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26 October 2012

Fruitful vulnerability

Fruitful vulnerability

When God wants to do something revolutionary, the plan is robust yet the ingredients seem breathtakingly vulnerable, writes Marijke Hoek...

A seed and a teenager come to mind. In a first century world dominated by the Roman Empire, where religious, philosophical and political trends were taking their course, a dialogue in the backwaters between an angel and Mary is in fact the most seismic dynamic. In a few weeks, we will be preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus and will be anticipating the return of Christ the King. The story reminds us again where the real spearhead lies; in prayer, humility, curiosity, and community. 

In her encounter with the angel, Mary is described as “wondering” and “enquiring”. A similarly inquisitive mind is found in Daniel, who “continued to watch”, “kept looking”, “enquired” and “wanted to know”. Both dialogues demonstrate that the Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them (Psalm 25:14). Curious minds and God-fearing hearts provide ideal conditions for abundant fruitfulness. While “strength” and “leadership” is so often claimed in “knowing”, these characters reveal an avid desire to learn. And God confides - willing to entrust radical responsibility and illuminating insights to humble servants. Good soil for His revolution.

With her prayer of surrender - “May your word be fulfilled to me” - Mary unfurls herself into the grace of new beginning. Her beautiful song resonates age-old promises and a fresh understanding of divine faithfuness to her and all generations. For while the account is deeply personal, it is also commmunal. As God is working out His redemption plan, He links people in destiny. As Mary and Elizabeth seek one another’s company the “leap for joy” in Elizabeth shows the sustaining favour of God (Luke 1). Their lives are intertwined. Strands from different generations woven into one purpose. These two are better than one because they have a good return for their labour (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). 

Later Paul reflects that God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong; the foolish to shame the wise; He chooses the lowly, despised and the things that are not to nullify those that are (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Moreover, His empowering presence is promised in such human weakness – be it our limited knowledge, or numerical, economic and sociopolitical weakness (Romans 8:26). Paul redefines the power base. 

Adopting God’s lens, who would we choose? Are we including the foolish, lowly and weak? Spent any time on “the things that are not” recently? Any radical responsibiities handed out to teenagers? Shown any interest in what happens under the radar? Where does the spearhead lie? Are the margins able to disturb your peace? Do you cultivate curiosity? In whom are you hearing a new song? 

Being open to God’s future requires perceptive people. It presumes time to watch, listen and learn, for new beginnings are not repetitions (Isaiah 43:19, 50:4). Our narrow scope needs to broaden to include new voices and things that are not. And it requires seed - the God-breathed ideas that are planted, prayed over, watered, shared, and tended to, thus growing from “that which is not” into vital expressions of hope and life. 

The author and research professor at Houston University Brené Brown asserts: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Recently, I’ve watched a group of vulnerable youth develop into creative wordsmiths whose poems and raps featured in the National Slam Final. I’ve seen a local film festival develop into a vibrant international forum for dialogue about faith. Expressions of God’s faithfulness that started with a question, an inkling or a chat - not always with angels. For: “When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, its sound is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss it.” (A Captive of Time) 

While the believers are expectantly looking to God, He is looking to Mary. While some hoped that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans, God planted a seed. Expecting God’s in-breaking in this world is a revolutionary waiting, a prayerful attentiveness and being at ease in risk. While economic, political, religious and secular trends are taking their course in our time, we value “the day of small things”. For what is born from heaven is unstoppable (Acts 5:39). In dialogue with Him and community with one another we’ll discover how we fit into the big picture and how to live faithfully in its light.

The Church can be a seedbed. Blessed are we, believing that the Lord will fulfill His promises.

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