The World Is About To Turn – Are We?

Judges 13:2-7 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the tribe of the Dantes, and his name was Manoah. His wife was barren; she had never given birth. And the messenger of the Holy One appeared to the woman and said to her, “Look now, you are barren, having never given birth, you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now please be on your guard not to drink wine or strong drink, and you shall not eat anything unclean. For look! You shall yet conceive and give birth to a son. No razor shall be upon his head, for a nazirite to God shall the boy be from the womb. And he shall begin to deliver Isarel from the hand of the Philistines.” Then the woman came and spoke to her husband saying, “Someone from God came to me and their appearance was like that of a messenger of God, incredibly awesome; I did not ask the messenger from where he came, and their name he did not tell me. Yet they said to me, You shall conceive and give birth to a son; do not drink wine or strong drink, and do not eat anything taboo, for a nazirite to Godshall the boy be from the womb unto the day of his death.”

Psalm 115: 9-15 9Israel, trust in the Holy One of Old!

Their help and their shield is she.

10House of Aaron, trust in the Holy One of Sinai!

Their help and their shield is she.

11You who revere the Holy One, trust in the Holy One!

Their help and their shield is she.

12The Faithful One remembers us; she will bless:

She will bless the house of Israel; she will bless the house of Aaron.

13She will bless those who revere God Who Is Holy.

Both small and great.

14May the Generous One add to, increase you all, both you and your children

15May you all be blessed by the Ageless one, Maker of the heavens and the earth.

1 John 3:1-3 See what kind of love our Maker has given us, that we should be called children of God; and we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know God. Beloved, now we are God’s children and it had not yet been revealed what we will be. We do know that when God is revealed, we shall be like God, for we shall see God just as God is. And everyone who has this hope in God purifies themselves, just as God is pure.

Luke 1:46-56   46 And Mary[a] said, “My soul magnifies the Holy One, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for God has looked with favour on the lowliness of God’s own womb-slave. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name; 50 God’s loving-kindness is for those who fear God from generation to generation. 51 God has shown strength of God’s own arm; God has scattered the arrogant in the intent of their hearts. 52 God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; 53 God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 God has helped God’s own child Israel, a memorial to God’s mercy,55 Just as God said to our mothers and fathers, to Hagar and Sarah and Abraham, to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then she returned to her home.

Good morning, St. Matthew!

We gather on this morning in Itasca on the unceded tribal lands of the Kickapoo, Peoria, Ka-skas-kia, Potawatomi, Mya-a-mia, HoChunk, Winnebago and O-che-thi Sakowin nations, acknowledging that hard past and praying our way into a better future.

And so we pray.

Holy Mothering God – you speak to us in so very many ways, but first and foremost, you speak to us in life. This morning as we gather as your people, we ask you to send your life-giving Spirit to prepare us to accept that we may in fact be bearers of life – filled with purpose, creativity and change. That we may walk through our lives, ready to be pregnant – ready to bring your new, surprising, grace filled, out of the blue life into being. Help us to see that the world can change, that the turn can come and that we ourselves are part of making that turn.


In ancient times, the story was told of a King, who no mattered what he touched, it turned to gold – and instead of hearing that as a cautionary tale, we, who are in love with money, have made it a role model, admiring those who have the Midas touch, admiring their ability to seemingly create wealth, instead of hearing the death and destruction that is at the back of that pursuit. Having the Midas touch is a false blessing – a trick the world plays on us, dazzling us with wealth, while stealing our very lives and purpose away. In contrast to that fakery – we are walking this season towards a different reality. We will meet a poor man’s son, hidden in hay and barnyard smells and discover a power beyond all knowing – yet hinted at in this Babe. For who can look at new-born and not feel the Divine? Even in the midst of pain, blood and exhaustion – there is a catch in one’s throat and a warmth throughout one’s chest that lets you know – you are seeing a miracle.

And here’s the thing – God does this every minute of every day! Whatever God touches blooms with life and promise! If you can picture the cursed Midas’ golden touch, then let yourself open that mind picture to the life giving touch of the Creator; and even more so, let that mind picture expand to how a flower turns to the sun to accept that life giving light and power. Just as people cannot keep their hands off a new-born child – most of us have the impulse to touch a soft cheek, to tickle a chubby toe – hold the picture of all creation being that for God. Who so delights in us that God cannot keep their hands off us. So in the proper relationship, God is delighting in us and we are turning to that delight like flowers basking in sunshine.

All of our texts today are filled with this delight in God’s life-giving presence. In each one, there is turning of humanity to a God who creates life just by showing up. And so now I am going to give you a phrase that I want you to say back to me, “The world is about to turn” (repeat). We were unable to clear the copyright to sing the hymn today, but there is a fabulous song in the updated book of worship called “Canticle of the Turning”. Echoing Mary’s declaration of God’s saving and graceful action in the world, the chorus sings,

My heart shall sing of the day you bring
Let the fires of your justice burn
Wipe away all tears for the dawn draws near
And the world is about to turn!

