In the midst of our weary, dark, and broken world, we wait for the fulfillment of the impossible: light will break through, oppression will cease, peace is possible, and salvation is imminent.
This legacy of belief in the Church was mothered by the most unlikely of women – Mary.
This young, brown, Jewish girl, living as a persecuted subject of the Roman Empire, believed for impossible things. Despite being from an ethnic group that was politically oppressed, a gender that was socially powerless, and a neighborhood that was geographically disdained, Mary encountered the promise of God through Gabriel, and turned her question of “How can this be?” into her declaration of “May it be to me.” She not only chose to believe that she could be favored by God to give birth to the Savior of the world, but she also chose to walk in that promise with faith that God’s Word was worth her belief and obedience.
In her Magnificat, Mary revealed that her own marginalization was not a barrier to knowing God but was instead a catalyst for understanding God’s regard for those on the margins, like her. She joyfully declared God’s historic acts of deliverance for the poor and oppressed, as well as in her own life. Consequently, she built her faith on the foundation of God’s proven character and risked her reputation, her resources, her body, her status, and her life itself, to carry God’s promise within her until it birthed new life and hope into this world.
As members of the historic Church family, we recognize that Mary’s legacy has been passed down throughout the generations, particularly among women on the margins. Like Mary, these women have chosen to believe that despite their political status, the color of their skin, their economic disadvantage, their age, or their gender, that God’s favor could rest upon them to accomplish impossible things. And they did accomplish impossible things.
Mary’s refrain of “May it be to me, according to your Word” was echoed in the lives of early Church martyrs like Perpetua and Thecla, women who defied the social norms of the early Church and challenged the Roman empire, even to the point of death.
It was echoed in the lives of women like St. Clare and St. Katherine Drexel, who gave up lives of wealth in solidarity and service to the poor and birthed communities that would follow in such ways.
It was echoed in the lives of Native women like Kateri Tekakwitha who overcame the hostility, violence, and persecution of white colonists to pursue steadfast faith in Jesus – and Queen Liliʻuokalani of the kingdom of Hawaii, who waited on God in the face of imprisonment and colonial occupation to model faith and forgiveness among her people.
It was echoed in the lives of Black women like Jarena Lee, Amanda Smith, and Maria Stewart, whose teaching, preaching, and leadership in the Church broke racial and gender barriers, birthing the possibility of new forms of female leadership.
It was echoed in the lives of Latina women like Jovita Idar and Dolores Huerta, whose courage and compassion in the face of both sexism and racism birthed tenacious fights against border injustice, lynching, anti-Mexican discrimination, and exploitation of poor, migrant workers.
It was echoed in the lives of Asian women like Mabel Lee, whose courageous leadership in New York’s Chinatown birthed and sustained the first self-supporting Chinese church in America – and Dora Yu, whose evangelistic gifts and revival ministry birthed the growth of the Church in 20th century China.
It was echoed in the lives of women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Dorothy Height, and Unita Blackwell, whose unsung leadership and faith-fueled activism carried the Civil Rights movement and birthed the possibility for both reformed laws and transformed relationships in our nation.
May we remember the legacy of countless women throughout Church history who, like Mary, chose to move beyond the paralysis of “How can this be?” and instead declared in faith, “May it be to me.” As we wait for God’s salvation to come to impossible places – amidst inequitable schools, our gentrifying neighborhoods, our broken immigration system, our inept political system, our prison industrial complex, our profit-driven health care system, our struggling churches, our hurting families, and our nation’s entanglements with white supremacy – may the audacity of these mothers birth new faith in our lives.
Lord, as we hear your call on our lives, please turn our cries of “How can this be?” to declarations of “May it be.” Fill us with your Spirit, and overshadow us with your power so that we may seek and obey your Word which births the impossible.