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Pentecost 9 Proper 11C RCL July 17, 2016

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

In our opening reading, we continue to follow the ministry of Amos, the prophet who is called away from his work as a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees to go to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and hold up God’s standards to their society.

Last week Amos’s vision of God’s plumb line showed that the society was not measuring up to God’s ethical standards. This morning, he sees a vision of summer fruit which in a very short time is going to rot. This is an image of the society. It is rotten to the core. People can’t wait until the sabbath is over so that they can go out and cheat their neighbors. They rig the scales so that they show a pound when the weight is less than a pound, and they cheat people out of their hard-earned money. The rulers live in luxury while the common people barely survive.

God says that there will be consequences, and indeed there are always consequences when we humans fail to treat each other with respect, honesty, and fairness. There is going to be a famine, but it is even worse than a lack of food and water. It is a famine for the word of the Lord. People will search high and low to hear the voice of God, but they will not find it. Their lives will be going on without the guidance of God. What a horrible thought.

Our gospel for today is the beloved story of Mary and Martha. Martha is clearly the head of the household, which was an unusual role for a woman in those times. She welcomes Jesus into the house. We can assume that she is preparing a meal, which the customs of hospitality would demand. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus in the classic posture of a disciple, listening to our Lord and absorbing the healing and loving and reconciling energy of his presence.

Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her with the preparations. Jesus defends Mary’s right to spend time with him and, in fact, to become a disciple.

Is Jesus criticizing those who take action and take care of others? I don’t think so. We need to remember that this story follows right after the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus praises the Samaritan’s caring for the man who had been beaten by the robbers.

This episode from the life of Mary and Martha and Jesus reminds us that spending time with our Lord is as important as helping others. The two go together, prayer and action. Many wise people tell us that we cannot be people of prayer without being spurred on to action, and I think that is true. Prayer leads us to caring action, and action leads us back to the need for prayer.

I think that probably each of us has a Mary part and a Martha part. Some of us may be more deeply called to action; others may be called more to prayer, but both are essential. Our prayers inform and guide our action.

In the end, I think Jesus would have liked to spend time with both Martha and Mary, and then have all three of them get the meal ready, enjoy the meal together and then wash the dishes together.

Scholars tell us that our reading from the Letter to the Colossians is adapted from an ancient hymn. It is a powerful and beautiful statement about the nature of Christ. “Jesus is the image of the invisible God,” Paul writes, “…for in him all things were created.” Christ is the eternal Word, who called the creation into being. Paul goes on to remind us that our Lord is the head of the Church and that he has reconciled us and all things to himself.

Paul continues, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” Through the cross of Christ, the whole creation and everything in it is made one with God.

This is something we need to remember as we continue to pray for those who died and were injured in Dallas, St. Paul, Baton Rouge,  Nice, and Istanbul, for their families and friends and all who mourn. I ask your prayers for our country and our world, which is so plagued by violence of all kinds.

A wise spiritual guide, Sr. Rachel Hosmer, OSH, once said, “Christ has won the victory. We are just part of the mopping up operation.” Our Lord has reconciled the world to himself. We are called to bring that reality into being here on earth in his kingdom his shalom of peace and harmony and wholeness for all people and for the whole creation.

In today’s epistle, Paul also writes about “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ is in each of us, and because of that, we can be people of hope. We can share in new life in him.

During the interfaith memorial service for the five police officers who were killed in Dallas, President George W. Bush quoted a passage from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. That passage reads, in the King James version, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

At the interfaith memorial service in Dallas, President Obama, quoting from Romans 5:3-5, said that Scripture tells us that “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

I found it deeply inspiring to hear these words of faith from our two most recent Presidents.

May we move forward in faith and hope and love. May we, with God’s grace, work to bring in God’s shalom of peace, harmony, and reconciliation.  Amen.

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