Mary said, “Let it be.”
I read that in the Gospel of Luke a couple days ago – and all I could think of was the Beatles Song.
I love that song – don’t you?
Then I thought of what John Lennon said back in 1966.
“We’re bigger than Jesus.”
When John Lennon said this … a lot of Church folks in America went bananas. They organized protests, burned Beatles records, threw eggs at the Beatles tour bus – the Ku Klux Klan even threatened the band.
All because a precocious young pill-popper from England observed publicly that his rock band had become more popular among young folks than Jesus Christ.
Of course, John Lennon was right. And in a way he still is.
Look at the numbers.
In modern English society – one person in ten goes to church at all.
In Germany and Scandinavia – it’s one in twenty.
In France and Italy – it’s a whopping one in four.
Indeed, in Europe, the place where for dozens of centuries every country was ruled by an explicitly Christian Emperor, Queen or Pope — the church of Christ has become little more than a relic, … a tourist attraction.
Even in the United States only half of our people worship regularly.
Why is this?
Well, I think the answer is pretty simple. Beginning a couple hundred years ago, and accelerating exponentially in the 20th century, modern people around the world began to dissect every social institution. And they began to discard the ones that no longer seemed to do much good.
Folks began to examine the ancient and established churches, and they saw that they really didn’t meet their needs anymore.
Simple as that.
The church just didn’t fill people’s needs anymore. At least not nearly so well as science, medicine, industry and the popular arts.
I mean, why read an ancient and confusing Bible? Why listen to frumpy old priests? Why sit through boring rituals? When you too can meet your own spiritual needs in the comfort of your own home – the way you like it best?
When John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus – he hit the nail right on the head.
By the end of the 20th century, the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
And when the Beatles broke up – the princes, queens and bosses of pop culture who came after them were also all bigger than Jesus.
But you know what?
This is o.k. with me, because, well, it’s nothing new.
The powers of the world have always been bigger than Jesus. They were when he was a baby, they were when he was a man, and they were when they hung him on a cross.
And Christians should never forget it: the powers of the world were bigger than Jesus in his day – and if we are true to our calling to be His Body – they will be bigger than us.
The Church cannot compete with Pop Culture to meet people’s needs, and it shouldn’t even try.
Because, the purpose of the Church is not to meet people’s needs.
No, the purpose of the Church is to seek the will of God.
And though he loves us VERY, VERY much, the will of God is not just about meeting our needs.
For if our God’s only purpose is to meet our needs, as we see them, then our God is pretty small. Perhaps no bigger than our yearning, sorrow, and hunger.
But this is not our God, and this is not our calling.
We are called to be led by the God of All. The First and the Last.
We are called not to serve our own needs first – but rather to seek the will of God.
Take Mary for example.
She is young. She is poor. She is preparing for a hard but stable life, never to stray far from a one-horse town.
All of a sudden, in prayer, an angel of God comes to her and reveals the wisdom of God. A revelation comes to her that her life will be put at risk – risk of shame, gossip, slander, abandonment — and there is no mention at all that her needs will be met in any way.
But she says to the messenger of God, “Let it be.”
She doesn’t bargain or negotiate. She doesn’t resist. She asks a couple good questions, and then she says, “Let it be.”
She says, in three short words, “God – take me – I’m yours. Your will be done, not mine.”
The point of the Church is not to meet people’s needs. Churches, preachers, and churchgoers who don’t understand this are becoming more and more irrelevant every day.
The point of the Church is to be the Body of Christ. To be the people of God. To make room in our lives for nothing less than the Word of God to take a hold of us – to do what it wills. And the churches, preachers and churchgoers who understand this are growing like a wild fire – all around the world.
For when we set our face upon the face of God, seeking to do God’s will alone – Jesus comes – and he redefines who we are, what we want, and what we need.
When, as Mary did, we can say to God: “Let it be,” then we will be on the path of true wisdom, and then the Son of God will be planted in our hearts.
Lord, “Let it be.”