Mary – Mother of God – Economist: Happy Mother’s Day

Preacher: Nathan Hosler

Date: May 14, 2023

Scripture: Proverbs 31:10-31, Luke 1:46-56, John 14:15-21

Audio can be found here:

Happy Mother’s Day! Today we honor and express gratitude for and to mothers. We are thankful for the ways that mothers have cared for us as we grew up and did work that we did not always fully notice. We also acknowledge that the day is difficult for some due to loss or absence or brokenness. Even in this discomfort we feel the importance of a caring and nurturing parent.

 I often feel the need to caveat and qualify statements. In this case while we celebrate and express gratitude, we also note that a day like Mother’s Day can easily encode and further reinforce culturally bound gender assumptions about roles, strengths, and qualities. By extolling (rightly) the loving and caring qualities, people have, in the past and present asserted that this means that woman and mothers shouldn’t be in certain roles. We stand against this! Politicians and the powerful should be more loving regardless of gender and should be more women!

We (rightly) extol hard work and dedication! But when this hard work and dedication is because the system treats women unequally—we stand against this!

I titled the sermon–Mary—Mother of God—Economist. The Mary in consideration is the mother of Jesus. This denomination, and many Protestant churches do not typically use the term “Mother of God.” By reacting against forms of veneration that were deemed theologically problematic, we have often undervalued the significance of the Theotokos, the God bearer. While the term “Mother of God” may not often be used in our context, most likely you have never labeled Mary an economist—I hadn’t. In addition to these two parts of mama Mary’s identity we will also consider the passage from Proverbs.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 we read:

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
    Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name;
50 indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Soon-to-be-Mother Mary’s song—the Magnificat—speaks of God’s liberating action. She portrays a trust in God’s work with and through God’s people. She highlights God’s priorities. The coming Messiah, saving one, will come as an answer to prayer—bringing freedom for the captives and a re-ordering of that which is disordered. Mary will be the site of the first hospitality—the first care for the one who will care for humanity.

Soon-to-be-Mother Mary takes part in ushering in a new reality. The scriptures portray this risky and bold work as willing and with agency. When announced to her she stepped forward with determination and willingness. Mary embodies welcome to the long-expected Messiah through her body and then in her home and community. She nurtured and nourished the Holy One in the most direct way possible. Our theology is that Mary was human, which means she messed up too. She didn’t have it all together, but she was fully present in the work of God.

Mary, Mother of God, cared and demonstrated great love. We celebrate and are grateful for this example, and the example of many other mothers.


In this town, at least in the political and Capitol Hill part of this town, it is easy for me (and I assume many of us) to forget and get misoriented. It is easy to have the assumptions of power, prestige, and respectability become our assumptions.

Last Sunday I was in Nigeria. I went to 2—not one church service. The first was about 3 ½ hours long with close to 1000 people. The second was an evening service. When we arrived, it ended up that it was a Bible study with perhaps 20 people present. The Bible study was in the front of a giant church building. The sanctuary could easily have sheltered our entire sanctuary and perhaps most of our building.

The building had been in the process of being built for the past 5 years. The structure was functional but clearly not complete. I listened and participated in their study and reflection on the suffering they experience in light of the biblical passages. I was challenged in my assumptions and desires. My assumptions of what it means to have a “career,” to be in ministry, to be a successful congregation. My assumptions of stability and relative power.

Mary’s song of celebration and resistance place her in care of God but also as an agent of radical work. Turning upside-down the expectations and assumptions of power—of our hopes and desires.

This tells us something about God and also something about Mary. 

We also see her social vision, her economic vision. While not an economist with fancy and sophisticated models of growth and inflation targets and interest rates, she has moral clarity and principles which shape a direction. She doesn’t project optimal growth or interest rates or debt ceilings. But she knows God is acting and overturning.

Clearly the economic systems are different between now and then. However, to simply say things are different—and that “now things are very complicated”—can easily be a way for us to assume that how things are is how they need to be. That it is somehow inevitable. That since we certainly can’t cut military spending, we need to cut care for the vulnerable or actually just keep drilling for fossil fuels—perhaps unfortunate but still necessary.

Mother Mary, not only cares for and raises the baby then kid Jesus—God of the vulnerable—but she has clarity on God’s priorities. While we challenge the system we can celebrate the tenacity, clarity, and courage. Mother Mary participates in the healing and reconciliation of all of Creation.

We celebrate and are grateful for Mary’s vision and proclamation which challenges the injustice of this world and overturns expectations and assumptions of power. We celebrate and are grateful for the many witnesses of mothers who struggle hard for a better world and for those around them. We remember and honor those mothers who have fled their homes in search of safety and protection and for those mothers who minister and work for systems which are just and care for all.

And lastly, in Proverbs we see a woman and mother

Biblical Wisdom literature is a funny bunch of books. It challenges our assumptions of theological speech and (apparently) straight forward statements. It challenges our assumptions of causation and certainty. It speaks with certainty yet allows ambiguity—and wisdom. In wisdom literature—wisdom portrayed as a woman.

 In the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians have often called the “old” Testament, we have a pre-Jesus monotheistic Divine figure. While we can track the consolidation of a monotheistic understanding of God, we can also see hints of what Christians will eventually call the Trinity. The Spirit shows up in the feminine (which is linguistic but also gestures toward the fullness of the Divine) and wisdom is portrayed as from the beginning and also feminine. Early in the book of Proverbs we see this portrayal of Wisdom. Here, in the last chapter of the book, we see a portrayal of a heroic mother.

Again, we can see cultural assumptions of gender roles as well as indicators of a different economic system and division of labor.

10 A woman of strength who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not harm
    all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night
    and provides food for her household
    and tasks for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
    for all her household are clothed in crimson.
22 She makes herself coverings;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the city gates,
    taking his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she supplies the merchant with sashes.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her happy;
    her husband, too, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Here, the mother is portrayed as industrious and skilled. She is wise and makes well-reasoned business decisions. What particularly caught my attention was her agency and autonomy in making significant investments. Verse 16 reads:

 16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength
    and makes her arms strong.

In our house, we consult on virtually every purchase beyond the basic necessities. While I, and Jenn, don’t ask permission to buy additional clothing for work, we usually have some form of communication. We are certainly not buying land without a family discussion. In this passage, which is lauding and portraying an ideal, the mother not only suggests a substantial investment but seems to unilaterally decide and act on the judgement.

This picture is one of skill, diligence, and honesty. It is one of hard work and adept decision making. We celebrate mothers in their skill and strength. In the ways that they have gotten things done. We also pray and commit to work for systems and a world which is oriented towards the well-being and flourishing of mothers and all women and girls.

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