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Pentecost 9 Proper 11C RCL July 21, 2013

Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

In our opening reading, God shows Amos a vision of summer fruit. The fruit is beautiful to see and it is sweet and delicious to taste. But the fruit is going to get rotten. This is a vision of a society that is so corrupt that it is rotten to the core.  Those in power “trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land.” They find ways to rig the scales so that they can make something less than a pound look like a pound and charge more for it. They make a profit wherever they can. They do not care about their fellow human beings. Because the people are not even trying to seek or do God’s will, God says that God is going to cause a famine, not of food, but of God’s word. People will finally realize that they need to seek the will and the word of God, but, when they do, they will not be able to find it.

In our epistle, we read a beautiful poem of praise to Jesus, the eternal Word, who called the creation into being and who is also the logos, the plan, the blueprint for human life. “In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” In him, the whole creation is reconciled. As we listen to this passage, we can visualize the creation of stars and galaxies and solar systems, our own solar system, and “this fragile earth, our island home.” We can sense the love and care of God in every aspect of creation and especially in the life and ministry of Jesus. Paul writes, “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.” Christ is in us, and we are in Christ. We are his body here on earth.

In our gospel we have another beloved and familiar story. In John’s gospel, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are a brother and two sisters. Here in Luke’s gospel, Martha is the head of the household. As such, she welcomes Jesus.  In those days, it was unusual for a woman to be the head of a household.

It is traditional to offer hospitality, and Martha sets about preparing a meal. Meanwhile, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus in the traditional posture of a disciple.  Jesus fully accepts a woman, Martha, as head of the household and another woman, her sister Mary, as formal disciple.  This is revolutionary thinking and action regarding the roles of women.

But then Martha comes to Jesus and complains. She asks Jesus to get Mary to help her with the work. Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part.

Scholars tell us that, in the past, we have made some errors in the way we interpret this story. So, the first thing we want to do is correct those mistakes.  Jesus is not saying that those who are students and contemplatives are better than those who make meals and wait on tables and do other tasks which we can call diakonia, that is, the ministry of servanthood, the ministry of deacons. We need all the gifts. Many contemplatives have said that the more we pray, the more we are compelled to take action, to realize that we have to get out there and help people.

Jesus is not scolding Martha for fixing and serving the meal. He is giving us some priceless guidance. In the words of my beloved friend, Carole Brown, Jesus is telling us, “Fret not thy gizzard. A fret gizzard incapacitates.” It’s not the cooking that’s the problem. It’s getting worried and frazzled that’s the problem.

This account of Mary and Martha is put right next to and paired with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Somehow, the Good Samaritan was so steeped in the word of God and the Spirit of God and the law of God that, when he saw that man  lying half-dead on the Jericho road, he didn’t even have to think what to do; he knew. This is my neighbor, my fellow human being. I have to take care of him, I have to treat him as I would want him to treat me.  And that’s what he did. No fretting, No wringing of the hands. No questioning. Just action. Action which expressed, as the hymn says,  “pure, unbounded love.”

When Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, she is extending the best of hospitality because she is going to bask in his presence, She is going to sop up all the love and all the wisdom and all the presence he has to offer. And then she and Jesus and Martha and the other disciples can fix the meal together.

One commentator talks about how in the Church we have bake sales and we have tag sales and this project and that project and we lose sight of what we are here for. In a word, we become frazzled. Fortunately, we do not do this at Grace. We come and we sit at the feet of Jesus in peace and quiet and love, and we absorb his presence. Nobody frets about irrelevant things. We just gather to be with Jesus and with each other, to be his Body here in this place.

When we take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus, everything else flows from that with a minimal amount of fretting and wasting of energy. That precious time spent in his presence energizes and galvanizes us to be his risen Body in this place.

Prayer is important. Learning from Jesus is important. Sweeping and vacuuming and painting and repairing things and cooking and serving and all these things are equally important. But it all starts with listening to Jesus and responding to his guidance and love.

Blessed Lord Jesus, thank you for calling us together to be with you, to sit at your feet, to learn from you. Thank you for calling us to follow you.  Thank you for giving us your peace and your love deep in our hearts. Amen.

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