The Dormition of St. Mary, Theokotos (observed)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 14, 2016
Central Passage
Luke 1:39-55

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT

The Church’s calendar is chalked full of saints’ days and days of commemoration and we would do well to recognize them and learn from them. They are our ancestors of the faith. They are our family tree in Christ. And if it’s important to us for our kids to know their grandparents and aunts and uncles, to know the important events in our family’s history, how much more important is it for them to know the history of the Family of God which shares our faith; who can encourage and strengthen us in our faith which is of far greater value than where the homestead was or who came over on what boat and settled where and married whom. The saints of God – living and at rest – fulfill the law of Christ and “bear [our] burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) and encourage us in the faith. We would do well to learn about the saints of God.

And although it raises the heckles of us Lutherans, not to mention the wider group call “Protestants”, the chief saint from whom we should learn is the Ever-Virgin Mother, St. Mary. Whom Dr. Luther – after he has roundly rejected the popery – called the greatest teacher of theology. It’s a wonder that she is so widely ignored by us since her words are actually recorded in Scripture and it is said of her that all generations shall called her blessed, while the so-called Christian talks and books we hear and read, not to mention what passes for Christian music on the radio, rarely quote Scripture in its proper context and are little more than self-help, life-coach dialogues that are no different than secular ones – and often worse since they are so often found to be misrepresenting God. We would do better to sit for five or ten minutes a day meditating on the Lord’s Supper and learning life from it – or rather, from Him who is our Lord – than to listen to most of what passes for Christian teaching on the airwaves and between book covers.

Tomorrow is August 15th. August 15th is the Dormition of St. Mary, Theokotos – which means “God bearer”. You’ll recall that the Blessed Virgin is prophesied in Holy Scripture right alongside her Son at the earliest prophesy of Christ and His redemptive work, recorded in Genesis chapter 3: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This “woman” isn’t Eve, whose son was a murderer; this woman was the Blessed Virgin whose Son is the giver of life.

So why honor Mary? Beyond mentioning her at Christmas and having our little ones portray her in Christmas pageants and in coloring books? What role does Mary play in our faith, if any?

Well first of all, she is Jesus’ mother. She is Theokotos, the God-bearer, even as the Ark of the Covenant was the bearer of the Mercy Seat and the Tabernacle was the bear of God’s name, and the burning bush bore God. God never works without means. He never engages humanity without means. And though we like to think of it like this – mostly due to the Protestant history of early America – God is not more fully active or more fully revealed or engaged with His people in the Old Testament than in the New. Quite the opposite, actually. God is not more fully engaged in humanity than He was before Jesus because in Jesus God actually joined Himself to humanity. Or rather, He joined humanity to Himself.

And He did this through the Virgin Mary.

No, we don’t worship Mary. She is not the co-redemptress with Her Son. But that doesn’t mean she is nothing. We like to say that while, yes, God used her as the vehicle of the Virgin Birth, He could have used anyone; that there’s nothing special about Mary. We say this partly to defend against such heresies as the co-redemptress teachings of Rome. But we also say it

because of our own heresy. Our heresy that allows us to devalue and ignore the saints of God, the Church of God, really, is the heresy that nothing really matters as long as you love Jesus. Our heresy is the belief we operate with that pretty much everything recorded in the Bible is not the way things had to go but simply the way God decided to do things. We even treat the Cross this way.

It didn’t have to happen that way, but God chose this way, and then we give some reasons why this is the best way. It’s no wonder there are people who accuse God of abusing His Son. If Jesus didn’t have to suffer and die, then why would an all-loving God let Him? Why not deal with sin another way? And that’s how our heresy leads us down rabbit holes that lead to faithlessness and unbelief.

Our chief heresy is that we believe that the narrative given is one possibility of many rather than the will of God, even though the Scriptures everywhere say otherwise. So, yes, Mary is necessary. So is the cross. So are you.

In football both the end-zone and the football are necessary, but they don’t do the same thing. In baking, both flour and water are necessary, but they are wholly different. It was necessary that the Christ suffer and die. And it was necessary that He be born of the Blessed Virgin. And it was necessary that it be Mary just like it was necessary that your children have you as their mom and dad.

Our question of what is necessary is the heresy of the lowest common denominator. What’s absolutely necessary? This heresy has led countless millions, a whole generation or two, away from the Church and away from the Lord’s gathering. Why? Because someone asked the question, “Is it necessary to go to church?” And some well-meaning but misguided person said, “No, all that is necessary is to love Jesus.”

But who loves Jesus and then doesn’t want to learn from Him? Who loves Jesus and then doesn’t want to eat what He has given to eat and drink what He has given to drink? Who loves Jesus but rejects His messengers because they don’t jive with our opinions? Who loves Jesus and then doesn’t bring their children to Him to be blessed by Him because they won’t sit still? Who loves Jesus and then gives the little ones to whom belongs the kingdom of God a nasty look because they’re too loud or they move too much?

Who loves Jesus and ignores His mother?

And there, I think, is perhaps the best lesson that the Blessed Mother can teach us today: to be saved is to be in communion with God. And to be in communion with God is to be in communion with His Son Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us, despite ourselves, that we can’t reduce the Christian faith down to a bunch of truth statements and dogmas. We can’t limit the power and work of our Lord with memorized Bible verses of which we don’t know the context. John 3:16 is not the Gospel in a nutshell because the Gospel can’t be put in a nutshell. Though it was once put into the womb of a virgin.

You need the whole Bible. You need the whole Church, including Mary. You need the whole of salvation wrought by Christ. You need the Lord’s Supper. You need Baptism. You need to hear the word of God and keep it. You need Jesus, and He comes with all of this and much, much more.

And He comes to commune with you because you matter; because you are necessary.

+ In Nomine Iesu +