Bowling for Tyrants

Posted on : Dec 18th, 2020 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Bowling for Tyrants
Jennifer Brownell

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. – Luke 1:51-53 (NRSV)

Have you gone bowling lately? There’s something mesmerizing about the way bowling pins fall one by one, only to be retrieved and replaced by the gears and clamps of invisible machinery.

Sometimes, you can scatter all the pins with a satisfying clatter and cry of “Strike!” Sometimes, the ball picks off one or two pins, or even rolls ineffectually down the gutter. Either way, you can roll again and again, until your time is done. As your game ends and you walk away, the pins are set up again, ready to be knocked down again by the next bowler.

Like bowling pins, the proud and the powerful might fall in ones or twos, or even in whole groups. Then, as if by invisible machinations, tyrants rise up again and again.

Today’s scripture reminds us that in each generation we will face tyranny and inequality, famine and oppression. In each generation, we will have the opportunity and the responsibility to do our part to knock them down. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will roll a gutter ball, but we will have the opportunity to try and to try again. In each generation, we will walk away, knowing that there will be more for the next generation to do. And the next generation will do the same.

Our God, you have a strong arm. Give us strong arms as well, that we may do our part to undo tyranny in our generation. Amen.

Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.


Luke 1:26-38
New International Version

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.


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