I guess this is an offensive picture to some people. St. Matthews in the City in New Zealand posted this on a billboard . I guess it shows Mary a little "too far from perfect".
They put the picture up to get people to think and it makes me think.
It makes me think how Mary could have reacted in such a situation. Even with single motherhood so common today, it's still a frightening prospect to consider having a child on your own. I was raised by a single mom and swore I would not do that to my kids. Some things just aren't in your control.
But this is in a part of the world where to this day, women are imprisoned for being raped, and stoned for adultery. How interesting that God chose to challenge this obsession with the purity of women by coming into this world this way and the church ended up using Mary to reinforce that purity obsession.
Anyway this is where some of my thoughts about this picture took me for my sermon...
Mary is not particularly amazed or shocked at the news that she will bear the son of God. She is more confused by the fact that she is going to have a child at all. She may be young but she knows where babies come from and since this baby is apparently not coming the way most babies to, she wants to know how this is going to happen. The angels accepts it and she accepts it.
She accepts it all. She accepts that she is going to have a son that will not just be her baby but will belong to the world. She accepts that God will use her to bring a Savior to the world. She accepts that she will be unmarried and pregnant. She accepts that God will take care of her and that this is all good news!
To me the miracle of Mary's faith is not that she believed she would conceive a child without a father.
Faith is more than believing in miracles.
In fact I think you can believe in miracles and not have real faith and I think you can doubt miracles and have faith.
True faith is trusting God and believing that it will all work out for the good.
And the true test of faith is believing that when it doesn't look as though things will turn out well at all. If Mary was perfect it was in that complete trust. She trusted that God would take care of her.
And God did. Not that she had an easy life. She had to give up her son. She had to accept that he was not just her little boy, but that he belonged to the world.
You hear about mothers having a hard time giving up their sons to their wives - imagine giving your son up to the world! And kneeling at the cross watching the life you carried in your womb and nursed from your breasts, whose scraped knees you kissed dying before your eyes.
And still we read of her in the upper room praying with the disciples after her baby boy rose from the dead. If we had that kind of faith, we would not stress out over a picture of her with a pregnancy test, or get all upset that someone's blog claimed she was far from perfect. We would know what God could do with someone who is far from perfect.