Mary…Martha…Deeper Questions

Luke 10:38-42 (Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15).

Now as [Jesus and his disciples] went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 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.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

It strikes me that when we are distracted from important things, there are usually two likely culprits at play: either our general busyness; or aspects of life that are socially demanded of us. The former is easy to describe: we get involved in “stuff,” and thereby miss all sorts of important things. The latter describes the demands that our culture requires us to conform to, abide by, or at least pay lip service to (and that applies whichever country or region we are born into or find ourselves living in). Either way, the point is the same: we miss all sorts of things, no matter how well-intentioned we are!

Martha busily serves Jesus, who is her guest. She does so as a social custom or norm (see Genesis 18:1-10a, our Old Testament reading for this Sunday). This is her service (diakoneō) and involves many tasks (pollē diakonia). And it is these very tasks that “distract her.” Or, as another translation puts it: Martha was “preoccupied by the details of serving.” It’s that very preoccupation – not her loving service itself – that leads Jesus to say, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

 

The contrast here is with Mary, who seems to do nothing, but who in fact does the one thing that is needed: she listens to the Word. Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, is a student, a disciple. She does what Luke’s gospel says is so vitally important:

I [Jesus] will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them (6:47).

But as for that [seed] in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance (8:11-15).

Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it! (11:28)

When Jesus says, “Martha, Martha,” he is not being critical; rather he is calming her frustration and refocusing her away from her distraction. She desires to serve, but without hearing the Word, without loving God, without recognizing the object of her service, hers is a service that will not last. In other words, whilst trying to be the perfect host, she overlooks the opportunity to be the perfect disciple. She serves without object; simply fulfilling a cultural norm. Yet, love of God leads to love of neighbor, not the other way around.

Diakonēo is a service that includes food and hospitality (of course it does, cries every Lutheran!), but it includes more besides. Our daily tasks and the cultural norms in which we are embedded can certainly be good and useful. However, this Gospel text calls upon us to move beyond a simplistic dismissal of Martha’s fussiness, and into far deeper questions… What does our focus on tasks and norms keep us from seeing or hearing? When are they at odds with Gospel imperatives? What are they worth, how long will they last, who will they serve if they are not grounded in God’s Word? Do these tasks and these norms come from someone or somewhere other than Jesus Christ himself?
 
Shalom,
 
Pastor Ken


Who do you see?

 
Luke 10:25-37 (Psalm 25:1-10, Colossians 1:1-14)
 
In James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, Avatar, the alien race is called the Na’vi.They have a saying which translates as “I see you.” However, as the movie frequently stresses, this means more than meets the eye – it means “I see the love, and your feelings, and your soul, and you mean everything to me.”
 
There is that very Na’vi sense of ‘seeing’ in Jesus; most especially when he is “moved with pity” (splanchnizomai) at the plight of those he encounters (for example Mark 6:34).  Splanchnizomai describes a stomach-churning, physical reaction to suffering, to which the word “pity” barely does justice.  Jesus truly “sees” people.

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Reliance

 
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 (Isaiah 66:10-14, Psalm 66:1-9)
 
Have you ever had a passage of Scripture jump up at you, off the page? It’s a very powerful experience. It’s also quite a surprising one when the passage is only a few words that you hadn’t paid much attention to before. Here’s the longer passage – see if you can guess what jumped out at me:
 
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.  He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:1-2).

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Focus

Luke 9:51-62 (1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21, Psalm 16)

Most people want to serve God; but only in an advisory capacity!

That old joke could have been written for this week’s gospel text (Luke 9:51-62), it applies so perfectly.

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Restored for Mission

As Rod Serling would say in The Twilight Zone, “Picture if you will…” So, picture if you will a man in a Gentile region, living among the tombs. He is perpetually offensive (naked) and unclean (beside corpses). And, if this isn’t enough to give an observant Jew the heebie-jeebies, he seems to live in pig territory. Then we discover he is possessed by multiple demons. This is the ultimate outsider, living in the twilight zone of human existence.

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Faith to Believe

“Once faith is boiled down to quick and succinct answers, it ceases to be faith.”

Karoline Lewis, Associate Professor of Preaching and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching

Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn., quote from Working Preacher June 10, 2019
 
  Proverbs 8, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15 – Holy Trinity Sunday
 
I grew up making the sign of the cross as I spoke “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” It opens and closes all my prayers. And this Holy Trinity Sunday I continue to celebrate in awe of this Mystery.
 
