Sunday, July 21, 2019

Martha is NOT a role model.

Genesis 18: 1-10a

Psalm 138

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Luke 10:38-42

Martha and Mary are not being offered to us as two models of Christian life. Everyone must be a servant because Jesus, our Model, is one who serves. Service is not optional in the Christian life; but Martha is not a model of service in this story--she is a model of anxiety and resentment.

To understand the story, we must reread Jesus’ instruction to the disciples in Luke 10:21-24. Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see…prophets and kings desired to see what you see and hear (akuo) what you hear." To see and hear Jesus is the blessing.

Mary is the true disciple because she sits at Jesus’ feet and listen/hears (akuo) Him. She understands who this is. She is not distracted. Earlier in Luke 9 at the Transfiguration God the Father spoke from the cloud and said, “This is My Son, hear (akuo) Him. That is God’s command. That is what Jesus tells us the saints of old long for—to see and hear Him. The great Jewish prayer says "Hear, Israel..." and hearing God's word is central to the Jewish faith.

Martha is, like all of us, broken. She is wounded and she acts as she does because of the wound. Her False Self is "the one who does the right thing" or "the helper" or the "one in charge." The False Self covers over the pain. So she is “distracted” (perispao—distracted, troubled, over busy, distressed). Those are words describing broken humans, not role models of Christian faithfulness. Martha "cannot" see or hear Jesus because she is too stressed out and busy, however, she is irritated with Him and her sister. “Don’t you care about me?” she asks. She is not being a servant in all this, she is focused on herself.

We are all Martha. We focus on ourselves because we are worried and anxious wonder. We do lots of things to "justify" ourselves (last week the Lawyer did it in his own intellectual way). We wonder if Jesus notices all we do and if He cares. Martha's problem is her heart, not what she is doing. If she had sat at Jesus' feet worried and distracted about why Mary wasn't there she could have the same reaction. Lots of people worry about going to church and are busy with praying or Bible study—and all the while worried and upset that God is not noticing how spiritual they are and resenting His mercy and love toward others who are no so spiritual. Martha at prayer is still the same person, just like Mary at service is the same person. Martha is an icon of the broken heart. Mary is an icon of the healing heart.

A troubled soul is the opposite of faith. Doubt, fear, anxiety are barriers to our union with God. In Luke 12 Jesus says do not worry. He asks, “Will worrying add to your life?” We know the answer, medical research proves it ruins our health and kills us. Anxiety also kills us spiritually. In the parable of the seed, Luke 8:14, the anxieties of life are weeds that choke the Kingdom seed in each human heart. In chapter 21, Jesus commands: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the worries of this life so that the day of the Lord finds you unprepared.” This is what sin really is, anything that makes us unprepared to receive the kingdom. Anxiety is a barrier to the kingdom. Martha may be your hero, but she will not lead you into eternal life. There is no virtue in being busy (and resentful) if it means you do not see Jesus or hear Him.

Jesus tells Martha—you are in tumult about so much. He offers an alternative: “there is one thing that is needed and Mary has chosen it.” Jesus spoke of 'need' twice before this.

In Luke 5:31 Jesus said that healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do. In Luke 9:31 Jesus cured all those who needed healing. I am pretty sure the one thing we need is healing and it is only found at Jesus' feet. Remember, earlier in the Gospel, Peter's mother in law had a fever. Jesus healed her and she got up and served them (no mention of her being angry at Jesus). Until Jesus heals us, we can not truly serve. If we "serve" out of our broken heart we end up resentful, over-busy, and distracted. 

Mary is the model of those who face their woundedness and need. Mary is the model of those who listen to Jesus as disciples (which is what ‘sitting at His feet’ literally refers to).

Martha is the model of anxious non-belief. She is the busy one who tries to handle things on her own--she is overwhelmed, stressed out and angry with everyone, even the Lord. She is the role model of the False Self who hurts too bad inside to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Anything that keeps us from Jesus is bad.
Anything that makes you angry and resentful is bad.
Anything that lets you see Jesus and hear Jesus is good.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Dtn 30: 9-14     Col 1: 1-14      Lk 10:25-37

This summer we have read from Luke 9 and 10. Let’s pause for an overview to see how it fits together. In Luke 9:20 Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus swears them to silence as He begins to explain that His Kingship is a way of suffering and death. We, too, Jesus said, must die to self. Next, on the Mountain of Transfiguration, God the Father confirms Peter’s insight, revealing that Jesus is, “My Son, My Chosen, listen to Him.” Jesus comes down the mountain, casts out another demon and repeats that He is going to die.

Next Jesus teaches the disciples that “the least is the greatest,” saying to welcome a child in His name is to receive Him. The same themes occur over and over. A Samaritan village rejects Jesus because He does not fit their beliefs so they can’t see God. Jesus challenges others to leave family behind to follow Him, God takes priority over everything. Jesus sends out the seventy to proclaim the kingdom, and there is more healing and exorcisms, more acceptance and rejection of Jesus.

