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Sermon for Proper 11/Ordinary 16 year C ‘one thing needful’ – but which?

June 23, 2016

Pr 11

There is need of only one thing – words from today’s gospel.

In the name of the Father….

There is need of only one thing  bjut which one?

In the gospel, Jesus seems to praise Mary for sitting at his feet while criticising Martha for being hospitable; whereas in out first reading Abraham is held up as an example. By being hospitable, he entertains angels unawares.

In America, more money is spent on concealing the signs of old age than on dealing with heart disease and cancer! Our culture worships at the cult of productivity. A 55 year old person has great difficulty competing for a job for which there are 25 year old applicants that are equally qualified.

Kathleen Fischer wrote this in a book called ‘Ageing’: “(We have) a disease of the imagination…..We have accepted the negative images of old age. The task of a spirituality of aging is to convert the imaginations of both old and young to a new ision of the human. And this can only happen if the old themselves refuse to let society define them, and instead internalize new images of the later years. Large numbers of older people who refuse to be seduced by our current value system could be an unprecedented prophetic force in the world.”

“One concrete way in which older people can avoid the trap of an empty old age ………is to be more careful about the ways they choose to fill their later years…….. How much more purpose might be found for the sometimes seemingly endless time if the lost responsibilities of job and children are replaced……..with activities that contribute to the welfare of others?”

Which is what Abraham does: It is the heat of the day, a quiet, drowsy time, most likely that early afternoon “siesta” time when wise people take it easy and wait for the cooling of the afternoon before resuming the busy work that requires great energy

Abraham sees the three men. He immediately begins to bustle with activity. He runs to meet them with a rush of words as he invites them to be his guests. He will bring water so they may wash their feet and bread that they may eat.

The elderly have a contribution. There’s a hymn by Terry York of Baylor University:

Then dawns the light that what we’ve seen

is life bestowing wisdom.,…..

So now we live a slower pace

embracing each day’s lesson.

There’s joy in learning all that’s new,…….

Then dawns the light, though bodies fail,

we’ve minds and hearts of poets.

We see beyond what life presents,

we hear each new day’s music.

Our lives enriched, we can enrich;

now seasoned, we can season.

Our aging is received as gift,

our aging has a reason.

 

We hear each new day’s music/Our lives enriched, we can enrich; Abraham is held up as an example because he is open to each new day  and can enrich others, can be a contemplative and an activist at the same time.

In our gospel, Luke tells us, “Martha opened her home to him.” The verb     is Greek hupodechomai, “receive, welcome, entertain as a guest.” The same word is used when Zacchaeus invites Jesus into his home in Jericho 19:6

Jason welcomes Paul and his party in Thessalonica Acts 17:7

and Rahab the harlot welcomes the Hebrew spies into her house in Jericho James 2:25.

While Martha is bustling about the house getting ready for dinner, Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening.  The verb is Greek parakathizo, “sit down beside someone,” but the rest of the sentence explains that she was actually sitting not directly beside him — a place of honour  – but at his feet, a place of humility.

Figuratively, “at his feet” seems to have been the phrase connoting a disciple or learner.  Like Paul, who wrote: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel……..” Acts 22:3

 And the demon-possessed man we read about a few weeks ago: “When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind…….” Luke 8:35

 For centuries it has been popular to interpret this passage allegorically: Martha represents the active life and Mary represents the contemplative life. But that is reading too much into this passage. It is not a matter of one or the other. We are all called to serve, to work, in one way or another.

The 14th century The Cloud of Unknowing, is written to one who has been called to enter into the contemplative life, but it is full of wisdom for those of us who do not have the luxury, opportunity or calling to commit ourselves to a life of contemplation, those of us who strive to integrate the contemplative and active aspects of life.

The author spends a couple of chapters talking about this story of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha. , “‘Martha, Martha,’ [Jesus] said. He called her name twice to be certain that she heard him and would stop long enough to pay attention to what he was about to say. ‘You are busy and troubled about many things.’ This indicates that the active person will always be busy and concerned about countless, diverse affairs pertaining first of all to themselves and then to their fellow Christians as love requires. He wanted Martha to realize that her work was important and valuable to her spiritual development. Lest she conclude, however, that it was the highest work possible, he added: ‘But only one thing is necessary.’” …..he wanted Martha to understand that it is not possible to be entirely dedicated to this work and the active work at the same time. Everyday concerns and the contemplative life cannot be perfectly combined though they may be united in some incomplete fashion.”

