Sometimes in Northern Ireland there is a tendency to suggest that because the other lot do something therefore we should not do it. This is a common problem in sport and even the arts and music. I would suggest, however, that this problem is also present in religion.
I thought I might, this week, be permitted to make some comment on religion without too many complaints, it is after all part of our culture and even the non religious may recognise that this week has a certain resonance with Christians.
I thought I would talk about Mary (as in the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, not the woman currently President of the RoI). I have no idea how many sermons I have heard. I certainly hear at least one a week (the evening service is difficult to get to because of the children). Also sometimes we go to the Bangor or Portstewart convention or other missions. As such I have heard a lot. Sermons frequently talk about a biblical character, sometimes quite an obscure one. My former minister at home based a sermon on Enoch; with only two verses, Genesis 5 22 and 24 being very relevant to Enochs character etc. There was in fairness not that much to go on but it was an excellent sermon.
As an educative aside for the uninitiated: Bangor (at Easter) and Portstewart (in the summer) conventions are events where lots of dour looking fundamentalist Prods all go to religious meetings for a week and hear lots of preaching. In Portstewart this is held in a tent which always adds greatly to generalised dourness. Then they go down to Morellis and buy ice cream (except the mean ones like me who do not). The dangerous liberals buy ice cream on Sundays as well. Bangor is much the same except they use a Presbyterian Church instead and the overall ambiance is sometimes distressingly less dour in my experience though my father in law (not a man given to wild jollity) was very fond of Bangor convention and I have this very evening been agitating at Elenwe that we should go sometime over the weekend.
Back to Mary; I have never once heard a sermon about Mary. Now just in case anyone misunderstands, fundamentalist Protestants also believe in the Virgin birth. We just do not seem to honour her in the way we do other great Christians. I personally suspect this is incorrect. I would, I submit have significant support for this, Mary is called Blessed by an angel after all.
Luke 1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
There are also lots of references to her throughout the New Testament. As such there is plenty to base a sermon on. However, going back to my previous comments there is of course a huge problem. The RCs like her. Could there be a little bit of us which does not talk about her because the RCs do? If so that is a pretty rubbish reason. We do not accept her as Queen of Heaven nor her bodily assumption but I suggest that we could give her a lot more honour with becoming ecumenists. After all Dr. Paisley always preaches about St. Patrick on the Sunday closest to St. Patricks day and whatever my views on his politics I do not think he has become ecumenical. So how about it, if any fundamentalist preachers are reading: How about a bit of rehabilitation for Mary, How about a sermon on Mary? You could have one at one of the conventions this year.