Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Inside Out and Upside Down

Isaiah 35:1-10    
Luke 1:47-55

Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
who has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant.
     Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
     and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God from generation to generation.
God has shown strength with a mighty arm,
     and has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
     and lifted up the lowly.
God has filled the hungry with good things,
     and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped God’s servant Israel,
     in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
     to Abraham and Sarah and to their descendants forever."
--Luke 1.46-55

“In Advent we prepare with Mary and Joseph for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem long ago, we open our hearts for Christ to be born now in our hearts, and we await the future coming of Christ in human history. We can see such interwoven layers in Mary’s song—not only past, present and future, and mercy and strength, but also inward and outward.”[1]   Mary’s song holds tremendous power for transformation and because of the power in its words and images, it is prayed daily around the world.   Used as a template for prayer it calls us to praise and gratitude for God’s hand in our history and an open surrender to God’s will for the future.  It envisions a world restored to justice—not in some distant future or in a heavenly realm, but here and now.   “God’s triumph is a single grace with inner and outer manifestations. When we are changed, the world is changed.  God’s transformation of the world happens in our own souls as well.  Each one affects the other.”[2]

Mary’s prayer begins with turning ourselves inside out.  Our hearts beat no longer for ourselves, but for others, especially the poor and the hungry.  Dominating power is no longer a thing to be sought or grasped; in fact it will be overturned.  God will reign in our hearts and in the world.  Turning our hearts inside out changes us.  We lay all of our stuff—our desires, greed, emptiness, fear, arrogance, anger, and joy—before God to be integrated and healed.  Our focus moves outward instead of inward, toward understanding and compassion, welcoming the other into community.  Only then can we begin to see as God sees and love as God loves. 

“God upends the human power structures around us, and also within us.  If you seek hope that God is indeed changing the world, look within for evidence.  God scatters the pride in our own hearts, and brings down the powerful from our inner thrones. God lifts up what is lowly in us, and fills what is hungry in our souls.  How does God dethrone those mighty forces within you, so that God alone reigns?  How does God lift up the weak in you, and help you know your blessedness?  Nelson Mandela believed that he could never be truly free until he gave up his bitterness and left behind his hatred.[3]  We must be turned inside out before we can even attempt to transform the world. 

The good news is that restoring justice is possible.  If it is possible for people to change, it is possible for nations to change as well.  For justice to be a possibility, the power structures must change.  The power pyramid inverts.  No longer does power rise to the top in ever decreasing numbers of individuals.  Jesus demonstrated the world’s powers resting on one servant.  In other words, the wolf really must lie down with the lamb and the lamb must learn to stay and remain in community.  We must change our way of being in the world that causes enmity and strife.  The world must be turned upside down so that, in the words of Nelson Mandela, there can be “justice for all . . . peace for all . . . work, bread, water and salt for all.”[4]

“When you see this good news [of the power structures within our hearts and in the world, being upended so that justice may be restored], when you deeply trust it, you rejoice.  And then you carry it out into the world, and spread the change.  As Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’  Where is God calling you to bear witness to your inner transformation by outward signs?  Watch and witness.  This is Advent. Pray that you yourself may be a living sign of the coming of Christ.”[5]  I encourage you to pray with Mary every day throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas so that her words may become your words.  And together, we can turn the world upside down.


[1] Steve Garnaas-Holmes, unfoldinglight@hotmail.com
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Nelson Mandela,” People, December 23, 2013, p. 63-64.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Garnaas-Holms.

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