He recognized that perfection is beyond our reach, but that it is possible to combine work and prayer, even though it will be imperfect, like all of human life.

Setting aside time each morning or evening to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen for God’s word is the ideal.  But that isn’t always possible and sometimes we just fall asleep trying! So we do what we can. Saying a prayer as we commute to work or walk to the shops; keeping prayer beads in my pocket as a tangible reminder to pray for those who have asked for prayer or situations in our world  – one prayer for each bead

Never forget that the Church actually celebrates Martha as a saint, every year July 29th.

I found this on a blog called ‘Church set free’:

If I decide to come to your Church

Will you expect me to be

Martha…?
Always busy, busy doing
Raising money, baking cakes
Calling door to door for
Christian Aid
Giving lifts to the young and elderly
Being part of the coffee rota
The flower rota
The counting of money
And giving of money
To keep the Church going
A few stalwarts baling water
To keep it afloat
Growing ever more
Resentful
Until exhausted with our efforts
Of doing our duty (over years)
To others
And to God
We collapse
If I decide to come to your Church
Please let me be…

Mary…
Seated
Quiet
Still
Listening to his voice
Wondering at his words
Marveling at his unusual wisdom
Apparently doing
Absolutely
Nothing
Except
Being
Here
Close to Jesus
Gaining courage
For a tricky week ahead

 

How would the Church survive
If we are always Mary not Martha?

Yet on that particular occasion
Jesus said
Mary chose the better way. (Luke 10:38-42)

Perhaps if all the Marthas
In the Church
Could be…
Like Mary

And the Marys
When the pace is right
Act…
Like Martha

Perhaps then
We could renew our strength.
And soar on wings like eagles
Run and not grow weary
Walk and not be faint?  Isaiah 40: 31

https://churchsetfree.com/2015/12/09/martha-and-mary-secret-santa-worship-day/?iframe=true&preview=true

 

Amen

There is need of only one thing – words from today’s gospel.

 

In the name of the Father….

 

 

 

There is need of only one thing  bjut which one?

 

In the gospel, Jesus seems to praise Mary for sitting at his feet while criticising Martha for being hospitable; whereas in out first reading Abraham is held up as an example. By being hospitable, he entertains angels unawares.

 

In America, more money is spent on concealing the signs of old age than on dealing with heart disease and cancer! Our culture worships at the cult of productivity. A 55 year old person has great difficulty competing for a job for which there are 25 year old applicants that are equally qualified.

 

Kathleen Fischer wrote this in a book called ‘Ageing’: “(We have) a disease of the imagination…..We have accepted the negative images of old age. The task of a spirituality of aging is to convert the imaginations of both old and young to a new ision of the human. And this can only happen if the old themselves refuse to let society define them, and instead internalize new images of the later years. Large numbers of older people who refuse to be seduced by our current value system could be an unprecedented prophetic force in the world.”

 

“One concrete way in which older people can avoid the trap of an empty old age ………is to be more careful about the ways they choose to fill their later years…….. How much more purpose might be found for the sometimes seemingly endless time if the lost responsibilities of job and children are replaced……..with activities that contribute to the welfare of others?”

 

Which is what Abraham does: It is the heat of the day, a quiet, drowsy time, most likely that early afternoon “siesta” time when wise people take it easy and wait for the cooling of the afternoon before resuming the busy work that requires great energy

 

Abraham sees the three men. He immediately begins to bustle with activity. He runs to meet them with a rush of words as he invites them to be his guests. He will bring water so they may wash their feet and bread that they may eat.

 

The elderly have a contribution. There’s a hymn by Terry York of Baylor University:

 

Then dawns the light that what we’ve seen

is life bestowing wisdom.,…..

So now we live a slower pace

embracing each day’s lesson.

There’s joy in learning all that’s new,…….

Then dawns the light, though bodies fail,

we’ve minds and hearts of poets.

We see beyond what life presents,

we hear each new day’s music.

Our lives enriched, we can enrich;

now seasoned, we can season.

Our aging is received as gift,

our aging has a reason.

