In pm's words
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July 18, 2016, 9:00 AM

the one about martha and mary...


Sermon from July 17, 2016

Text: Luke 10: 38-42

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, this is always a really interesting text to preach on, and I’d hazard a guess that most women who have read it and subsequently have heard sermons regarding it haven’t enjoyed it all that much. I have a feeling, that if Martha heard how this particular Gospel story - that deals entirely with her and her sister Mary – has been preached, she’d be much like Jan from The Brady Bunch. But, instead of exclaiming, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” She’d be crying out “Mary, Mary, Mary!”

For, you see, Mary has been given a lot of ‘props’ throughout history in the preaching this particular text. I’m sure there are quite a few women here who have heard this text interpreted in such a way that you are either a “Mary” – one sitting at the feet of God – or you are a “Martha” – one too busy, bossy, and ‘distracted’ by many things. In my study of this text and in conversations with women – there has been an attempt to lump all Christian women into one of these two camps – Mary or Martha.  Of course, even in that ‘sorting’ the ideal is to be more like a Mary and to not fall into the distracted traps of a Martha.

What gets me about this text, and which makes this a little difficult to preach on is that Jesus seems to chide and double tsk Martha for doing what she feels is appropriate as a host. As we are introduced to Martha, Jesus and his friends are welcomed into her home. I thought that was quite significant. This is Martha’s home. I presume that she owns this house. No male name – no father’s or husband’s or brother’s or son’s name is attached to Martha. That, in my opinion, is pretty uncommon during this time. This is her home and like any good host – she was busy caring for her guests, especially the VIP guest who is Jesus that has come to visit.

We aren’t told what her ‘many tasks’ were, but I’d be more than certain that Martha was preparing a meal and making sure her guests were comfortable. Perhaps she was in the kitchen, in the dining area cooking up a wonderful meal to serve these guests who are sitting, talking, and sharing in her home. If she was anything like the women I know in my family there were probably many questions of, “Can I get you something to drink?  You sure you’re alright?” It’s what any good host would do. 

Now, I don’t really begrudge Martha for getting a little shall we say – resentful – of her sister Mary at this point. One of the societal ‘roles’ of women during this time was to prepare meals and serve. It was not to sit around and just listen. But, that is what Mary is doing. She has shifted her role at this time and stepped out of the box that society has placed on her and others like her. She is in the presence of God, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Enjoying his presence and listening to his words. To Martha it looks like she isn’t living into the role that society has for her – which she isn’t. So, to Martha it looks like Mary is slacking and leaving her to do all the work.

Now, when Jesus says, “Martha, Martha…” I think many have taken that as a – “You don’t need to be there in the kitchen. Just come in here and sit at my feet. What Mary is doing is right, what you’re doing is wrong.” 

How many women here have heard that before? Don’t worry about the ‘tasks’ you have to do, just listen to me.

I don’t think that Jesus is necessarily saying that what Martha is doing – the tasks themselves – are bad. She is doing a good thing. Martha is being a good host. She is caring for those she has welcomed into her home. She is being a GOOD neighbor. Jesus just talked about what being a good neighbor looks like – we literally heard that moments before as he told the parable of the Samaritan. It means caring for the ones in need – even the ones who are welcomed into your home. Martha herself is living into all the things that Jesus lifts up in Luke’s gospel. She has welcomed strangers into her home. She has laid down the welcome mat, and she is in service to those who have come into her life. She is being a good neighbor and host. That is something she should be proud of and I believe Jesus is thankful for that.

However, in her ‘living into’ her service and in the serving of those in her home as host she is, as Luke writes – distracted. The Greek word here from verse 40 is - perispaomai - which means in the process of being pulled or dragged in different directions.

Here she is – doing these tasks of the humble host of God (literally). She is feeding the Lord. She is giving Jesus’ friends a place of rest. She has welcomed strangers into her midst and is treating them like family. Yet, even in that work and presence of God before her, she fails to see what she is doing. In her own way as a humble servant and host, she is in the presence of God and living into the call that God has given her. She is distracted by what others are doing. She is distracted by the ‘tasks’ that she ‘has’ to do.

In my time here as your pastor – you’ve heard me talk a lot about what we ‘get’ to do and what we ‘have’ to do. Here, I think Martha has lost sight of what she is doing. Yes, she is living into the call to be a welcoming host to all those who come to her door. But, instead of living into that call as a gift, she appears to view them as chores, rules that she has to abide by. She is fulfilling a societal obligation.  It is no longer a gift that she GETS to do, but it is a role she HAS to do. One of the funny stories that pops into my head whenever I think of this – Is from one of my favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory. There is an episode where Dr. Sheldon Cooper states that ‘social protocol dictates that you offer a friend a warm beverage.’ It is a thoughtful gesture, but he is fulfilling a social protocol (he literally says that). He isn’t ‘offering’ it out of compassion and love – he’s doing it because society says you have to. He’s fulfilling a role, an obligation, completing a chore.

Think about your own lives for a moment. Each of us has been called by God to do what we have been gifted to do. Some work with numbers and logistics, some teach, some sweat in their labor more than others. Some get to do things that they enjoy immensely and wouldn’t trade it for the world while others look upon those jobs and tasks and say, “Really? I’m glad God chose you to do that…because I sure don’t think I could.”

Of course, that is just what we do outside this community of faith, but even when we serve inside the confines of this community there are people who feel called to certain areas of ministry. Some proclaim and share, some sing, some stand up for others, some call us to look and see those before us. We all are called by God and gifted with ways to do what God has called us. 

In the beginning of those ministries we see the great gift that God has given us. We see the wonderful opportunity that Christ has afforded us. We relish in the presence of the Spirit as we go out and do ministry – whatever it may be. 

But, like Martha there comes a time when the ‘get to’ turns into the ‘have to.’ I have to go to church today. I have to read. I have to sing. I have to do this. I have to do that. When we turn our eyes towards the tasks themselves we can begin to see them as burdens, restrictions, obstacles. We lose sight of the fact that God is present with us in each of those moments. 

God has called us to live into our vocations – our own divine calls that God has set apart for each of us. But, in each of those tasks we are always in the presence of God. Christ is there with us. The Holy Spirit is present guiding us.

I don’t think, as I read this text, that Jesus is saying to Martha, “You’re too busy in the kitchen. You should be with Mary at my feet.” No, because that isn’t validating the good work and service that Martha is doing. No, what I think Jesus is ‘chiding’ Martha for is that she has lost sight of the presence of God in her work and service.

What Mary is doing is basking in the presence of God in her own way. You too Martha are able to bask in the presence of God as you work and welcome those into your home as a gracious and humble host. You are literally host to God. 

Be aware of that. Be thankful for that.

This is a reminder to each of us as well – both women and men. In all the work that we do. The work and tasks that we do within the church, the work and tasks we do outside this community of faith. All of it – all of it – is done in the presence of God. It isn’t a have to life, it is a get to life.

I get to come to church. I get to eat of the bread and drink of the wine, the body and blood of Christ. I get to read. I get to care for children. I get to mow lawns. I get to care for many different people. I get to do all of this because God is present in the work that I do. Christ is present in each day.

Sometimes we have to take deep breaths and remember that. Sometimes it takes setting things aside and sitting at the feet of the Word of God like Mary. But, in all things, we remember that God is in our midst. God is present in all that we do. And when we live a life of ‘get tos’ instead of ‘have tos’ we are able to more readily see the gift that God has given us.

Amen.

 

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