Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Proper 11/Year C: July 21, 2019
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, July 21, 2019
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Four years ago I had been in the Holy Land for exactly 7 days—walking in the footsteps of Jesus. There were many awe-inspired experiences, one of which was walking the Via Dolorosa with 40 other pilgrims. This is a street within the Old City of Jerusalem which is held to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.
The group size made it difficult for us to walk together on the streets and crowded sidewalks. We also needed at 14 pilgrims to volunteer to carry the medium-weight cross and hold it high as we walked to each designated station.
40 people. 14 stations of the cross. 1 cross.
As we moved through the stations the cross bearer had the responsibility to hold high the cross so that the large group could follow it. We were fine until the cross entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The dim lighting made it challenging to see the cross which increased in distance.
I kept my eyes on the cross and exited with the rest of the group, or so I thought. 10 people exited the church for the final prayer and 30 people were missing.
We were eventually reunited as a group, but I heard people in the lost group say, “We were right with you, but when we couldn’t see the cross we just followed the people ahead of us, and assumed they were walking in the right direction.”
They took their eyes off of the cross, and followed people. They become worried, distracted and lost. In the holiest city in the world, pilgrims—tourists–immersed in the holy, and surrounded by the divine, became lost and they didn’t even know it.
Such is the case with Martha and Mary—the divine was in their midst, interacting with them, and Martha—busy with day to day tasks, was unable to appreciate Jesus’ divine presence and the wisdom being shared with Mary.
The scene in our lesson comes right on the heels of last week’s parable, the Good Samaritan. Recall that at the end of the parable, the inquisitive lawyer rightly responded to Jesus that the one who showed the wounded man mercy was a neighbor to the man. To this, Jesus replied, with a message of discipleship, “Go and do likewise” (10:37).
This week the gospel message is still about discipleship, but the emphasis is on being present and listening to Jesus. Discipleship is not an “either, or” way of life; it is a “both, and.” Go and do—sit and listen to Jesus.
As Martha welcomed Jesus into her home and went about her many household tasks, her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet. A characteristic of Luke’s gospel is that it positions women in ways that Jewish culture would have never allowed. We know that this message is one of discipleship because it depicts Mary in the exceptional position as a disciple who sits at the feet of her teacher within the intimate context of Martha’s home.
When Martha came to Jesus, and demanded that he tell her sister to help her with her tasks, I remember times as a child, when my mother would interrupt my time with my grandparents to do my chores or to help her set the table.
The most precious times of my life are the times of sitting at the feet of my beloved grandparents, receiving their wisdom, stories of our heritage and most important, their love for God and for the Episcopal Church. While the chores would always need to be done, my grandparents would not always be with me.
And, Jesus would not always be with His disciples. I learned from my grandparents that many things in life can worry and distract, and, there is need of only one thing—relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am reminded, also, of my first year in seminary trying to find my footing. The day-to-day demands of living in community; the daily expectations for corporate worship; the demands of a master’s level program; training at a church; and the expectations to be socially engaged were heavy. After a long first semester of trying to “do” everything a good seminarian would do, I realized that my soul was in need of only one thing—intentionally set-aside, one-on-one, silent time with Jesus.
I had mustered the courage to choose to reject some temporal deadlines, in order to actively root myself in my eternal lifeline. It was hard to do in seminary. The struggle was real; and the struggle continues.
Of the many things that could have distracted Mary from the limited, precious time with Jesus, Jesus said that she chose the part which would not be taken away from her. Mary chose to sit with Jesus and Martha chose to manage her tasks. And, we, too, must choose—every day—we must choose.
This passage is not about condemning Martha for going about her daily tasks and praising Mary for choosing to be with Jesus while he was with them. You see, on any given day, any one of us is Martha—checking off the “to do” list, getting through the day and trying to tell Jesus what to do so that our load might be lightened.
And, on any given day, we are Mary, committed to stopping the world around us in order to enter into the intimate, listening space of the soul when Jesus shows up to teach.
This congregation is growing into God’s call to be His instrument that shares the message with those who do not yet know Christ, and reminds those who already do, that while we may be worried and distracted at times by many things, we can choose the better part, which will not be taken away from us.
The church doesn’t always get it right, and that’s okay. It’s not lost on me how appropriate the timing of this scripture is, as I reflect on the several weeks of a seemingly, never-ending “to do” list, as we prepared this new worship space. There is a time to do and a time to be.
We can hold each other accountable to reject the development of a faith community focused only on tasks, and distracted from solely focusing on knowing Christ and making Christ known.
When the community’s focus is redirected from the day-to-day “to do” list to the day-by-day objective of keeping the main thing the main thing—following Jesus is a matter of keeping our eyes on the cross, and resisting following people, lest we, the church become worried, distracted and lost without even knowing it.
We are Easter people, and, we must choose to sit at our Lord’s feet, and listen to humankind’s one and only eternal lifeline—Jesus Christ.