Sunday Eucharist sermon

Just like last time we have asked for permission to put the Sunday Eucharist sermon, given by our guest from Taizé, online. Here it is — a Swedish translation can be found in the previous post.


Luke 1. 26-38

Let’s sit down and think about things. Let’s sit down and see what is possible. We can assess the risks, see what lies within our capacities and then make a decision. Does that seem familiar to you? Is that the famous Swedish rationality? It’s also very British!

The Gospel reading we’ve just heard challenges this outlook. The text is there to tell us of the origins of Jesus, but it also presents us Mary as the model of the believer who listens. In that respect, she is a model for us all. For listening is at the heart of any relationship. Without listening to the other, nothing can grow or develop.

The Bible tells us practically nothing about Mary – she is a young girl, betrothed to be married. She is not portrayed as someone looking for meaning in her life, we’re not told of any preparation that she has been through. We’re not told she’s strong or pious in her belief.

Yet, Mary will be at the centre of an event which will change the course of human history. God’s messenger, Gabriel, comes to her. He calls her “full of grace”, God’s free gift of love is bestowed upon her. He assures her that the Lord is with her.

But Mary stands before an abyss. She cannot see what lies in front. However,  it is an abyss where everything is given freely. That is where listening begins. That is where we start to take the risk of loving.

The first reaction is not one of overflowing joy, but of being perplexed. But Gabriel does not reject Mary because of that. He enters into her fear and reassures her of God’s favour. He reveals that the child she will bear will be called Jesus, Son of the Most High and his kingdom will have no end.

But Mary questions what is being said. How can this be? Mary is awake. There’s nothing passive in her. She has to reply to what is being asked and can therefore express her disbelief. She reacts, she engages herself in this event. Her questioning leads to further revelation, becomes the meeting point with the one who is before her.

Gabriel continues to explain that the child will come from God, like every gift. “For nothing is impossible for God” These six words. Let us listen to them. Let us remember them. At the same time they excite and disturb us. Excite us, because something deep within us seeks the risk of love, wants to live the adventure of faith. Disturb us, because we’re often content with what we have. It’s easier to stick with what we know. And fatalism marks our time. But what excites us is what lies deepest.

To begin listening to what is God’s plan in our life, and in the life of our church communities, we have to go beyond our conceptions of what we can or cannot do and place ourselves at the level of what is possible for God.

We have to undergo a continual conversion in our way of seeing life to give birth to the gift which God has placed within us. Our Christian life is about living on the edge, on the threshold. Like Mary we stand on the edge of an abyss. Are we ready to cast ourselves into that abyss and let ourselves be carried by grace?  

And so, Mary replies simply; “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” God has forced nothing. Yet God can do nothing without the trust of Mary. Because she understands that all is free gift, that she is trusted, she can trust in return. Let us pray those words with Mary.

And Gabriel leaves her. The moment when Mary gave her trust will carry her through everything else she will have to experience. Everything hangs on the thread of that trust. That trust remains fragile. It’s not about being strong, but about welcoming God’s gift and living from that.

When we take the risk of trusting in God’s free gift, then we receive Christ and like Mary give him to the world.

“Lord, let it be with me, with us, according to your word, for with you, nothing is impossible.”