Response: December 2016 Issue

Responsively Yours: Blessed Is She Who Believes

Responsively Yours: Blessed Is She Who Believes
General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson hugs National President Shannon Priddy upon her election in August 2016.

Elizabeth is engaged in a miracle. She and Zechariah will have a son who is called of God. The angel has told Zechariah that their son, John, will be filled with the Holy Spirit and will recall the people to righteous ways, preparing them for the Lord. Elizabeth is one who believes. She allows God’s promises to shape how she sees the world, and she acts on it.

Once Elizabeth becomes pregnant, she keeps to herself for five months. We can imagine her protecting herself and the life developing within her. When Mary visits Elizabeth, Elizabeth feels the baby leap in her womb. Elizabeth might have thought “oh no, what’s happening?” Instead, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and describes the baby as “leaping for joy.” What a powerful way of seeing and believing that God is at work!

Similarly, Mary sees and believes. She sees God as blessing her through this untimely pregnancy—a blessing that is not just for herself but part of God’s justice and mercy in the world. Mary proclaims that God has acted to fulfill the promises made long ago. She doesn’t proclaim that God will act powerfully and faithfully but that God has acted. She understands God’s work in her life as part of the long story of God’s calling the people to righteousness and justice. In Mary’s description, God has already scattered the arrogant, pulled down the powerful and filled the hungry. She has agreed to participate in God’s work in the world.

So how is it with us? In this post-resurrection time in which we live, we know that each one of us can be filled with the Holy Spirit. No longer is that reserved to prophets. Are we attending to what the Holy Spirit is saying and allowing that to shape the way we see the world? Attending to God’s voice will almost certainly mean that we will experience joy in unexpected ways—not that everything we experience will be joyful, but we do not automatically fear the worst when we trust that God is actively fulfilling promises and working for good.

Attending to God’s voice will also help us to claim that God has already accomplished more than we can yet see. And if we claim this, surely we must also act. According to Zechariah (Luke 1:73-75), God was fulfilling the promise to Abraham to rescue the people from their enemies so that they could serve God in holiness and righteousness. Throughout the prophetic literature we hear that this righteousness, the righteousness that God desires, includes honoring God and building justice and equitable relationships. It includes caring for the poor, for widows and orphans and strangers, honoring Sabbath, using fair business practices (“just measures”) and challenging the rich and powerful when they do not follow this way.

In a post-resurrection world, can we open ourselves more and more to the filling of the Holy Spirit so that we can see God’s hand at work and announce it? Can we visualize God’s fulfillment of the promises, even when we can’t yet see it, and can we align our actions to the righteousness to which God calls us, over and over again? Perhaps it might also be said of us: blessed is she who believes.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 11/30/2016 11:00:00 PM