St. Mary the Missionary
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit one God Amen.
Tonight we come together to start the revival during the Fast of St Mary. There is so much that can be said about St Mary. We speak about St Mary and her purity, her obedience, her everlasting virginity. There’s so much that we can say about her and learn from her as an example for our own life.
Before we talk about St Mary, I’d like to continue the presentation that we started Friday night, a topic really close to my heart, and that is Mission. What is mission? This is a controversial topic. People try to define “mission.” But what we’re going to look at tonight is to look at the scriptural view of mission. We’ll look through specific references in the New Testament that point us to what mission is.
First, we see in Matthew 28 that the Lord tells His disciples to go out and make disciples and to baptize and to teach. We can spend all night speaking about this one passage, but were’re going to focus one “go and make disciples.”
Next, in Mark 16 the Lord tells the disciples to “Go and preach the gospel.” We ask ourselves, what is the gospel? It is the entirety of the message of the Good News. In Mark 1.4 we read that the beginning “of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” Many times we think it’s the Gospel of Mark, Matthew, Luke or John, but the Gospel is of Jesus Christ, according to those disciples. Just as the Book of Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the entirety of the message of the Good News which is that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and that he whom the Lord touches transforms the entire life.
In Luke 24 we see what the Lord wants them to specifically go preach: “Repentance and the remission of sins.” Not just to go preach, but He gives them a defined message of what He wants them to preach: repentance and remission of sins.
And lastly the Gospel according to St John chapter 20 we see a very brief explanation of what the Lord wants them to do. Some say the Johnian account is the most important one, and I can’t say that one is more important than the other because we must look at all of them together, in their entirity. It says, “I also send you just as the Father sent Me” and we say sending them to do what? To bring a message that those they are sent to may believe and we see that in John 20.31
The last passage is known as “The Great Commission” in Acts 1.8 The Lord says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
“To be witnesses.” There are a lot of acts of mercy that happen in the book of Acts. Peter and John heal a man of his sickness at the temple; we don’t have gold and silver but in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth take up your bed and walk. There’s a huge emphasis of preaching and giving speeches. The first big thing that happens after the Pentecost is that St Peter gives long sermon. St Stephen gives a long sermon before his martyrdom so there’s an emphasis on preaching and teaching.
To sum it up, we can ask what is mission: the official task of the church commanded by Christ is to go and make disciples by preaching and witnessing to all nations. We see in 3 out of the 5 passages “all nations” is emphasized.
When we look at St Mary, she truly fits this mold of mission: St Mary the Missionary. St Mary, some might say, is the first missionary of Jesus Christ. In Luke 1 we see that St Mary brought the Lord, in her womb, to her relative Elizabeth. Now if we look at St Mary, often she is seen as a symbol or figure of the church.
St Ephraim and St Augustine both speak to this point that St Mary is seen by the Fathers as a figure of the Church. She carried Jesus in her womb and in her arms, as the deacon carries the icon of St Mary. You’ll never see an orthodox icon of St Mary by herself. She is either in the midst of the disciples at Pentecost. Or in the Nativity Icon, St Mary is carrying baby Jesus with Joseph, and certainly this is the most famous one of the Theotokos carrying Jesus Christ in her arms. The church carries Jesus Christ in her arms to the nations.
During our time in mission we saw what it is to be a missionary and to preach. We oftentimes think that this is the function of the bishop and priests. When we were there we were blessed to serve with other missionaries from other parts of the US. Dr Atef from Chicago was there with us. So, truly the church encompasses all those who carry Jesus Christ within themselves to take Jesus Christ to the world, to those who are in need of receiving Him.
The meaning of “to go” is in Luke 1. 39-40 “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 1:40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.”
St Mary had just received news of being the mother of the Savior, yet she makes haste and travels. Many scholars believe it was a 30 hour trip, not a 30-minute car ride. So “to go” implies action, that we take action and that we’d be leaving the comfort of our own home. In these images here there was quite a bit of journeying: we had flight totaling 17 hours just to arrive, a 12 hour bus ride, stayed a few days at Masano the monastery, then another 7 hours to Tanzania. There’s something on my part where I leave my comfort zone to go and do something.
