God Reorders Power

Passage: Luke 1:46-56

Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Summary

Mary’s Song, or the Magnificat, situated at the beginning of Luke at the start of the Christmas story, is an ideal transition between the Old and New Testaments. It highlights the Old Testament themes of longing, desire, oppression, justice, mercy, faithfulness and trust, expressing great hope and expectation in what God is now doing and in the type of kingdom he will bring about through the expected child Jesus. In this way, the song acts as a lamppost, lighting up the themes that are to come in the Gospel of Luke—in particular how Jesus is about to shake up the power structures of the world.

This is a wonderful, grand vision, but for Mary to play her part in it would be personally very costly, causing her to potentially lose her relationship with the man she loved, Joseph, and causing her to lose her reputation, both which would jeopardize her social and financial prospects. But Laura highlighted three things in Mary’s song that show us how she was able to trust God in her difficult circumstances.

First, Mary understood scripture. Her song is full of references and allusions to the Old Testament in a way that can only come from saturation and meditation on scripture. While her situation is wildly unprecedented, Mary was able to draw on examples from scripture to help frame her own challenging experience, particularly stories of God’s power in the Old Testament. Scripture helped Mary interpret her own experiences. She saw her circumstances as bigger than her and as part of God’s larger redemptive story. Laura encouraged us to be similarly shaped by scripture so that we seek first the kingdom of God, rather than our own personal agendas.

Second, Mary understood power. As an oppressed nation for ~600 years, the people of Israel knew what it meant to be on the receiving end of oppressive power. Though a powerful king was coming, Mary realizes that this king will not just reverse the order of power and oppress the oppressors, but that he will bring a different type of power meant for the benefit of all.
The New Testament expands on this theme of power and teaches that power is made perfect in weakness, which is shown in Jesus’ death and resurrection, as Jesus’ act of giving up his power led to the most wonderful and powerful act in history. This is also evidenced in Mary giving up her own power of reputation and standing for the greater good of bringing this child into the world. The challenge for us is how we use our own power, and even how we give it up for the sake of others.

Finally, Mary was able to trust God because she knew his character. God proved his faithfulness and mercy again and again to those he made promises to. Knowledge of who God is allowed Mary to be able to say, “I am your servant”. We too are able to embrace costly roles in serving God when we grow our trust in him deeper.

Sermon Outline:
• Mary Understood Scripture
• Mary Understood Power
• Mary Understood God’s Character

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide

Re-read the passage(s): Luke 1:46-56

Mary Understood Scripture

1) Mary’s song is full of references, or allusions to scripture. Are there any that stand out to you? If your bible has cross references, check out some of the Old Testament ones. Here are a selection of possible OT cross references: Psalm 34:2; Psalm 138:6; Exodus 20:6; Psalm 107:9; Psalm 98:3; Isaiah 40:10; 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Hannah’s song).

2) In what ways has Scripture shaped Mary? What themes seem to be particularly important to her at this moment?

3) Laura said Scripture was able to help Mary interpret her own experiences by showing her the bigger story. What does this mean and how is scripture able to do that for us?

4) In the sermon, we were challenged to be similarly shaped by scripture so that we seek first the kingdom of God, rather than our own personal agendas. What impact could this have on our prayer lives? What impact could this have on how we approach tough challenges? If God answered all your prayers yes, would the world be a much better place or would just your world be better?

Mary Understood Power

5) What was Mary’s experience of power, dominance, and hierarchy, given her people’s history, her gender, her social standing?

6) In what ways does Mary’s song talk about power and oppression? How is power linked to pride?

7) In the sermon, Laura said: “Power can get in the way of people realizing their need for God.” In what ways do you see this to be true today?

8) How is God’s way of using power different to the world’s way of using power? How did Jesus show this new type of power? Read 1 Corinthians 12:9 to see how Paul interprets God’s power.

9) What ways do you have power and how can we use our power in a godly, humble way, that is inspired by God’s kingdom and for the benefit of others?

Mary Understood God’s Character

10) What aspects of God’s character come across to you in this song?

11) How can understanding God’s character help us to trust him?

12) Do you have an example of a time in your life that it was hard to trust God? What did you learn about God in this time?

13) How does reading this song encourage you to praise God today?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?

Prayer

Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.

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