Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who's Zooming Who?

And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

Luke 1.46 (New King James)

Big Praise

When we speak of magnifying the Lord, we ordinarily mean praising Him. In fact, most contemporary renderings of Mary’s song substitute “magnifies” with a “praise” synonym. But something gets lost in translation by downgrading Mary’s adulation to common praise. Her song comes at the biggest moment of her life—indeed, the biggest moment in human history. It demands big praise.

Having just learned she will give birth to God’s Son, Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth, who prophetically confirms the angel’s news. The Bible leaves Mary’s age unnoted, but let’s assume she was a teenager, given the customs of her day. The awesome responsibility she faced would cause anyone twice her years to faint with fear. Not Mary—she breaks into song! “God has never felt greater, His favor never more real, and His power never so evident in my life.” Her soul rises in faith and magnifies the Lord.


As we listen to Mary, we see God in His fullest glory as our Creator, Redeemer, and Champion. His work in her reveals His potential in us. Unique though Mary’s situation was, we are like her in this respect: our souls are God’s windows. It’s through them that others observe Who He is and what He does. How He’s seen, though, depends on us. Our ability—and willingness—to magnify Him directly affects His portrayal in our lives.

The soul is a mysterious thing. It exists without a trace of physical evidence. We know it’s there because Genesis says God breathed into us and we became “living souls.” They’re His expressive presence in us and to the world. Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul. We might think of this as three rooms in one house. Motives reside in the heart. Thoughts occupy the mind. Emotions live in the soul. Motives and thoughts reveal us. But the faith revealed in our emotions decides the size and clarity of the God we display.

The Size Issue

Risking metaphorical overkill, emotions work like a zoom control. The happier we are to trust God, the bigger, clearer He looks. If despair and uncertainty color our feelings, we enlarge ourselves; He grows smaller, dimmer. The size issue comes down to who’s zooming who? “He must be greater; I must be less,” Jesus said, echoing Job: “Remember, you magnify His work for men to see.” Finally, David found that when emotional transparency enlarges God’s presence, the results are too wonderful not be shared. “Magnify the Lord with me!” he wrote. It’s an offer we can’t refuse.

Originally posted September 10, 2008.

My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord (Barbara L. Desrosiers: 2000)

(Tomorrow: Rugged Places)

Postscript: Delays

Flight delays and missed connections have Walt and me stuck overnight in Madrid--not a bad place to be by any stretch of the imagination, but not where I need to be to deliver tomorrow's post in a timely fashion. Barring any other unforeseen challenges, I hope to get things back on schedule no later than 8 PM CST tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's the Scripture the post will focus on. Isaiah 40.4: Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, and the rugged places a plain.

If it inspires any thoughts, by all means, share them here. (I've been praying to find a way to draw on the wisdom and inspiration of all of us in developing specific posts--what's been such a hassle today could very well be a veiled answer to that prayer!)


Sherry Peyton said...

I love your analogy to a zoom lens. I usually think of making myself small and letting God become large in me, and vice versa when the ego takes over. Yours was a lovely way to see it. Thank you.

johnmichael said...

I do remember reading Isaiah, and that Scripture. But I can't wait to see your take on it. I'm not really sure what it really means...I have a translation in my mind. Not really sure about it though.

I was raised strictly Roman Catholic. So I grew up saying the rosary and honoring Virgin Mary. There are still days when I want to recite the rosary, but there is a part of me that tells me to worship our Lord as the almighty God, but give thanks and honor to Mary as the vessel that brought Jesus to us. I haven't recited the rosary in over a month now. Still an issue I'm facing--the Catholic rituals versus (prayers to saints and so forth) focusing just on God. I'm woring myself through it.

kkryno said...

My take on this could be that all things are made equal with God, easier; smoother. He lessens the difficulty and hardship when we let Him in.

Hope you and Walt make it home safe and sound. :)

Tim said...

Hello, all--back at home at last! And grateful for traveling mercies and patience in dealing with a classic example of bureaucratic/airline indifference. But I learned a lot about my low tolerance levels for certain kinds of disregard for others' feelings/needs. In the process, met some truly delightful, genuinely Christian people whose kind spirits and tact helped greatly to mitigate what could have escalated quickly into a 23-customer meltdown. It wasn't a happy experience, but in the end, a beneficial one.

Sherry, the concept of "magnifying" the Lord has always intrigued me because it takes our opportunity one step beyond transparency--passively allowing Christ's presence and love to shine through--and endows us with the gift to enlarge them appropriately to our situation.

In some cases, people around us need to see/experience "more" love or sense His presence in a "bigger" way. (This is true for us as well.) Knowing we have that ability--to magnify Him in praise and service--increases our potential to minister actively to those in need, rather than hope they'll see and draw strength from the Christ they discover in us on their own. (Again, sometimes we minister to ourselves in this fashion...)

And, you're spot-on: the capability of "zooming" in on God's love and acceptance is totally dependent--inversely proportional, in fact--to our willingness to dial back our egos, demands, and ideas about who's more important--Him or us.

Thanks, as always, for your comment. Once again, your personal insights gently remind us of what's involved in turning eternal principles into daily practices.

John, you raise a topic that bridges a number of areas of concern among the universal--i.e., catholic--body of believers. And I feel confident that all of us--big-C and little-c people of faith--align ourselves with the recognition that the "almighty God" (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) must be the ultimate recipient of our worship. Yet I also wonder if those of us who've been reared in traditions of faith that include "rituals" honoring Mary and other saints might lose some of the richness of our Christian experience by disavowing them altogether.

I'll try to explain what I mean. As a Protestant Fundamentalist, I was strictly taught NOT to pray to anyone other than the three persons in "the Godhead." And much of this was based on the physical symbolism involved in these acts: the statues, postures, etc., which our theologians rushed to judgment and labeled "idolatry." Unfortunately, the incomplete teaching and understanding among those who did practice such rites wasn't any help in their defense. Had they been firm in their conviction that they were praying THROUGH the saints rather than TO the saints--and that the images and protocols were intended as enhancements of the petitioners' faith--this might have mitigated the entire misunderstanding.

Scripture teaches that while we struggle along in our daily lives, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and others (e.g., the prophet Elijah, according to Romans 11.2) intercedes on our behalf. In other words, they pray for our success, safety, etc. The Rosary is the most common instance of this phenomenon. If we look at the words, we see two things. First it venerates--rather than worships--Mary as "full of grace" but worships her Son, Jesus. Second, it asks her to "pray for us"--to intercede--rather than asks her answer our prayer as God would.

In essence, the Rosary operates no differently than my recent request that Straight-Friendly's readers pray for traveling mercies for Walt and me. I asked you to pray out of respect for your faithfulness and concern for us as fellow believers. And now that we're home safely, I'm grateful for your prayers. But I have no doubt that it was God Who provided our protection and praise for our safe return belongs solely to Him. Only He could do this and all worship belongs to Him in the end.

The degree to which any believer includes ritualized requests for saintly intercession is extremely personal, depending on his/her upbringing, understanding, and need. Some find it enormously inspiring and an exhilarating expression of faith in God. Others find it detracts from focusing all their attention on the One Who in the end is solely responsible for answering prayers. What matters most is that, despite all the rituals, we concur with Paul that there is "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4.5-6)

Hope this helps!

Blessings to you and Sherry,

Tim said...

Vikki--hi! Good to see you!

Your comment came through while I was rambling away above...

You're one step ahead of me on today's post, which I'm just now beginning. So I'll get to it and I'm sure you'll hear echoes of what you're thinking!

Take care! Peace and joy always,