The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11C (7/17/2016)

Lessons:Genesis 18:1-10a Psalm 15 (1) Colossians 1:15-28 St. Luke 10:38-42

Semicontinuous Series: Amos 8:1-12 Psalm 52 (8) Colossians 1:15-28 St. Luke 10:38-42

Prayer of the Day: Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest. Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence, that we may treasure your word above all else, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

St. Luke 10:38-42. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Better Part

I have been on Sabbatical Leave for three months, and I can tell you: it was an extraordinary experience (more about that to come…), but it definitely is good to be back! Especially, it is good to return to Saint Peter during Day Camp week, with 30+ kids racing around the building singing, laughing, learning, loving… Many thanks to our volunteer crew at Saint Peter and the camp staff from Rainbow Trail who have made this week possible!

It is good to be back, and this Sunday I will begin a four-week sermon series entitled “What Is?” We’ll ask what is Sabbath (7/17), what is Christian faith (7/24), what is Christian faithfulness (7/21) and what are signs of a flourishing congregation (8/7). I hope you’ll join me for worship as I share some of what I’ve experienced these past three months, and as we pray together throughout these weeks about where God is leading us in the months to come.

This week I want to take one more Sunday to explore what Sabbath is, and why God commands us to make it a priority. In doing so, I’ll share with you some of the Sabbath practices I’ve been involved in during my leave, and some ways you and I can commit ourselves to resting in the presence of God on a regular basis throughout our lives. After our extended conversations during Lent and Easter and my three months away, I am even more convinced that we are not created to be on the go, seven days a week, eighteen hours a day. We are created to need Sabbath — to require time spent resting in the presence of God. To ignore this need leaves us less able to be the people God calls us to be.

The Gospel for this Sunday is from Luke 10. In this section, Jesus sends seventy of his followers out into the cities and villages that surround them. He commissions them to heal, to announce the kingdom and to go in his name. It is a remarkable experience for these people. Lives are changed. The Spirit moves. The presence of God is palpable. And they come back filled with excitement — eager to tell Jesus every detail about what they have experienced. He listens, and spends some time teaching them, and then makes his way to Bethany where his good friends Mary and Martha (and Lazarus?) have invited him to dinner. Here is where today’s text picks up.

Martha and Mary are sisters, but seemingly different as night and day. Martha scurries about, attentive to every detail, striving to make this dinner party a fitting tribute to their guest of honor. Mary, instead, sits at Jesus’ feet, drinking in his every word. Attentive, curious, inquisitive, she seems to have no awareness at all of Martha’s frantic activity. When Martha complains, one could imagine Jesus sending off Mary to help her, but he doesn’t. Instead, he commends her. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will never be taken away from her.

Martha extends the gift of hospitality; not an insignificant gift then or now! But Mary experiences Sabbath. Time spent resting in the presence of God. The one thing she needs; the one thing we need. The better part.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What prevented Martha from experiencing what Jesus wanted for her?
  2. What was “the better part” Mary chose, and why did Jesus commend her?
  3. What did Jesus want these two women to experience from him?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What prevents me from taking time to rest in the presence of God?
  2. What aspect of Sabbath practice could I add to my life tomorrow?
  3. Who might help me keep the commitment to rest, regularly, in the presence of God?