St. Mary, the Mother of Lord

St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord.21 “There’s Something About Mary…” Luke 1:46-55

There’s something about Mary, the mother of our Lord, θεοτοκος, [whose feast day it is, today] that, if you just answer a couple questions about Mary for me, I can pretty much pin-point your position on the entire spectrum of Christian theology—and predict rather accurately what you think about just about any matter of doctrine, worship, or practice of the Faith. Kind of cool, right? And if you wanted professional help on how to raise your game, if you wanted to be one of the extremely cool kids in school, I would be more than willing to help with any upgrades required—if you wanted. Which, sadly, I find, most people don’t. Most people like to think they’re great where they are. Even if, as a matter of fact, they aren’t.

Why is that? Well, even nominal Christians—if you ask them about Jesus straight up—kind of know what to say and not to say. The two natures in one undivided but unconfused Person, being God and all, yet: still true Man, Lord, Savior, by grace through faith. The slogans that even doctrinally slack churches throw around willy-nilly, kinda keep most people from revealing the flaws in their personal belief system.

But ask them about Mary, and the defenses drop. It’s like a programmer’s back door to what people really believe. Rome’s fixation on basically worshiping Mary the last couple centuries combined with the anti-Roman Catholic posture of much of the rest of Christendom has made this possible. In a nutshell, devout Roman Catholics will say and make too much of Mary and most Protestants will say and make too little of her. And, in both cases: it is what they really believe, deep down, regarding Jesus that makes this so.

So, if I find out what you think about Mary, voila! I have a pretty clear picture of what you really think of Jesus. And that determines everything about your whole theology [and everyone has a theology, even if they’ve never read books about it, or think they do. You do!]. The question is whether your theology is any good? Is it biblical, true, sound? Is it winsome, wonderful, and elegantly expressed?

Disclaimer: I’m a theology snob. I admit it. I was very lucky to have, at an early age, some of the best theologians ever for teachers (and was a fast learner, then 🙂 They knew it. I know it. And none of us are too humble to admit it. As Alasdair McIntyre well noted, “on no list of ancient Graeco-Roman virtues will you find humility” [fun fact: thrift and conscientiousness don’t appear on those lists, either. Ponder that, if you will..]

Now, let me also be perfectly clear on this vital point: you can have a terrible theology, brutally low-brow, unsophisticated, stilly, and stupid even, and still go to heaven and have a lovely time there. St. Paul says: some build on the foundation of Christ with wood, straw, and hay. That sh…stuff will get burned up, but they themselves will be saved as those who pass through fire. Others build on the foundation of Christ with gold, silver, precious stones; their work will endure and have a reward. (One Cor. 3:10-14:-)

But eternal, perfect joy belongs to everyone in heaven, so degrees of glory don’t affect it, much. As Mr. Wonderful says: “The ball-game isn’t that important, really. As long as I’m with you, I don’t care what we watch.” But if you like gold, silver, precious stones better than wood, hay, and straw; if you’d prefer not to enter heaven all scorched and smelling of smoke, I can help with that—though I must warn you: possessing such gorgeous treasure, striding through the pearly gates like kings and queens, decked to the nines, well: it can build resentment in the Philistines. As David told Abiathar, after Saul had slaughtered all the priestly family: “I have occasioned the death of all the persons in your father’s house. Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me, you will be safe-er…”

So here’s three question about Mary that will tell us a lot: 1) Is she really uniquely blessed among all women, like the Queen of Heaven or something, such that we should have a feast day for her? 2) Is it right to call her “The Mother of God”? 3) Isn’t she really just a girl like any other?

Question 1: the Queen of Heaven and feast day thing. “Isn’t it Roman Catholic to call her Saint Mary, have a feast day for her? Won’t we all be equal in heaven with no kings or queens?” Well; it’s catholic to call her Saint, but not uniquely Roman. “Catholic” means universal, what all Christians of all times believe. “Roman” is what the bishop of Rome has taught and much of that is catholic, but some of it is uniquely Roman and at odds with the true catholic church.

The Bible says Mary is blessed among all women. Elizabeth says this, under divine inspiration. Mary also [under divine inspiration!!!] says “all generations will call me blessed.” Heaven is not a socialist, egalitarian democracy, I’m sorry to have to tell you, if you didn’t know it already. It’s a monarchy. Jesus is King and Mary is technically the Queen Motherwhich isn’t exactly the same as being Queen (she has no ruling authority) but she is definitely Queen of Heaven because her son is King of Heaven, God Himself. Yet… Jesus was submissive to her always(!)—as Luke tells us at the end of that episode, “Jesus Left Behind In The Temple”. And as John shows when, at the wedding at Cana, Mary said: “They have no wine”. And Jesus says “What is that to you and me? My hour has not come.” He doesn’t really want to turn water into wine, but because his mother is asking, nicely, he will do it, being submissive to her.

Luther said that Mary is the greatest of all the saints and the first preacher because she literally brings forth the Word. Having one day on the calendar as her feast, to remember her glory and greatness is really kind of the least we can do. So, Christians who don’t want to call her “Saint” and “Queen” and extol her greatness (or try in a small way to embody it ourselves by faith) are making too little of Mary.

But those who treat her as a Queen who is an equal ruler with her Son the King make too much of her.

Which leads to Question 2: “Is it right to call her Mother of God?” Yes! Elizabeth says so quite plainly in the Bible. The council of Ephesus 431 rightly ruled that forbidding people to say “Mary is the God-bearer”, the Mother of God, is heretical. This is the most important question. Because: if you hedge a little on Jesus being fully God, Yahweh, the same way the Father is God, you will balk at calling Mary “Mother of God”. And that tells me you are hazy on the full divinity of Jesus the Christ and thus hazy on salvation.

Finally: “isn’t Mary just a girl like any other?” No! She is a girl like every other—the prototype, the new Eve who does not refuse the Word of Faith and so is first on the path back to heaven. She’s the model for all the Faithful: “let it be to me according to your Word”. If we let God have His way with us, like Mary, all the riches of universe are ours to enjoy, forever.

But she wasn’t sinless. And she doesn’t save us. She is just the first of those walking the Way of Jesus. With the pure gold of that Faith, we are crowned with St. Mary, Mother of our Lord. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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