Throughout its history, there had been heroes and heras in Israel, men and women raised up, as was Queen Esther, for “a moment such as this”. And in each, there were common traits: the improbability of Divine grace, the obligation to the community of the Kindom of God, great personal danger, and an absolute rock-solid belief that through accepting their God given mission – the world is about to turn. (repeat) This is perhaps easier to understand in this time of Advent, as we await the birth of the Christ child. As humans, we are well skilled in the 6- or 7-month wait from becoming aware there is a pregnancy to actually having a baby. Especially for first time parents, that wait is both too long and not long enough. We know our lives are going to change – that is definite. But how exactly that change is going to manifest is cause for endless speculation! Who will this child be? Boy or girl? All their fingers and toes? Look like Mom or Dad? And if not any one specific trait – what will the nearly endless combination of possibilities add up to? For those who have been adopted or have adopted – these questions aren’t any less intense. You can’t order up your perfect baby – they are going to be their own person no matter what you do. The job of parent is to bring that unique and amazing soul to its best expression – and the pride of a parent is seeing that potential come to fruition and the heartbreak of a parent is seeing all those amazing possibilities lost to poor choices and bad decisions.

Our Creator God has the same journey with us; God has given us life, because God cannot do anything else – whatever God touches gives birth. But God knows that the choices we make are our own – God preaches, cajoles, reprimands and disciplines – but the choices lay in our hands. In the Old Testament lesson, if you didn’t recognise him, that’s Samson being called into life, through his mother’s acceptance of the mission, she and he being filled with the promise of freeing Israel from the Philistines. And so much about Samson is the hero he was created to be – but he forgets his promise and mission in messing around with Jezebel and loses the plot. The consequences of his forgetting are dire – and all hope seems lost. But because God brings life when we repent and return, Samson’s story is redeemed. No matter he tore the fabric, God brought it all back together and told the story of faithful life God had intended. Eventually he brings the house down and the Philistine occupation with it. God restores Israel in Samson’s mission despite all the ways that Samson failed. But his mother listened, believed and in her faith trusted that “the world was about to turn”. (repeat)

That brings us then to the biggest promise and the biggest turn. Mary, by all accounts, is a young, uneducated, unwed woman from an oppressed nation. Martin Luther was very dedicated to Mary, seeing her as the key to the whole human story of Jesus’ life. It is her yes to God that will bring change. No matter how broken and ripped up, no matter how often humanity made the worst possible decisions and the ugliest choices – God was going to bring life and purpose to the story – because that what God does! But in God’s infinite patience, God waited for a yes. For a woman to accept that mission. And returning to our earlier list, Mary’s yes contained all the marks of God’s action: the improbability of Divine grace, the obligation to the community of the Kindom of God, great personal danger, and an absolute rock-solid belief that through accepting their God given mission – the world is about to turn. (repeat)

Mary was about as improbable a yes giver as anyone we could imagine; and through that improbability, we are given a clear signal that this is God’s action. There is not one thing in Mary’s life that we should have ever missed her had she never been recorded in history. Mary brought no power, no status, no lineage – remember, Jesus’ claim to the line of David is through Joseph! She is not recorded as having a great intellect or stunning beauty or political savvy. All she has – is her yes. And that’s what I want us all to take hold of today – in a world that makes a hero out of a guy who kills everything he touches, in a world where life is treated so cheaply that political dedication is more important than feeding children, in a world where deeply flawed systems of power continue to discriminate and destroy people simply because of the colour of their skin – our yes can change the world! We don’t need to be waiting for all the pieces to be perfect – we just need to offer our yes to God, and give the Creator our scraps and bits that we DO have to make a whole that will allow the mission to go forward.   

It is very difficult to always believe that what we do is going to make a difference. It’s much easier to buy into the world’s argument that the actions of one person won’t add up to a hill of beans. Margaret Meade once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” And God tells us that same story on even a larger scale – it is precisely in the actions of the one who says yes that the difference is made. Your tiny scrap of fabric will change the whole of the quilt and therefore change the entirety of the story it tells. As we walk to the manger this Advent season, allow the Holy Spirit to empty you of the world’s beliefs that only the powerful and strong – only the winners – write history. Nothing could be further from the truth. We walk as God’s children, following a God who will take our one little yes and give it such life that all will be changed. The last verse of the “Canticle of the Turning” sings as Mary does:

Though the nations rage from age to age
We remember
Who holds us fast
God’s mercy must deliver us from the conqueror’s crushing grasp
This saving word that out forebears
Heard is the promise which holds us bound
‘Til the spear and rod can be
Crushed by God
Who is turning the world around
My heart shall sing of the day you bring
Let the fires of your justice burn
Wipe away all tears
For the dawn draws near
And the world is about to turn!

THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO TURN – will you turn with it?