Watching for the Morning of July 17, 2016
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 11 / Lectionary 16
Sunday we have before us the story of Mary and Martha – Martha, the older sister, hosting Jesus, working to prepare the meal, and Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to the teacher.
It’s hard for us to appreciate the drama of this narrative. The family dynamics are too familiar: one overachieving, hyper-responsible sibling and one willing to go along for the ride. And so we hear a tale of family tension in which Jesus tries to calm Martha down. “Take a deep breath, Martha. The dinner doesn’t have to be perfect. Come enjoy the company.” Only it’s not that. It’s something far more profound. Imagine this is taking place in Pakistan where Malala Yousafzai – while riding a school bus – is shot by the Taliban for saying that girls should be able to go to school.
Sitting at Jesus’ feet means placing herself in the role of a disciple, a student. There is a reason we imagine the Jesus traveling the countryside with twelve men. They were acting in the public sphere. Women ruled in the private sphere, in the home, behind the walls, beneath a veil. But Mary has taken a seat.
She is Ruby Bridges with Barbara Henry, the only teacher at William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana willing to teach a black child. She is James Meredith enrolling at the University of Mississippi. She is Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals walking into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
She doesn’t know her place. Tell her, Jesus. Tell her to go back to her place.
But Jesus tells her she has chosen the good thing.
What is happening in Jesus is the dawning of God’s kingdom, the profound transformation of human existence. As we read in Colossians last week, “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
The age to come is invading this old age, breaking down the walls, tearing down the barriers, transforming relationships, healing wounds, reconciling all people, recreating the world.
The world about us continues to shoot and kill and rant and rave. The world continues to drop barrel bombs and plunder the poor. But the form of this world is passing away. A new kingdom is coming. A new reign. A new reality. A new creation.
And we are its first fruits.
And we are its witnesses.
And we are its students. All of us.
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
And so we listen this Sunday to the story of Mary and Martha. And we hear Colossians exult in the work of Christ. And we sing the psalm that asks who is worthy to enter the temple – and then talks not about purity but justice and compassion. And behind it all is the promise to Abraham and Sarah of a son – a promise beyond all hope – a promise that makes Sarah laugh – but a promise that is fulfilled nevertheless.
We are witnesses. We are guests at the banquet. We are participants into the new creation. We are sitting at the feet of Jesus.
The Prayer for July 17, 2016
with courage and boldness
Mary dared to sit at Jesus’ feet as a disciple
and he defended her choice.
Give us hearts that yearn to hear your word
and, amid all the distractions of life,
help us see what is needful
and follow in your paths;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Texts for July 17, 2016
First Reading: Genesis 18:1-15 (appointed: 1-10a)
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” – At the Oaks of Mamre, Abraham and Sarah host three visitors, and God announces that the time for the fulfillment of the promise of a son is at hand.
Psalmody: Psalm 15
“O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” – The poet speaks of the qualities required of those who enter the sacred precincts to offer their sacrifices.
Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-28
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – The opening section of the letter continues, acclaiming Christ as the source and goal of all things
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” – Invited to dine at the home of Martha, Jesus defends her sister Mary’s decision to sit at his feet as a disciple.