St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-17-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-17-2016

Martha, Martha

Amos 8:1-12, Colossians 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke is one of the shortest lectionary readings; only 5 verses long. And, standing by itself, it is a challenge to apply to our modern time. But the story of Martha and Mary doesn’t stand alone in the text and it isn’t intended to be read that way. In fact, this story wraps-up a long section that reaches back to the end of chapter 9 and the beginning of chapter 10 that we have been stepping through over the last few weeks.

This section begins at chapter 9 verse 57 with three, would be Disciples, who each failed to be ready for the call to become followers. It then moves, in chapter10 verse 1, to the sending-out- of the 70 to preach the Good News to “every town and place where [Jesus] himself intended to go”, instructing them to take nothing with them but to accept hospitality wherever they find it. They return joyfully praising God for the power given them in the name of Jesus; all well and good; but Jesus adds to their joy with these words, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” By itself, this relates the challenges and joys of being a Disciple of Christ. But there is a piece, that is not included in the lectionary selections, that connects this section with the next; verses 21-24 read,  

“At that same hour Jesus a rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.””

Then, as we read last week, a lawyer asks Jesus, “and who is my neighbor”: prompting Jesus to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Today’s story comes immediately following that parable and the thread we’ve been following is wrapped up. Or, I should say threads (plural), several strands of Christ’s teachings on love of God and love of neighbor woven together into a continuing story.

Going back to the end of chapter 9, where the 3, would be disciples, failed and the 70 sent out to preach the Good News; we can see a similarity to Martha and Mary. Martha is caught up in her socially expected busyness, much like the three who failed earlier, while Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to him speaking, much like those in the villages who listened to the 70.

The 70 were instructed to accept hospitality wherever they found it and to offer the blessing “Peace to this house!” when they entered their host’s abode. In today’s story Jesus is accepting the hospitality of Martha.

Much like the “infants” Jesus praises God for in the connecting section, Mary is listening; the Good News is being revealed to her, a woman. And, even the words Jesus spoke to his Disciples in that section are brought to mind as Jesus praises Mary’s choice of “…the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”


All this only uncovers how the stories of the last chapter (plus) are tied together. But along with those threads is yet another; the thread of tension.

Back, again, to the beginning. Of the three, would be Disciples, who failed; one was reminded that he would give up everything he had, even his home and everything connected to it; and the other 2  had other obligations to take care of first; one to bury his father, the other to say farewell to those at home. All of these seem reasonable to us; do we have to give up home and family to follow Christ? Isn’t giving your father a decent burial a valid obligation? And is it too much to ask to be permitted to say goodbye to your family before you wonder away on a new mission; a dangerous mission that you may never return from? But these things are held in tension with the 70 who did follow Jesus, went out to the villages at his command and their risk, and returned with great “joy” in what they were able to accomplish in his name!

In the connecting part, there is the tension between the wisdom of the “wise” and the divine revelation granted to “infants”.

In the story of the lawyer is the knowledge of God’s Law held in tension against the action that the Law requires.

And, drawing this all together, is the tension between the personalities of Martha and her sister Mary along with the tension between Martha’s hospitality (required by the 70) and Mary’s attentiveness to the Word (also required by the 70).

And, still more, through it all is the tension between social standards; what is socially acceptable; and the new, revised standards Jesus is trying to instill; seen in His instructions to the 70 to accept hospitality wherever they find it (there were no qualifications stated); seen in the socially insignificant “infants” held against socially all-important Kings and prophets: seen in the lawyer outdone by a former carpenter, Jesus; seen in the Samaritan that out-does the priest and the Levite; and seen today in Mary, a woman not socially worthy of education, taking a place at the teachers feet normally reserved for men only; against Martha’s socially acceptable, even socially expected, duty of being hostess.


As I see it, in our world today (at least here in America) only one of these social standards has been corrected; that being the education of women. Yet even that isn’t complete and the rewards of education are not shared equally. As for the rest, we have a long way to go.

The tension still exists, and it needs to exist! We know we cannot all give up home and family to be full time Apostles; but we cannot neglect our duty to spread the Good News in favor of time with home and family.

We cannot give up on our search for wisdom and intelligence and remain like infants all our lives and still expect to see what God reveals to us in Christ.

We cannot commit all our lives to knowing God’s Law while not engaging in the action the Law requires.

And, like Mary and Martha, we cannot give up on being hospitable in favor of the hearing the Word; nor give up hearing the Word in favor of being hospitable.

It can be confusing; it can be hard to find the balance in all these things. But that is what the tension is all about! Without that tension we risk moving to the extreme on either side; neither of which is good. With the tension, and constant engagement with it, we prevent ourselves from being too far to one side or the other; we find the balance between home and Apostleship; we balance between infancy and growth in faith; we find the balance between study of the Law and putting what we learn into action; and we move the balance point further from our social expectations toward Christ’s expectations.

When you read, when you hear, when you contemplate what it means to be a Christian, know that that tension exists and is there for a reason. Engage it, work with it, and allow it to help you find your place, the place God intends you to be, wherever it is between the extremes. Then know that you have “…chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from [you].” Amen


Luke 10:38-42
10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.
10:39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.
10:40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
10:41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;
10:42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”


Amos 8:1-12
8:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me–a basket of summer fruit.
8:2 He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me, The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.
8:3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord GOD; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!”
8:4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
8:5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,
8:6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8:8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?
8:9 On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.
8:10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.
8:11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.
8:12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

Colossians 1:15-28
1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
1:16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him.
1:17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
1:20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
1:21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
1:22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him–
1:23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
1:24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
1:25 I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
1:26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.
1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1:28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.