Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pentecost 8C

Today’s gospel sounds a good summer passage, doesn’t it? Jesus telling Martha not to work so hard, and encouraging Mary to sit at his feet, relaxing, taking in his teaching.

It’s like a spiritual day at the beach.

In today’s over-scheduled, under-joyed lifestyle, it seems like a good message. Take a break. Don’t work so hard. Relax once in a while. Put your feet up. Take a vacation.

But do we really need to come to church to hear this message? You can simply turn to the Lifestyle section of the newspaper, or browse the self-help aisle at Chapters. What’s next to come from Jesus, exercise and eat your veggies?

We don’t need God’s only Son, the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him,” As we heard in Colossians this morning, to tell us that we spend too much time at work and not enough time with the kids. We can just turn on Dr. Phil for this homespun wisdom.

So, there must be something else going on. Jesus doesn’t usually waste his time telling people what they already know. And Jesus certainly wasn’t interested in our affluence-induced stress-filledl lives.

Jesus was interested in making disciples, and this was exactly what was happening here.

Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, the place where the disciple sat to learn from the master. Back then, this spot was reserved for men only. Women need not apply. They had their own job to do: cooking, cleaning, cranking out kids. That was women’s work. And Martha was a pro at it. She did her job well. She did was was expected of her. Mary did not. Which was one of the reasons she was so angry.

Martha wasn’t upset just because Mary was slacking off. Martha was upset because Mary was behaving like a man. And Jesus was letting her!

This is hard for us to fathom. Back then, gender roles were rigidly regimented. There were jobs men did, and jobs women did. For one to do the other was shameful, an invitation to scorn. Jesus was showing blatant disdain for traditional cultural morals and social expectations. This alone could have gotten him killed.

Women weren’t considered people. They were property. They had no personal rights. Marriage was an economic agreement. Women married, not out of love, but so they could eat. They had children, not out the union of a man and woman as an expression of their intimacy, but so they could have workers and carry on the man’s family name. A woman’s place was in the bedroom and the kitchen. Not at a man’s feet learning.

And Jesus’ other disciples probably spat blood when they saw this happening. They could point to the bible and quote chapter and verse on why Mary should be in the kitchen with Martha, and Jesus should be making disciples from men only. They could point to Genesis One where God says that women will be subservient to men because of what Eve had done. It was holy scripture, after all.

For Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him like the other disciples, was a revolutionary act. And Jesus was complicit in her revolution. The two of them, at that moment, broadcast to everyone that Jesus didn’t care about maintaining traditional cultural values. Jesus was interested in setting people free. Jesus was interested in making disciples, in bringing all people in God’s fold, that everyone has a right to live as children of God, learning from the master how to live faithfully as God’s chosen.

For us today, I don’t think this passage is only about the role of women in the church and the world. After all, we have women preachers, half our bishops are women (including our National Bishop). Women have careers and are taking positions of leadership. I’m not saying that there’s no more work to be done, but women are no longer subject to the social norms of first century Palestine. At least not here.

This passage is about how we use the bible to reinforce our cultural expectations. Everyone does it. We read the bible to re-affirm what we already know. We find evidence of our predetermined social perspectives in the way we read scripture. In other words, we often find bible passages to back up what we already believe. It’s something we all do.

That’s why, for some, Jesus is a long-haired hippy who’d be found at a peace rally, or protesting the G20. And for others, Jesus is family values conservative who’s demands that we homeschool our kids lest they be infected by secularism.

Those are two extremes, but we tend to find what we want in Jesus. What we want him to bless about our lives and the way we see the world.

But Jesus has a way of pushing through all our preconceived notions about who God is. The God found in Jesus is equally offensive to everyone. Because this God is interested in changing us - and the world corrupted by sin.

The God revealed in Jesus, at who’s feet Mary sat, made people angry so that people could change. The God revealed in Jesus wants to make disciples of all people and of all nations, and will break down any barrier or wall that gets in the way. The God revealed in Jesus is only interested gathering the world to himself. We may not like everything Jesus does or everyone he chooses to be his disciple.

But that’s not the point. The point is that the world is saved. Not our comfort.

So this passage isn’t about Jesus telling us to take it easy occasionally. This bible reading does the opposite. It opens our eyes to the wideness of God’s mercy. It broadens our vision of how God works in the world. It breaks down the walls between deciding who is a faithful disciple of Jesus and who is not.

This passage tells us that God has decided that NO ONE is outside of God’s kingdom. May this be so among us. Amen.

7 Comments:

Blogger 蕙春蕙春 said...

Make yourself necessary to someone.............................................................

6:08 PM  
Blogger RicoLisi0802志竹 said...

喜歡你的部落格,祝你愈來愈好..................................................................

3:01 PM  
Blogger 韋陳富 said...

出遊不拘名勝,有景就是好的..................................................................

5:34 PM  
Blogger 志火吟義 said...

新的一天 祝你有所成長~~ ............................................................

8:02 PM  
Blogger 和廖勇和廖勇 said...

河水永遠是相同的,可是每一剎那又都是新的。..................................................

8:02 PM  
Blogger 韋雅萍志 said...

Learn wisdom by the follies of others.............................................................

6:23 PM  
Blogger 王辛江淑萍康 said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債.................................................................

5:56 AM  

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