When to Pull the Gospel Card

playing-cards46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1: 46-55)

The Magnificat…Mary’s Song of freedom and mercy.  We all know the passage.  Most of us probably have sort of a love-fear relationship with it.  Each Advent we read this passage with perhaps a little reticence.  We love the words and the promises that they bring.  But, deep down, we’re probably a little afraid of on which side of the fence we might be standing.  These lovely, merciful words have been threatening the ways of the world since their very beginning.  E. Stanley Jones called the Magnificat “the most revolutionary document in the world.”  It is God’s Revolution, God’s Manifesto for the new creation.  It is said that the Russian czars were positively terrified of these words and the changes that they could incite.

The words are poetic and thoughtful.  But when you read them, it is clear that God exalts the poor, feeds the poor, helps the poor, and remembers the poor.  God brings the poor together just as God tears down and separates the mighty and the wealthy and the powerful.  Sadly, God sends the rich, those who do not see their need for God, away.  The Divine was not birthed by a princess or a queen.  God came through a young, terrified servant girl that would be raised up to be blessed by the world.  God’s vision is an upside-down version of what we have let our world become.

But this is not some isolated poem in the middle of Mary’s story.  These words are the Gospel. Let me say that again.  These words ARE the Gospel.  If you were to put the Gospel into its Cliff Notes version, I would think you could take these words, Matthew 22: 37-39, and Matthew 28:20b and have a pretty good idea of what Jesus was trying to say.  But there are those that will pull their “Gospel card” out of their pocket when it is convenient to prove their point.  There are those will draw it when they need to be comforted.  But, here, here we are asked to pull the Gospel card that will shake the world and send us to our knees.  Here, we are asked to pull the Gospel card so that the world will begin to see things differently.  It is revolutionary.  It would be hard to over-sentimentalize these words, hard to make them into something that they are not, hard to see that they are not talking about us.  I don’t think Jesus meant “oh, eventually” or “when you get around to it” or “yeah, “they” need to get on board”.  We are asked here to lay our riches and down and walk away from them.  We are asked to feed the poor and house the homeless.  We are asked to let go of power that we have gotten by human means that we hold onto so desperately for our own protection and our own edification.  Yes, we are asked to pull the Gospel card in our homes, in our lives, in our politics, in our nation, in our world.  Truth be told, these words have one meaning:  “Game on…”

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.  (Susan B. Anthony)

FOR TODAY:  Which card will you play?

Grace and Peace,


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