The Holy Gospel according to Luke the 10th chapter.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. 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." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” The Gospel of the Lord
Follow Faith, not Feelings
July 17, 2016
We have had another week in which violence has erupted - this time in Nice, France. Innocent people were hurt and killed. Again. This past week I ran into Pastor Roderic Gholston, the pastor of the Missionary Baptist church that meets here Sunday afternoons. I asked him, in light of that week’s shootings of African American men, “How are you doing? What are you saying to your people?” He said, “I tell them, you’ve got to stop following your feelings - and follow your faith.” Follow your Faith - not your Feelings.
Martha was following feelings toward her sister. They were not feelings of sisterly love. No - her feelings were sisterly resentment. “Why does Mary get to sit there doing NOTHING and I am stuck doing all the work?” I’ve got two sisters. This feeling is not unique to Martha.
To be fair to Martha, she is doing something good. In serving Jesus and his friends, she is showing hospitality through her service.
As we see throughout the Bible, showing hospitality is not just a cultural value, it’s a faith value. Lots of stories tell about the value and blessing of hospitality: from Abraham and Sarah caring for three strangers - they turn out to be God’s messengers. A widow gives the Prophet Elijah a place to stay and prepares for him the last of her food - and the food never runs out. Jesus extols the virtue of hospitality and service through his teaching - remember the story of the Good Samaritan, caring for the neighbor; his miracles of healing the least worthy and through his actions of service - washing the feet of his disciples. Clearly, hospitality is a discipleship value. Caring for the neighbor, serving the neighbor is important. And it is a blessing both for the giver and the recipient. As we read in Hebrews, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Showing hospitality, showing care, is a Biblical value
But, as anyone who has served a lot of people knows, it’s also a lot of work. And so, again, as one who has sisters, I can completely understand how Martha might resent that she is “stuck” doing all the work while her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet soaking up the words of the Savior. It seems “Unfair!”
And yet, when she asks Jesus to take her side, Jesus doesn’t. Instead, Jesus says, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Often this is read as a rebuke of Martha. But maybe it’s only a rebuke of her feelings of resentment of her sister and of her feelings of “busy-ness” and distraction. After all, maybe Jesus doesn’t care if the best china is used - or if there are three kinds of rice and four kinds of potatoes. He appreciates good food, I’m sure. But…Jesus didn’t come to make us feel good.
Jesus came to give us Faith. Jesus came that we may have LIFE. And have it abundantly. Sometimes we - myself included - can get caught up in our feelings of fear, anxiety, resentment or our feelings of busy-ness and distraction that we forget to listen, to listen to God’s word. We focus on our feelings - rather than our faith.
Jesus values hospitality and service to the neighbor. But service is not the only way to offer hospitality. Mary also offers a gift of hospitality. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens. This was a radical move at that time. Women were not considered “disciples.” She would have been considered “out of place.” But Jesus made room for Mary amongst his disciples- and he makes room for you and me too. And…maybe Jesus is calling us to hold open the door for our neighbor, especially if they are considered “other.”
Discipleship is not either service or listening to the word of God but rather discipleship is about both listening to the word of God… AND doing it. This is not a new thought. 4th century theologian Ambrose observed, “Virtue does not have a single form. In the example of Martha and Mary, there is added the busy devotion of the one and the pious attention of the other to the Word of God.” 1
And yet, while nothing new, we can get caught up in our feelings - feelings of resentment, fear or anxiety. And when we do, we don’t respond in faithful ways. Instead, like Martha, we respond with irritation and complaints. Or, when faced with fear, people often respond with anger which leads t violence - or we flee, or shut down, preferring to believe that the problem and the violence is in somebody else’s neighborhood - and it’s not my problem.
Jesus calls us to follow - not our feelings, not our fear but to follow Jesus in Faith.
We can start, like Mary, by listening. But listening is a challenge in today’s world because there are so many competing sound bites through texts, tweets,TV, and all kinds of other media clamoring for our attention - all the time. But like Mary, we can start by listening to Jesus so that we are led led by Faith - not our feelings, led by our Faith not Fear.
Then we can - and must — act, remembering that we follow Jesus who preaches love to the neighbor, care for the stranger and hope for the hopeless and who practices hospitality for all.
We give you thanks for your presence with us ALWAYS. Help us to follow YOU in faith and not be sidetracked by our feelings of anxiety, resentment and fear. Show us the way to love our neighbor, care for the stranger, and spread your message of Faith - not fear. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran
July 17, 2016
1 Working preacher.com