The People Mover

This post contains the sermon preaching on December 20, 2015, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  The sermon is titled:  “The People Mover” and is based on Mary’s song found in Luke 1:46-57.

You can see the video read the manuscript below.

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The People Mover

Luke 1:47-55

Mary said:

 “My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.


His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.


He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.


He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever,

just as he promised our ancestors.”



The children at First Church were ready for the first night of practice in preparation for the congregation’s annual Christmas pageant.  Mrs. Jones, the pageant director, had promised pizza and ice cream when the practice was over.


The first item of business was be to assign everyone a character to be portrayed in the drama.


Joe was the oldest and tallest of the boys – and he had the right first name – so he was cast to play the part of Joseph.


Roy was a rough and gruff young boy –always getting into some kind of trouble.  So it was decided that he would play the role of the inn-keeper.  “Sorry, no room for you.  You can stay in the stable with animals.”


Timmy, Tommy, and Matthew, were three brothers who hadn’t yet learned the importance of proper hygiene.  They were perfectly type-cast to play the roles of smelly shepherds, abiding in the field.


Things became complicated when it came to assign pageant roles to the young girls of the church.  There were five young ladies – Jennifer, Susie, Amy, Angela, and Tina – and ALL of them wanted to be angels.  You see, the angels got to sing, and each of these young girls thought they were the next incarnation of Taylor Swift.


Mrs. Jones reminded them that someone needed to be Mary.
“But Mary doesn’t do anything.  She just sits there.”


“Mary’s doesn’t do anything,” Mrs. Jones said.  “What about the solo that she sings!”  With that, Mrs. Jones opened to the Bible to the first chapter of Luke’s gospel and read the passage I read moments ago.


When seeking a biblical personality to illustrate what it means to submit to the will of God, Mary usually places high on the list.  She is viewed as a young girl of quiet humility.   But Luke paints a different picture.  In Luke’s gospel, Mary is not as dainty and demure as she is portrayed in many Christmas pageants.


Luke depicts Mary as a revolutionary prophet.  She speaks about social justice. She addresses a reversal of fortunes that is a part of the Messiah’s reign.   Mary sounds a little like a rabble rouser and trouble maker.


Mary’s song is called the Magnificat  (which means ‘song of praise’), but when we read the words, they sound more like a Manifesto.  They are an audacious statement about how life will be different under the reign of God’s Messiah.  It’s a song about the kinds of changes the Christ will bring.


Have you ever been in a big airport? I am talking about big airports like Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, Reagan International, or the huge Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA.


On the rare occasions, when I have flown, the Atlanta airport has been the hub where I would change flights.  The first time was when I flew to the Middle East while still in seminary.


The Atlanta airport is huge.  The terminal complex measures 130 acres, or 6.8 million square feet. The complex includes the seven terminal concourses. There are a total 207 gates, comprised of 167 domestic and 40 international gates.


Imagine arriving as Concourse A, Gate 12, and being told that your next flight departs from Concourse F, gate 187.  Then they tell you that boarding will commence in less than twenty minutes.


I remember muttering something like, “We’re in a mess of trouble, now!”  But what choice did we have?  We grabbed out carry-on bags and set out to running.


Have you ever felt you were in a mess of trouble?  Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the challenges and burdens that confront you?


This past Wednesday afternoon, I received a frantic phone call from my son, Michael.


“Dad, there is water everywhere?” “What do you mean ‘there is water everywhere?’”


“Well, you see, Michelle and I were washing clothes and somehow water got all over the place downstairs?” I paused for a moment.  I was in a state of shock.  My children were washing the laundry.  Once I regained my composure, I said:


“Okay, turn the water off to the whole house.  I will be home as soon as possible.” Sure enough, the whole downstairs was flooded.  The carpet in the hallway, the foyer, and the family room was soaked.  There was a quarter- inch of standing water on the floor of the laundry room and downstairs bathroom.


We called the plumber and insurance agent and began the process of drying and cleaning the floors to prevent further damage.


The plumber said that when the washing machine release the dirty water, it was hitting a blockage and coming back through the downstairs commode.  We were grateful it was only dirty laundry water.


That night we had no running water.  The next morning there would be no showers.  That was frustrating enough.  But what kept me concerned was the cost for the repair and restoration.  I felt stuck and out of sorts about the whole thing.


In the moment, this sort of thing feels overwhelming – at least to me.  It feels like a mess of trouble.


I know that many of you have been dealing with even greater moments of moments of crisis during the past year.  You’ve been feeling like you are in a mess of trouble.


Some of you have been dealing with intense grief.

Some of you have been battling cancer or heart disease.

Some of you have had financial difficulties.

Some of you have lost employment.

Some of you have faced the heartache of failing relationships


We’ve faced some tough challenges as a congregation, too.  We’ve even dealt with our own flooding issues.  Remember?  Sixty-seven water pipes burst last February.  Water was everywhere except where we needed it.  Carpets filled with mold and mildew.  It was a mess a mess of trouble that wasn’t resolved till September.


