In the midst of all this – meaning looking at and preparing for Pentecost Sunday – we have Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Talk about an in-dwelling of the Spirit!
“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39 – 45)
Scripture passages establish that it is nigh on impossible for a woman beyond a certain age to become pregnant. And it was said of Elizabeth she was beyond that age – what that age was scripture does not tell us. But Elizabeth had long ago accepted the fact that she would not be a mother, and her husband would never become a father. Scripture also tells us a young woman can not become pregnant without “knowing” a man. And actually medical science back up both of these assertions. But while science explains what the Lord God has established as precedent and procedure, science cannot and does not limit what the Lord God can do.
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”(Verses 46 – 55)
Neither does the Lord God nor the Spirit of the Lord God limit who and when the Spirit can indwell. And I believe it was the Spirit of God who motivated Mary to go stay with her cousin Elizabeth. While she was an older woman and had never been pregnant or given birth, she probably knew enough to teach Mary what her pregnancy might be like and usher into the circle of woman who had been touched and called forth by God.
“And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.” (Verses 56 – 57)
Most of the time, when the Spirit of the Lord God touches a person, there are provisions for learning how to best use this indwelling, either directly from the Spirit or from those who have also been called on. Actually, that is one of the premises of seminary and religious education.
The Old Testament Passage (which I decided not to use this time) is the prayer of Hannah, whose body was also touched by God such that she had a child that was not expected. Her sister wives of Elkanah who had children hopefully nurtured her along in her pregnancy. Hannah gave birth to the boy Samuel who would grow to be a mighty prophet of the Lord.
All of these women praised God and were the Lord’s handmaidens, enduring (in a way) more pain and suffering than the men who were called by God. Ask any woman who has given birth! So let us appropriate the praise of the psalmist for the women that God has called into service, recognizing the contributions that women throughout history have made in service of the Lord.
“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113)
It is good that we pause during our journey to Pentecost, to remember that the journey to the time when the Spirit would dwell amongst humanity was a long time in coming, with hints along the way of what it meant to be called upon and imbued with the Spirit of God. Selah!