St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-21-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-21-2019

All in the Mix

Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-20, Luke 10:38-42

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

Sometimes it seems the bible gives us conflicting information. By digging deeper into the texts we can usually figure things out and find that it’s just not true. Most often, it’s by looking into the context of the story that we gain the additional understanding.

Example: just a few weeks ago we heard the reading from Luke’s Gospel about Jesus sending seventy Disciples out to preach the Good News in towns he could not get to himself.

In that reading is the part where Jesus tells them to take nothing with them and to “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid”. (10:7a) It’s quite clear in the context that he is telling the Disciples to rely on the hospitality of those who will receive them and, indirectly, is suggesting that those being visited should offer such hospitality and will be blessed for doing so.

The matter of hospitality was addressed again in last week’s reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one who went out of his way to help a stranger in need. That story ending with Jesus’ message “Go and do likewise”. (10:25-37)

Now, still in the same chapter, we hear again a message about hospitality as Martha welcomes Jesus into her home and provides for him. But this time, there’s conflict. Martha is upset that her sister isn’t helping her, asks Jesus to intervene, and ends-up being taken down a notch or two, leaving us to question just how important showing hospitality really is.  Add to that thought Jesus’ closing words “…there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” and we might think that hospitality has no value at all; only listening to the Word is of any value.

So, before rejecting Martha and her acts of service we need to look at the whole picture.

Hospitality is a virtue. It was in Jesus’ time anyway, and, in fact long before Jesus’ time as we heard in our Old Testament reading about Abraham who, before he knew that the three strangers standing before him were God and Angels, offered hospitality to the extreme; washing their feet, preparing a meal large enough for an army, and standing by them in the position of a servant as they ate.

In ancient times, without public education and no radio or television, it wasn’t unusual for someone trying to spread a message to send messengers into the neighborhoods. And, with a focus on hospitality, when Jesus sent out the 70, it wasn’t unusual that they would stay in someone’s home as if it were an inn. Those who received them were, indeed, being generous but they weren’t going beyond the social norms of the day. It was a matter of positive social norms and good social expectations.

Likewise, the Good Samaritan didn’t go beyond the norms of the time, but what was exceptional is that he was one belonging to a society that the Jews looked down on as being incapable of doing anything good. It’s a case of good social norms in contrast with poor social expectations.

Martha, then, is indeed working within the social norms; virtuously; being hospitable and taking care of this stranger that appeared at her door. But it’s Mary who stands (or sits as it were) in contrast to those norms; sitting at the feet of the teacher, listening to every word he said; a position their society reserved for men only. So, in this story, it’s a combination of good social norms, exemplified by Martha’s hospitality, and overturning poor social expectations, exemplified by Christ’s willingness to allow Mary a place at his feet.

So then, it’s really not that Martha was doing anything wrong by busying herself with being a good hostess; and not that Mary was doing anything wrong by listening to Jesus teach rather than helping with the housework. The problem was that Martha complained about Jesus’ acceptance of, even encouragement for, this upsetting of the norms of the time. In modern terms Martha was saying “we’ve always done it this way, why should we change things now”.

 

It may well have been the case in ancient times, it certainly is today, that we tend to look at everything in black-and-white. We so often dictate the right way and the wrong way; good and bad; the way it’s always been and the way it should never be.

Sometimes this is ok; what is, is what should be. The problem arises when we fail to allow variance according to changing context.

If we look only at the part of the story where Jesus sends out the 70 we only see two options for good discipleship; speaking the word or supporting those who speak the word.

If we look only at the Good Samaritan we are restricted to good discipleship as only doing, fulfilling the word.

And if we only look at the story of Martha and Mary we’re back to two options but somewhat turned around form the first; either listening to the word or supporting those who listen.

But as it is, when we pull all these together, we see that each one was a different situation requiring a different response. And so, there is not one response suitable for every situation.

Jesus calls us to learn, and to do, and to teach! Therefore, there isn’t only one way to be a faithful disciple. Rather, faithful discipleship requires us to move freely in and out of learning, teaching, and doing as the life circumstance requires; sometimes relying on the support of others as we work; sometimes being the supporter; and sometimes just doing what is called for in the moment.

All are faith-fulfilling acts of discipleship.

Amen

 

Genesis 18:1-10a
18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.
18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.
18:3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.
18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.
18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”
18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”
18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.
18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
18:9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”
18:10a Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”

Psalm 15
15:1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
15:2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;
15:3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
15:4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
15:5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Colossians 1:15-20
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.

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.”