Scripture Reading: Luke 1:39-55 (Common English Bible) CEB
My question for you today is this: Who do you think you are?
Or it could be enunciated, “Who do you think you are?”
Anyone ever said that to you? “Who do you think you are?”
Ever said that to yourself as you were thinking about doing some different or big or challenging? “Who do you think you are?”
That’s the question or intimidation that Mary has heard her whole life. She really didn’t know the right answer to that question till the angel Gabriel showed up. Let’s hear Mary tell her story.
My name is Mary. I was born 15 years ago here in the town of Nazareth. The one question it seems I’ve heard all throughout my life is this one: “Mary, who do you think you are?”
I remember the first time I heard that question. I was probably six years old at the time. I had just travelled with the family for a week. During the whole trip, my parents talked about the Temple in Jerusalem. They talked about how amazing it was to look at. But more than that, they told me about what it was like to worship God in the temple. Father said, “I think my prayers go directly to God there. Because that is the holiest of holy places in the world.”
I couldn’t wait to get there and see for myself. We finally arrived in Jerusalem and then to the Temple Mount where this large white structure stood. God’s temple. We were at God’s own temple. We went inside one of the gates to get closer. But then father looked at us saying to mom, “You and Mary wait here while I go inside the temple.”
I said, “I want to go inside too.”
Father said, “Mary, who do you think you are? You’re just a girl. Girls are not allowed in the Temple. I’m sorry.”
I started crying, but my father was not fazed. He turned his back to me and walked into the Temple. Mother held me, saying gently, “Let’s wait here for Dad.”
I remember the next time someone asked me that question: Who do you think you are? I was about ten years old. I was working out in the grape fields. It was getting close to supper time. I had not eaten all day – not since an early breakfast. I was hungry and tired. I had been picking grapes all day long and I wanted something to address the pain in my stomach.
So instead of throwing the big, juicy grape into my sack, I put it in my mouth. Oh, my goodness, did that taste good.
At that moment, I looked up to see the steward staring straight at me. “What are you doing, young girl?” he asked.
“I’m sorry. I am so hungry. I just had to eat one of the grapes.”
“Who do you think you are? Do you think you own this piece of land? Are you some rich girl who can eat grapes? No, you’re just one of the poor peasants here working for me. I don’t want to see you eat one more of those.”
The next year I heard that question again. This time I was out playing with a friend of mine. A soldier on horseback rode by and stopped right in front of the two of us. He grabbed my friend saying, “I need you to do some work for me. Come along.”
I yelled to the soldier, “What are you doing? You can’t take him. You don’t own him.”
The soldier responded, “Girl, who do you think you are? Are you a Roman citizen like myself? I can make your friend work for me if I choose. But you, you’re just a Galilean. Get out of my way. We’ve got work to do.”
A few months ago, I heard that question again. My parents sat me down. They said, “Mary, we have chosen. We have chosen the man you will someday marry. His name is Joseph.”
I said, “But what if I don’t want to marry Joseph?”
They said, “Mary, who do you think you are? You’re just so young. You can’t make a decision like that. We have decided. And that’s that.”
Let’s pause the story for a moment.
Mary is struggling with the question: Who do you think you are? The answers she was given were designed to put Mary in her place. She was just a girl. She was just a poor peasant. She was just a Galilean. She was just so young.
Maybe when you’ve been asked that question you were made to feel small as well. Maybe when you ask yourself that question, even today, you feel small and powerless.
Who do you think you are?
Let’s go back to Mary’s story.
I knew who I was. Or at least I knew who others said I was. But everything is different now. You see, an angel came to visit me. The angel Gabriel said to me one night, “Mary, you are blessed. You are beloved. You are highly favored.” Then the angel went on to tell me about the child I would someday have.
I couldn’t believe it at first. Me – blessed? Me- beloved? Me- highly favored?
The next morning, I went to a relative who I thought might be able to help me understand what the angel said. I travelled to Elizabath’s place in the Judean highlands.
Her first words to me echoed exactly what the angel had said, “Mary, you are blessed. You are beloved. You are highly favored.”
I said, “How can this be? Who am I to have this honor?”
Then Elizabeth said, “Remember our ancestors. Remember Hannah who thought she was barren, but God blessed her with a son she called Samuel. Remember Ruth, the Moabite, who God helped and she eventually became the ancestor of King David. Remember Miriam, the sister of Moses, who celebrated God’s salvation at the Red Sea. She sang a song of thanks to God. All of them, like you, are blessed, are beloved, are highly favored.
I was so excited my heart broke forth in my own song. I created this song with these words:
With all my heart, I glorify the Lord. In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my saviour. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me.
This morning, I ask you that same question: Who do you think you are?
I believe God is sharing with you the same answer God shared with Mary:
You are blessed.
You are beloved.
You are highly favored.
Despite what others might have said about you.
Despite what you might tell yourself.
Despite how you feel about your life right now.
Ilse, you are blessed.
Roger, you are beloved.
Brenda, you are highly favored.
Morgan and Madelyn, you are highly favored.
Each of you, each of us, are blessed, beloved, highly favored.
I want you to do something different today. I want you to look at someone who is sitting close to you this morning. Look at them and say these words to each other, Use their name and say, “You are blessed. You are beloved. You are highly favored.”
Let’s make sure everyone has someone say it to them this morning. “You are blessed. You are beloved. You are highly favored.”
Let’s do that right now.
Let’s pray: God, thank you for blessing us. Thank you for calling us your beloved. Thank you for making us highly favored. We are eternally grateful. Amen.