all that has happened to her.
I don’t know that I’ve ever preached on this text. It’s a familiar one. It shows up in all the lectionaries, revised common lectionary and the narrative lectionary. We sing this song of Mary often in worship. But I’m pretty sure today is the first time I’ve ever had to preach on this text.
I kind of wish it wasn’t my turn.
Don’t get me wrong, these few verses are both lyrically beautiful and incredibly powerful. It’s little wonder they have inspired such a treasure trove of hymnody and artistry. But I’m not sure I’m the right person to makes sense of this incredibly bold declaration from a teenage girl. I’m not sure that I’m fit to add to Mary’s radical declaration that God has done and continues to do something truly remarkable, truly world-altering with and through someone like her.
Maybe that’s the point.
Maybe instead of trying to mansplain or repeat the clear and powerful words of this young woman who has been chosen to be the one who carries God into this world, maybe I just need to just listen. Listen. Hear her words.
God is upending power structures. God is turning things on their heads. The strong become weak, the rich become poor, those who are satisfied become hungry. God has seen her. God has taken notice of Mary and generations will remember her. She is no longer invisible. She is no longer marginal. She has claimed her place on the world stage because God has looked on her with love and mercy. God has made it impossible to ignore Mary’s voice any longer.
In a world that dismisses the voices of young women, God stands against the force of current with Mary and she sings a song of change.
At the close of his presentation, the executive director of One2One, Stefan Van Voorst, shared a powerful image. I want to share it with you now.
He told a story of when he was a boy in rural Iowa. He said there was one family in the “neighborhood” who had one of those above ground pools in their backyard. At most, it was only 4.5 feet deep. It wasn’t very big but it allowed everyone to cool off during the brutal months of July and August.
After some general splashing and swimming around, eventually everyone would start walking in a circle, around the edge of the pool. He was never quite sure how it happened, but it always did, without fail. Pretty quickly an incredibly strong current would build up. The adults were jogging along. The older kids who could just barely touch the bottom felt as though they were running on the wind. And the little kids in their water wings were just whipping around the circle.
Then at some point. Somebody would yell switch!!!
And everyone would turn and start trying to fight the current. The adults took slow and plodding steps and with labored effort started to fight the current. The older kids had to fight just to stay in one place. But the littlest ones. Well, they were at the mercy of the current. They would be swept away their little water wings waving goodbye if there wasn’t someone nearby to hang on to. Someone to anchor them against the assault of the current. Someone to see them and to create safe space for them.
Mary’s song, this Magnificat, echoes through the generations. It is her declaration, God’s declaration that it is time to switch. It’s time to stand with those who need an anchor, time to stand with those whom the current threatens to sweep away. It’s time to stand and to listen. So that we can hear anew the great things that God has done and continues to do for this whole world in Jesus name. Amen.