The next portion of the definition “is to make disciples by preaching and witnessing the good news of Jesus Christ.” In verses 41 and 44 of Luke 1 Elizabeth was filled by the Holy Spirit. As soon as St Mary entered and spoke the greeting, the babe leaped in her womb.
This is a video clip of a young boy at a fellowship event preaching to a village (the Archangel Michael community), that God willing, will all be baptized next week.
Preaching is not all speaking. Witnessing is how my life reflects the true testimony of Jesus Christ. During our time there it wasn’t just speaking but it was holding a crying baby or playing games or sports to keep them out of harm’s way and out of trouble and bringing them bible messages of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
One of the most memorable experiences that I had was on our flight back from Missano to Nairobi. We see our group entering the airplane flight 540. Fifty passengers were on the flight, 20 were from our group. One of them got this great idea of praising God by singing at 20000 feet in the air. So two people started, then it became 5, then ten. Soonafter 30-minutes the entire plane was singing and praising God. That included the flight attendants, and the British gentlemen across from us. This is a form of preaching.
Yesterday as communion was coming to an end I heard beautiful sounds of praise that were beautiful and lively. All the deacons were singing beautifully, but when I looked further beyond them, all the people in the church were looking around. Only about 5-10 people were singing. What about those who enter the church [who are not part of our church]? One of the greatest way we witness to Jesus Christ is by praising Him in His house. We lift up His name, this is a way of witnessing and praising. When the entire church is singing the praise and this person enters, the impression is that those people must love the lord. When we sing together we witness for the Lord.
While we were there we saw 10-15 children and adults being baptized, as well as the ones in the church increase in knowledge who were ordained as deacons.
What does “all nations” mean, this is controversial, and where do I start? “All nations” includes your own culture, others in the US, and aboard. Where do I start? On our ride back from liturgy, we were passing by the marketplace and someone said, can we please go to the market and preach to these people? There were 150 people with whom we sang and we preached to. And they began to ask us where are you from? All nations means to me my own culture, others cultures in the US and abroad.
Two years ago when we went to Africa Anba Boules asked us, would you stay here and preach for good? And I felt the Lord telling me, no, you need to go back to the US, that’s where your service is. See God has put a purpose in each of our hearts to serve and to preach His name. But the question is the who and the how.
As you saw, Pope Shenouda was on the same flight. The last hour of the flight was when we could go up and take his blessings. One of the people from the group asked him to pray for her sister because she’s really lost right now. And Saydena said, your mission is your family, it starts with your own home. It doesn’t start by going out but rather in our home.
The last point that I’d like to cover is, how do I make this more than just words, now what?
Where to start?
There are 3 things to do to prepare to be missionaries as St Mary did. She brought Jesus Christ to her relative Elizabeth. We have to prepare ourselves and be ready to take the message of Jesus Christ to the nations.
The first is to ensure that our intentions are not selfish. St Mary was pregnant; she was not thinking about herself, she was thinking about her cousin, her relative and increase her joy. How do we do the same? Oftentimes we can greet the new people and bring the love of Jesus Christ to them. When we see someone on the street we show them a smile, and we greet them in the name of the name of the Lord.
The second thing we need to do is leave our comfort zone. While we were there was someone who wouldn’t speak. He refused to speak in marketplaces, wouldn’t speak a word anywhere. The deacon took him to 8 homes in one day and preached to these people.
The last thing is we must make ourselves available the Lord says I want you; I need you to be available. How? While we sit and listen in prayer, in reading the word, in praying the Agpeya we make ourselves available to speak to the Lord and we hear the Lord speak to us. We need to be purpsosful and be ready to bring the good news.
The Lord said, “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Each day we have time with the Lord, study the bible, and are filled with the Holy Spirit and the words that give life. We can’t give what we don’t have. And the angel answered and said, the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” A few verses later, “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” If we sit and we receive, the Lord will give you, whatever He gives you, give. If you wait, and tarry and wait to receive from Him, you’ll get something and you’ll go out with purpose and bring His message to those in need.
Glory to God forever Amen.