Before considering the important part of the sermon, let’s take a look at today’s Gospel lesson and ask, what’s wrong with this picture? What takes place in our Gospel story that does not reflect the way things usually happen in the world?
If were teaching a class, I would now stop talking, and there would be a long period of silence, while you look through the biblical text on your bulletin insert, to try to find something unusual. But to ensure that this sermon ends before it’s time for Sunday School to begin, I’ll save some time by pointing out that it is highly unusual for two pregnant women to meet and for one to say to the other, “You’re going to be the mother of someone whom I’ll be calling ‘Lord.’” Normally, Elizabeth–or anyone else–would not know such a thing in advance. Right? The reference is to Jesus, of course. Elizabeth calls him “Lord,” and that fact provides a clue to what is going on here that you, as an average person-in-the-pew, would not even begin to imagine. At least, I didn’t, until I went to seminary.
You see, among the Jews of Jesus’ day, Jesus was called “Master,” or “Rabbi,” or “Rabboni.” He wasn’t called “Lord.” “Lord” was a title used by Greeks, and it was a popular title applied to Jesus when Christianity spread out of Palestine into Greek-speaking areas. But it wasn’t a title that people who actually knew Jesus called him. So when you see Jesus being called “Lord” in the Gospels, that is a clue that that passage reflects the practices of the early Christian Church and does not come from Jesus’s own time. (In case you didn’t realize it, the Gospels were not written by people who took notes while the events of Jesus life were taking place. For better or worse, the Bible was developed through a much more complicated process).