Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 9th Sunday after Pentecost, 17 July 2016
Proper 11 Year C RCL: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-4
Martha's busy-ness in our Gospel reminds me of this cookbook
Being Dead Is No excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral. [It would not have surprised me to have Martha listed in the book's credits!]
Some people know how to handle special occasions, how to attend to guests. Some of us work ourselves to death handling what's urgent so that we miss what is important.
Martha is right busy, & rightfully so, stirring up supper for Jesus & her other guests. She follows the laws of hospitality in her culture.1 What else is a hostess to do?
Creatively, in The Magdalene Gospel: Meeting Women Who Followed Jesus, author Mary Ellen Ashcroft has Martha say these
words about her encounter with Jesus when she complains that she needs help in the kitchen:
“When I spoke to Jesus, I expected a quick solution. I thought he would tell (Mary) to help me. I should have known him better. He knew this was no minor issue; in fact, it touched to the heart of who I was, how I was spending my life, what made me feel worthwhile. It touched the center of my relationship with God.”2
So surprised at Jesus' response, she sits down, listens & realizes she can take a break from work to listen to Jesus, to learn, asks questions, ponder.3
Martha says: “The world would go on if we had a simple meal...I would learn to survive without compliments to feed me, without frantic efforts to prove myself...I could just be in the presence of (Jesus).”4
The author asks, “How many women have missed God's visitation – have swept (God) out of the kitchen because (God) was distracting them?...(We are) ALL...to put (our) discipleship first.”5
My Sisters & Brothers, we are ALL to put our discipleship first. The Gospel lesson is about ALL of us:
the Marthas & the Marys AND the Marks & the Matthews.
In Luke’s Gospel, we meet Jesus' disciple Matthew in chapter 6. Matthew has a ready will & a ready heart6 (as the Collect in Holy Women, Holy Men says for Sept. 21, the day we remember him). He is at work when Jesus calls him & immediately drops everything to follow Jesus,7 to be with Jesus.
Matthew’s Gospel teaches us about “faith & eternal life,”8 subjects Mary would relish to hear about as she sits at Jesus' feet. Matthew gives us a balance in his Gospel: he writes about “duties toward...neighbors, family, & even enemies.”9 The duties part sounds like Martha.
The disciple Mark is like Martha. He goes working “with Paul & Barnabas on their 1st missionary journey, but (for some reason) turns back,” which breaks their relationship.10 I hear in this echoes of Martha's to-do list, her complaining & irritation with Mary.
The Bible says the damage to the relationship of Mark & Paul does heal.11 Their relationship returns to balance.
Balance is the essence of today's scriptures.
We hear people are out of balance in Amos' day, so caught up in to-dos to make money that they drift away from God. Paul tells us about the balance between heaven & earth, about the Mystery of God's Love that makes peace through the blood of Jesus on the hard wood of the cross. Paul tells us about heavenly thoughts & harsh realities.
Our news tells us about harsh realities.
We gather here & in private prayer to focus on heavenly thoughts, so that we can put our discipleship first, so that we can make a positive difference in this world's harsh realities.
The Gospel teaches us about balancing our to-do lists
& our contemplative lives.
In our busy lives we can reflect the beauty of God's handiwork, cherish & rely on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which gives us a profound spiritual anchor to stabilize us for joyous service for Jesus' sake.
My Brothers & Sisters, God's Beloved Marks & Matthews, God's Beloved Marthas & Marys, God guides us to balance in our lives.
Balance is essential to life.
When it seems impossible to achieve balance, we must trust God to guide us.
We must wait upon the Lord.
Ashcroft, Mary Ellen. The Magdalene Gospel: Meeting Women Who followed Jesus. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. 2002.
“Focus on Jesus”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/ Accessed: 14 July 2016.
Freeman, Lindsay Hardin. Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. USA: Forward Movement. 2015.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York: Church Publishing. 2010.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: Public Affairs (Perseus Book Group). 2012.
Whitley, Katerina Katsarka. Seeing for Ourselves: Biblical Women Who Met Jesus. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 2001.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
1 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 1029.
2 Ashcroft, Mary Ellen. The Magdalene Gospel: Meeting Women Who Followed Jesus. P. 63.
3 Ibid. P. 64.
6 Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York: Church Publishing. P. 597.
7 Ibid. P. 596.
10 Ibid. P. 344.