Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, July 21, 2019

The holy gospel according to Luke, the 10th chapter. Glory to you, O Lord.

38Now as [Jesus and his disciples] went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But 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.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there 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.  Praise to you, O Christ.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today, Jesus says to you, “Don’t worry.  I love you, and no one else’s opinion matters but mine.” 

Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent one hot, summer afternoon.  He was an old man by then, so he was probably dozing a bit in the heat. And, before he knew it, three strangers were standing outside looking down at him.  

Well, he jumped up, as fast as an old man could jump, and ran over to greet them. In his culture, offering hospitality was a sacred obligation.   

Sarah got busy right away.  She kneaded the flour with the lard and added the milk.  She shaped the biscuits and started baking them on her little kitchen fire.  

Abraham chose a calf then told a servant to prepare it for a great meal for the three strangers, these unexpected guests.

Abraham and Sarah understood that you never know if a stranger might be an angel - someone with a message from God for you.  All strangers must be treated as if they are angels, because you just never know. Hospitality is that important.

With all the things going on in our country today, it gives us something to wonder about too.  What if the strangers in our midst are angels?  What if they come with a message from God for us?  Jesus says that whatever we do for the least of these among us we do for him.  Just something to think about…something to ponder in your hearts today…

Today’s gospel lesson is the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Martha is worried and distracted.  She has a lot of important company.  She knew the story of Abraham and Sarah.  But on this day, she knew that she wasn’t just entertaining strangers who might possibly be angels.  Her guest was the Lord Jesus himself and all 12 disciples.  That’s a lot of pressure for the host. 

Abraham didn't have to worry.  He had Sarah to bake the bread.  He had servants to slaughter the calf and prepare it for roasting.  All he had to do was serve dinner to his guests. And there were only three guests.  

Poor Martha had Jesus and the twelve disciples, plus Mary, their brother Lazarus, and whoever else happened to stop by to listen to Jesus.  And she had no help at all.   

She had worked herself into a frenzy.  She was worried.  She was distracted.  She had so many things to do that she just couldn’t keep up with it and she had reached the end of her rope.  

Her culture taught that it was her job as the host to put on a great dinner for all the guests.  And in those days, nobody could call ahead.  They just showed up.  All thirteen of them.  And who knows, they could be staying for days.  

There were so many cultural expectations.  This was the woman’s job.  The tasks of hospitality were all things that she was supposed to do.  Martha felt obligated.  She felt frazzled.  She didn’t see any real options available to her.  There was so much pressure.  There were so many expectations.  It was her house and the burdens were all on her.  

Martha was trying to do the best she could. I have been there and I bet you have, too. We all have days when we are trying to do the best we can, but we keep running on empty.  The more we work, the less we seem to get done.  We just keep seeing more and more and more that we need to do.  We get frazzled.  We feel like we have run out of options. 

And we seem to be the only one who cares.  Nobody else is helping us or noticing or even caring. Some days we have so much stuff that we need to do that we don’t even have time to make a list.  Even just to have the satisfaction of checking things off.  We don’t even have time to think about why we are doing all those things.  We just do them because they are expected and we have always done them.

Martha was upset and she went to Jesus to ask for help, to speak up for justice in the division of labor.  

There are several things that Jesus does not say to Martha. Notice what Jesus doesn’t say:

He does not say, “You need to work smarter, not harder.”

He does not say, “Let’s get an efficiency expert in here to teach you how to manage your time better.”

He does not say, “If you kept this house clean all the time, you wouldn’t have so much to do when company shows up.”

He does not say, “You’re right, Mary should help you.”

He does not say, “This is woman’s work and you and your sister need to do it.”

Please notice! Jesus also does not say, “Hospitality doesn’t matter.” 

Instead, Jesus reassures Martha.  He says, “Don’t worry.” He calms her down.  He tells her that there are better priorities than the ones she is working on.

Jesus tells Martha that he is there with her. He says, “Don’t worry.”  He tells her that she is free to sit and listen to him.  She doesn’t need to follow the traditional cultural roles.  She doesn’t need to do all those things that everyone else tells her to do, that everyone else expects her to do.  Jesus reminds her that being busy all the time isn’t what's important.  

Jesus is the only one Martha needs to listen to.  He says, "Don't worry.  I love you. Nobody else’s opinion matters."  

Jesus says the same things to us that he said to Martha.  He says, “Don’t worry.” He tells us he loves us and that no one else’s opinion matters, just his.  We don’t have to listen to what society thinks we should do just because we are women, or just because we are men, or boys or girls.  

Jesus says we are free to get our priorities straight.  He says, “Don’t worry.” He give us the freedom to spend time just sitting and listening to him.  He sets us free to use our time to read and study God’s word.  He sets us free to attend worship every week with our friends and family and to make worship a priority in our lives. 

Being busy may make us feel important.  We even brag to each other about how busy we are and feel good about ourselves because we are busier than other people. Jesus says we are free to stop doing that. He sets us free to have other priorities for ourselves.  Free to do the things that matter most.  

Jesus says, “Don’t worry.”  We don’t have to fill our time trying to live up to social expectations.  We can sit and listen at his feet without being concerned about what society thinks.  

Hospitality still matters. And Jesus doesn’t say that we never have to work.  Jesus says, “Don’t worry.”  He tells us that when we have our priorities straight, we will be able to stop worrying.  

The three men who came to see Abraham and Sarah brought a message from God.  It was a blessing of good news.  Sarah would have a son.  God had great plans for their family.  

Jesus came to see Martha and Mary and brought a blessing of good news.  Jesus said, “Don’t worry.”  He told them to have a seat and listen to him.  He told them that women have a place at his feet. He told everybody that women are welcome as his disciples.  

Jesus comes to this house today, too.  He says to us, “Don’t worry.  You are all welcome to sit at my feet and learn from me.”   

Today Jesus is the host.  He has provided the meal for us to share.  Amen.