The story of the encounter between Mary the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist offers a model for how we can bring peace in the midst of conflict. A plot twist that shifts the narrative from animosity to blessing. In this sermon, Osheta visits this story.
How does the story of Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us,” allow us to live into God’s peace? This is the question Osheta explores in this sermon. In a world where the narrative of conflict and competition dominates our relationships and interactions with others, we must intentionally pursue peace in order to see it come about. We must live into a new narrative that offers a different story to the world.
Osheta offers Mary and Elizabeth as models of peace to help us enter into this different story. Knowing a bit about the literary device of plot twists can help us understand how this story works. A plot twist is a radical change in the expected direction of the plot’s outcome. A specific kind of plot twist is anagnorisis, which is a moment in the story when a character or the audience make a critical discovery. The critical discovery could be about the nature of reality, the character’s true identity, the true identity of another character, or a radical change in a plot situation.
The stories of Mary and Elizabeth both tell of miraculous conceptions. For Elizabeth, she was well past child-bearing age, and Mary was a virgin. In the ancient world, these stories fell into the category of “birth of a hero narratives” and when the two are placed side by side, the assumption is that there would be ensuing conflict between the two children, which would have begun with envy between the two mothers.
However, instead of conflict and animosity, the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth resulted in joy and blessing. Their meeting was a plot twist that is not expected. Elizabeth proclaimed blessing over Mary and as a result, Mary proclaimed one of the most beautiful and significant prophetic messages in Scripture, the Magnificat.
The question we must ask ourselves is this: in the midst of plots that are driven by conflict, how can we offer a plot twist and speak blessing and peace? This is a choice that we must make in our daily relationships. If we don’t step up and offer something distinctive, we will only perpetuate the animosity that drives the common plot of our world.
To prepare ourselves for offering plot twists, many times we need to get away and be alone to do the hard work of addressing the inner hurts that hinder us from being a people of peace. Offering peace to others can only occur as we receive God’s peace. When we do so, then we can open space in our hearts to offer hospitality and embrace others in times of conflict, thereby offering unexpected plots twists.
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