It takes a lot of faith to believe. Living into this Mystery, the tension between what we know, what we believe, and what we can never understand, is a test our faith. Test only in the sense of a willingness

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His Promise

In Jesus’ compassion He prays for his disciples. In Jesus’ communion He promises an advocate.
 
What happens when all that you think you know isn’t?
 

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ John 14:8


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The heart of Jesus

 
May 31, 2019
 
‘I ask not only on behalf of these,
but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one.’ John 17:20-21a
 
At a gathering of Synod leaders, lay and rostered, a pastor told a story that went something like this: In the urban congregation he had been recently called to a couple of women, who were anchors in the congregation, invited him to their home. During his visit the women boldly asked to pray for him. Although a bit surprised at their boldness, he accepted their invitation. The experience that then ensued was spirit driven and life changing. The power of their prayer revealed things to him that he had not before perceived. And as he unfolded his story, the room of leaders were riveted. It changed his ministry, and he invited us all to actively seek the prayers of others, and to receive the gift. Prayer has the power to transform.
 
Jesus’ prayer in John’s writing is offered in his farewell, and it is directly offered as a prayer for those who believe, or who will come to believe. It is an intimate prayer for unity. Unity in the form of relationship, a matter of the heart.
 
Jesus prayer is for us. It is the life-giving power to transform our hearts, together, into the image He has for us. How will we choose to accept this gift?
 
Deacon Kimberly


Story

John 14:23-29 (Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67)

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord (Zechariah 2:10).

The concept of God dwelling – making his home – amongst his people, is a familiar Old Testament promise. Indeed, God’s dwelling place was in the sanctum sanctorum (the Holy of Holies) at the heart of the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, in John’s Gospel Jesus, in the midst of his Farewell Discourse, tells his confused disciples that, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23b).

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An Answer

John 13:31-35 (Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6)
 
 
Living, as we are, in Florida, all of us say more goodbyes than we’d ever wish to.  Goodbyes at airports, on driveways, and the end of telephone calls. And, we grow expert at swallowing hard, controlling the tremor in our voice, and the discrete wiping away of a tear before it’s noticed by others. To be a Floridian is to know much about leave-taking. 

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Voices

John 10:22-30 (Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17)
 
 
The story is told of an agitated street preacher who declared, to all who walked by, that he believed passionately in life after death. To which a passing scholar of John the Evangelist replied (just as loudly) “I believe in life before death – and so does Jesus!”

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Return to life

John 21:1-19 (Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 30)

The disciples are finally out of the locked room in which they’ve been hiding.  It took two appearances by the risen Lord (they were still there after Thomas returned, so one appearance by Jesus seems not to have been enough!).  Now, in Chapter 21, the disciples are back in Galilee; back where it all began. There’s no denying that there is comfort to be found in familiar surroundings.  And Peter takes that familiarity one step farther, by declaring, “I’m going fishing” (21:3); and off they all go.  Some scholars have opined that this passage suggests that the disciples have given up; that they’re not only home to catch their breath, but have fully reverted to their old, pre-Jesus life and livelihood.  I’m not so sure.  The disciples may be slowly experiencing their own “resurrection” in stages: find the courage to leave the locked room; go home to reconnect with loved ones; learn again what it means to be fishermen.  This is a return to the world, a return to life.

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Let’s Talk – Staying in Touch

 
 
Now that the Day of Easter has passed, our seasonal members are wending their way north, and our year-round folks are looking towards the arrival of their grandkids, or journeys towards their families now that summer is almost here.  In other words, lots of movement!
 
 

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Faith of . . .

I saw a wonderful meme on Facebook the other day, it read:

If you want to experience a truly authentic Easter worship service

hold it at first light, and only invite women!

Reading Luke 24:1-12, all I can say is, amen.


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From Palm Sunday to . . .

Luke 19:28-40 (Luke 22:14–23:56) Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: Palm Sunday. 
 
Luke’s account is a wee bit different from John’s: no palms, for one thing.  But also, no crowds coming out from Jerusalem to greet Jesus, just the disciples – meaning The Twelve, the women, and followers of Jesus who have been with him on his journey from Galilee.  Do the lack of palms and adoring Jerusalemites rob Luke’s version of meaning and impact?  Not in the least.  And, here’s why…

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