Well, back to the Atlanta airport.


We had arrived at Concourse A, Gate 12.  Our connection flight would start boarding in about twenty minutes on Concourse F, gate 187.  We grabbed our bags and started running.  Then we saw it.  Our faces lit up like a house on Richmond’s tacky Christmas light tour.   There is was: the people mover!


Somebody has called “the people mover” the Yellow Brick Road of the airport. You know what a “people mover” is, don’t you?  It’s a moving sidewalk.  It’s a horizontal escalator.  We stepped onto “the people mover” and paused for a moment to catch our breath.  As we did, “the people mover” continued to carry us toward our destination.  When we took one step, we gain gained three or four. Our journey only took about fifteen minutes.  We arrived before boarding began.


There is nothing like the power of a “people mover.”


Mary sings her song of revolution.  She announces a reversal of fortune for those in God’s Kingdom.  She talks about God as a great “people mover.”  The Messiah is coming.  Mary knows, because she’s a virgin, and yet pregnant.  One of God’s messengers said that the child she carried was God’s anointed.   At the thought of this she sings:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.”


Mary sings about revolution taking place in her own life, but that’s not all.  The next stanza declares that God’s advent in Christ will turn the whole world upside-down and right-side up.  Listen:

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.


Mary speaks about the Messiah as God’s “people mover.”  He shakes everything up by his presence.


None of the girls I mentioned at Fhurch wanted to play the role of Mary in the Christmas pageant.  They thought her too meek and mild.  They wanted to play the role of one of the angels.  They wanted to speak, to sing, to act.


But Mary was hardly meek, mild, dainty or demure.  She had experienced the sorrowful side of life.  She was living through a mess of trouble.  She knew what it meant to live under oppression.  She knew what it was like to be stuck in poverty and injustice.  And so, like a Hebrew prophet, she sings about the radical reorientation of life that would take when the Messiah is born.


When God made His appearance, things would start changing.  The proud would be set low.  The poor would be lifted up.  Those who were stuck would become unstuck.  In God’s Kingdom, the Messiah would scatter those who were proud in the “imaginations of their hearts.”  Mary is speaking about that place in the human heart where people imagine that they are really in control—that they are God.  That place will be scattered.


In God’s Kingdom,  the powerful will be cast down “from their thrones”  and those who sit in high places would be dethrone by the Mighty One.


In God’s Kingdom, the humble will be exalted and those who walk in God’s ways would be lifted up.


In God’s Kingdom, God will “fill the hungry with God things” while sending the “rich away empty.”


In Mary’s song, we hear a declaration of a Divine revolution.   It’s a revolution that begins in the human heart, but it extends to every aspect of life.  It transforms people.  It changes the world.


It affects how we treat one another.


It affects how we speak to one another.


It causes us  re-evaluate our priorities.


It causes us to re-examine our values.


That’s what Mary is singing about.  God appears and nothing will ever been the same.   God appears, and everything will change.  God appears, and people lives are alter, their values transformed, and the world begins to change.


This is the theme repeated throughout Luke’s Gospel.  In fact, in Jesus first sermon, Jesus reiterates the theme of God’s people moving revolution.  In Luke 4, Jesus reads the words of the Prophet Isaiah, which say:


“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,     because he has anointed me     to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners     and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


Then Jesus looks at those assembled and says:  “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).  What an audacious statement.  The word translated “Fulfilled,” is a perfect verb.  It indicates both a present and ongoing result. What God began in Bethlehem continues throughout Luke’s Gospel, and is still going on today!


Let’s look at this “people moving” revolution in action.


To a sinful woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven” (Lk 7:48).


To a woman with a flow of blood for eighteen years, Jesus says:  “Your faith has healed you” (Lk 8:48).


To Jairus’s daughter, he says “My child, get up” (Lk 8:54).


To the disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32).


To the starved, the famished, the empty, Jesus says:  “Come, for everything is now ready” (Lk 14:17).


To Zacchaeus, Jesus declares  “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9).


To the Romans who maimed him, mauled him, and mocked him, Jesus says over and over again, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34 KJV).


Here’s the core declaration of this amazing Divine revolution:  You have a connection flight that will take you to your home in God’s presences, and Jesus won’t let us miss it.  He is the Divine people mover.  God will do whatever is necessary to see to it that we find our way home.


God came as Immanuel – which means “God with us as one of us.”


God came as the one called  Savior, Christ, and Lord.


God identified with our mortality at the cross, where the body of Christ was broken and bled out by the darkness of human sin.


God came to us at the empty tomb, where grace was revealed and our lives were moved by the Father’s love from darkness to light, and death unto life.


Mrs. Jones shares some of this message, in words appropriate for the young children under her charge.  She sang Mary’s song of praise. When Mrs. Jones finished singing, all the girls wanted to sing Mary’s song.  They wanted to sing about the people moving God of love and grace revealed in Jesus Christ.


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