 

We hear each new day’s music/Our lives enriched, we can enrich; Abraham is held up as an example because he is open to each new day  and can enrich others, can be a contemplative and an activist at the same time.

 

In our gospel, Luke tells us, “Martha opened her home to him.” The verb     is Greek hupodechomai, “receive, welcome, entertain as a guest.” The same word is used when Zacchaeus invites Jesus into his home in Jericho 19:6

 

Jason welcomes Paul and his party in Thessalonica Acts 17:7

 

and Rahab the harlot welcomes the Hebrew spies into her house in Jericho James 2:25.

 

While Martha is bustling about the house getting ready for dinner, Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening.  The verb is Greek parakathizo, “sit down beside someone,” but the rest of the sentence explains that she was actually sitting not directly beside him — a place of honour  – but at his feet, a place of humility.

 

Figuratively, “at his feet” seems to have been the phrase connoting a disciple or learner.  Like Paul, who wrote: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel……..” Acts 22:3

 

And the demon-possessed man we read about a few weeks ago: “When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind…….” Luke 8:35

 

For centuries it has been popular to interpret this passage allegorically: Martha represents the active life and Mary represents the contemplative life. But that is reading too much into this passage. It is not a matter of one or the other. We are all called to serve, to work, in one way or another.

 

The 14th century The Cloud of Unknowing, is written to one who has been called to enter into the contemplative life, but it is full of wisdom for those of us who do not have the luxury, opportunity or calling to commit ourselves to a life of contemplation, those of us who strive to integrate the contemplative and active aspects of life.

 

The author spends a couple of chapters talking about this story of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha. , “‘Martha, Martha,’ [Jesus] said. He called her name twice to be certain that she heard him and would stop long enough to pay attention to what he was about to say. ‘You are busy and troubled about many things.’ This indicates that the active person will always be busy and concerned about countless, diverse affairs pertaining first of all to themselves and then to their fellow Christians as love requires. He wanted Martha to realize that her work was important and valuable to her spiritual development. Lest she conclude, however, that it was the highest work possible, he added: ‘But only one thing is necessary.’” …..he wanted Martha to understand that it is not possible to be entirely dedicated to this work and the active work at the same time. Everyday concerns and the contemplative life cannot be perfectly combined though they may be united in some incomplete fashion.”

 

He recognized that perfection is beyond our reach, but that it is possible to combine work and prayer, even though it will be imperfect, like all of human life.

 

Setting aside time each morning or evening to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen for God’s word is the ideal.  But that isn’t always possible and sometimes we just fall asleep trying! So we do what we can. Saying a prayer as we commute to work or walk to the shops; keeping prayer beads in my pocket as a tangible reminder to pray for those who have asked for prayer or situations in our world  – one prayer for each bead

 

Never forget that the Church actually celebrates Martha as a saint, every year July 29th.

 

I found this on a blog called ‘Church set free’:

 

If I decide to come to your Church

Will you expect me to be

Martha…?
Always busy, busy doing
Raising money, baking cakes
Calling door to door for
Christian Aid
Giving lifts to the young and elderly
Being part of the coffee rota
The flower rota
The counting of money
And giving of money
To keep the Church going
A few stalwarts baling water
To keep it afloat
Growing ever more
Resentful
Until exhausted with our efforts
Of doing our duty (over years)
To others
And to God
We collapse
If I decide to come to your Church
Please let me be…

Mary…
Seated
Quiet
Still
Listening to his voice
Wondering at his words
Marveling at his unusual wisdom
Apparently doing
Absolutely
Nothing
Except
Being
Here
Close to Jesus
Gaining courage
For a tricky week ahead

 

How would the Church survive
If we are always Mary not Martha?

Yet on that particular occasion
Jesus said
Mary chose the better way. (Luke 10:38-42)

Perhaps if all the Marthas
In the Church
Could be…
Like Mary

And the Marys
When the pace is right
Act…
Like Martha

Perhaps then
We could renew our strength.
And soar on wings like eagles
Run and not grow weary
Walk and not be faint?  Isaiah 40: 31

https://churchsetfree.com/2015/12/09/martha-and-mary-secret-santa-worship-day/?iframe=true&preview=true

 

Amen

https://churchsetfree.com/2015/12/09/martha-and-mary-secret-santa-worship-day/?iframe=true&preview=true

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