Pentecost 11(RCL): What Goes Around Comes Around
Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52orGenesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15, Luke 10:38-42
I read both lectionaries before preparing something to post here on MOLC.... and, shock of shocks, for the first time the Old Testament readings for both RCL and BCP lectionary are similar, which is rather nice. It underlines the theme. My Martha and Mary interpretation fits in as well.
The readings from Amos and Genesis deal with... how we deal with others. Each spell out very plainly that our behavior speaks loudly indeed in our relationship with God. In Amos God 'shows' Amos a basket of summer fruit - the summer fruit of that region. It can't hurt us to picture for ourselves how beautiful a basket of summer fruit: late peaches and strawberries, dark black cherries, tomatoes in many shapes and sizes, mouthwatering ripe pears, bananas.....mmmmmmmmmmm,good.
Yet the purpose of showing Amos this baskets of delights was in essence to say 'Take a good look because, like these good gifts, my favor and blessing will be taken away from my chosen people, Israel'. You will reap what you have sewn. You have taken my favor, kindness and love lightly, for granted. You have not kept your side of the covenants I made with you.
You've been greedy, neglecting the poor and needy, buying slaves for the cheapest price, shortchanging those in the marketplace by fixing the scales and selling the byproducts of your crops to others. For these sins against your brothers and sisters, I will make myself scarce as well. You will hunger for my words and wisdom, longing for the vitality that I alone can give you. You will be treated the way you have treated others.
Psalm 52 bolsters God's argument: you relied on your own riches and weath, derived underhandedly. You have abandoned evil for good.
This is contrasted by the story of the appearance of the 3 strange men to Abraham. He and his wife Sarah went out of their way to be hospitable to these strangers. Abraham gave them the best he had, was trying to follow the narrow path of righteousness. In turn, one of the strangers promised what seemed the impossible: that Abraham and Sarah would have their own child - despite the obvious age barrier. Psalm 15 gives us examples of the ways of behavior and life that glorify God: honesty, integrity, going good to the less fortunate, avoiding evil, embracing truth and rejecting slander, keeping promises, not taking bribes.
So far we are being given a refresher course on what - and what not - to do in order to have a good, open relationship with God.
Let's now head to Martha and Mary. This has always been a tricky one. Somehow, after going through the above readings it didn't seem so complex a situation - and Jesus' response seems far less cryptic.
First: who invited Jesus into the home??? Martha did. She had to have known if things were in order or not. There is clearly an established family dynamic in play here. However, instead of excusing Mary for a minute and asking for some help (which she had probably done in the past with little success) she tries to pull out the big guns - asking (quite inappropriately) the guest of honor to "tell her then to help me".
Martha, a real type "A" personality wanted things done, done right and done now. You can almost picture her, can't you...... a first century Martha Stewart, expecting only the best, which would be 'a good thing'. Mary, less worried about the state of the house or the place settings, sat listening to Jesus. It's an age old story of personality differences -- and you don't get them resolved by some outsider coming in and cracking the whip. You don't encourage someone else to do what you want by belittling them in front of guests.
Jesus makes a quick assessment of the situation. "Martha, you are so worried about the domestic minutia that you are missing out on some great conversation and we are missing out on the pleasure of your company. Mary joined in with us. Relax a little - rather than taking Mary away, come and join the party".
There are times when we just can't see the forest for the trees.... when we can't see the bigger picture. Martha with some self-righteous indignation, thought she would teach Mary the lesson of her life through the great Rabbi. Instead, Martha got the lesson.
With any luck and a great deal of grace, we have learned some lessons as well. With God's help, we will slowly learn to apply these lessons to the way we treat others. It takes some time and a great Teacher. Thanks be to God we have the benefit of both! Now, THAT'S a good thing! Amen.
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