Today we hear Jesus’ prayer. Jesus thanks God who has hidden from the learned what He reveals to children. The child, the small people, is woven throughout several stories. No one know the Son except the Father, no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Only the children can hear Him.

This is the key to reading the next two stories, our Gospel today and next week. Today we meet a learned lawyer and next week, busy, distracted Martha. Luke often parallels a story of a man and a woman to illustrate the same point. The lawyer and Martha fail to recognize Jesus and receive the kingdom.

Luke uses the Greek word ekpeirazo. It means to test but occurs rarely, only occurs twice in the (Ancient Greek version of the Jewish Bible) Septuagint —both in Deuteronomy. Dtn 6:16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” is quoted by Jesus responding to Satan in the desert. Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 10:9 (We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents).

Is Luke giving a verbal clue that the lawyer, in testing Jesus, is actually testing God? Is the lawyer actually breaking the Law which he thinks he is upholding? In failing to see God in Jesus has he chosen death?  More to the point, have we?

God, like the Torah we read about in Deuteronomy, is near to us. Jesus repeatedly tells us to see God in those around us. The parable of the Good Samaritan makes clear that everyone, including those whom we despise, is our neighbor.  Such love transcends and fulfills the material content of the law. Jesus draws us into the heart of God What Deuteronomy says remains true: Choose God and choose life. Reject God and you choose death.

It is hard to find God without seeking Him. Our challenge is to see God in Jesus and see Jesus in others. 
( the actual sermon expands on this written version. God to our church website where it will be downloaded this week)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

4th Pentecost Sent by Jesus

Isaiah 66:10-14

Galatians 6:(1-6) 7--16

Luke 10:1--11, 16--20

In the Jewish Bible, the Kingdom of God is compared to vine yards and other agriculture. Jesus does the same. The "Day of the Lord" is often likened to a harvest. Jesus tells one parable, where God patiently watches as the wheat and weeds grow together. Our world, like our hearts, are weed infested. God waits for His day.

If things are sometimes hard now, Christians hope that someday God will make all things well, but in the mean time we must be patient, long-suffering and steadfastness. We encounter so much physical pain and emotional suffering, in others, if not ourselves. Demons of despair sink their claws into our hearts to tear them from Abba Father.

The Bible makes clear that we are to pray to God for salvation in all its forms. We all know, however, that our prayers are often "ineffective." We have looked at this, but a brief refresher: we must pray in faith, doubt is an effective barrier to receiving what God would give. This includes the unbelief of  those around us. However, if we fail to pray with faith it is a barrier to deliverance [see Mt 21:22 and James 1:6]. Unfortunately, doubt is not the only issue; unrepentant sin, fear, and unforgiveness are as well. The sinful passions all render prayer ineffective.  

Jesus provides us a way out. Every problem is caused by sin--the separation from God--so union with God is the antidote. Jesus challenges us to pray for God's concerns: the fallen world. We are disciples, entrusted with a sacred mission. We are to make the world holy—starting with our own hearts—by offering it to God. We are to proclaim the Kingdom message of salvation. Unfortunately  there are not enough people willing to do it. Jesus Himself said there are too few workers—He tells us, Pray that the Father will send more workers into the harvest! He also sends us, “Go! Do the work!" This prayer and kingdom work unites us to God.

This does raise an issue, “Why doesn’t God just take care of it Himself?” I don’t know. The Incarnational God is a "scandal" for our theology. The 'God-among-us' says He needs us. Jesus says that we have to pray. Why? Jesus sends us out to do the work. Why? Jesus says God is like a land owner who needs laborers to bring in the harvest. How can this be? It sounds crazy to say God needs our help, yet Jesus seems to say just that. Why would God be in partnership with us? (Some claim this is what set Lucifer and the fallen angels against God) Ever since YHWH gave Adam dominion over the earth, human agency has partnered with Divine. Since the Fall, humans have been both united and separated from God. As we said earlier, Jesus said it is like weeds in a farm field. The weeds are everywhere, including our hearts and souls.

If we are the problem, God’s solution still includes us. Jesus sends us out as lambs among wolves. He says focus on God’s provision and not our resources. He tells us to confront Satan and set people free from the demonic. He says be instruments of God’s healing love—for body, soul, spirit.

It amazes how much Jesus trust us, especially as we are rarely enthusiastic about discipleship. He identifies Himself with us, saying, “Whoever rejects you, rejects Me, whoever rejects Me, rejects the One who sent Me.” If our biggest problem is our separation from God, then Jesus identifying with us (Theosis—union with God) is the solution. Prayer and Kingdom focus are the best way to be one with God.

Let us pray. Father make us one with you in Jesus. Holy Spirit purify us and consecrate us as instruments of Kingdom salvation. Help us love you and love others enough to be Jesus in the world today!