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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Attention Must Be Paid" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

At our house we have been known to become so involved in preparations for guests and trying to meet their real or perceived expectations that we wind up...well, not paying as much attention as we should to them: engaging in genuine, mindful conversation with them; listening to them, simply enjoying their presence. We're too busy plying them with food and drink or fiddling with the music or scurrying off to fix some last-minute housecleaning oversight to be entirely present for them; which in fact defeats the whole idea of hospitality.

That seems to be the dynamic at the house of Martha and Mary in our Sunday's Gospel lesson, where Jesus gives Martha a priority readjustment.

It's a lesson that seems at once so straightforward but at the same time fraught preacherly pitfalls: inadvertently pitting the "Marys" of the Church versus the "Marthas" and disrespecting the practical vocations in our faith communities that keep things running; either ignoring the social contexts that make this interaction between Jesus and the two women really interesting and indeed revolutionary, or  inadvertently framing the sermon as primarily a "girrrl thing" that fails to engage the male members of the congregation.

Those are things I'm thinking about, anyway, as I prepare for my sermon on Sunday. How about you? What will you have to say about Jesus, Mary and Martha? Or are you sermonizing on one of our other very preachworthy lessons? Or are you going off the script altogether? As always, share your ideas here.


  1. Oh hey! First comment and I'm not even preachign this week. But I know for a fact that the guest preacher has not chosen this one, so I'm going to use it later in the summer - Mary and Martha - so great! So much to do with this!

  2. Here I am, your own Martha, busy and troubled about many things, including a trip today and tomorrow for two interviews. Way too much to process, and no sign of a time this week when I can sit like Mary at the feet of himself, even though I need to do it.
    I'm preaching at an Interfaith service this weekend during the town's annual Clam Festival, using the Luke text and a reading from Thich Nhat Hanh. I'm hopeful it will all come together, but the trip comes first.

  3. Traveling mercies to you Songbird - that's a busy week!! Take care of yourself in the midst of teh crazy-making busy-ness....

    Juniper - I'm going with Mary/Martha. I love the points that Lutheranchik has already made, especially the temptation to make this a "girl thing".

    I'm just getting started,so I'll be back if I come up with anything good. It's my last sermon until my vacation starts August 1st, so I'm pretty much scraping the bottom of the homiletic barrel this week.

    I got nothin'....yet.

  4. Songbird, you are in my prayers. The need to "sell" ourselves in order for others to hear a call has always bothered me, even in secular life.
    I'm not preaching this weekend, either. Off to see my son for a few hours and visit some friends on the way to and from Louisiana.
    Blessings on all who *are* preaching. Anyone going to tackle Amos? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  5. Nope, not tackling Amos or beloved Mary & Martha. We're having a "Singspiration" featuring favorite hymns - mostly the old chestnuts,(Sigh) the ones that get sung every time!
    Maybe I'll do Mary and Martha next week.
    Any ideas for a children's message and object?

  6. You just can't do nothing... or can you? Is this reading a celebration of the bone-idle? Or is there more to it than that? Oooh my, a barrage of questions :)

    Marys and Marthas pitted against each other: in my minds-eye, the Marthas win, of course - they've had the gumption to get up and beat the Marys over the head with the proverbial frying pan. Yup, the reading does indeed have the danger within it of pitting two different styles of behaving against the other. I wonder about preaching a revolution of both/and, as opposed to either/or - the revolution comes about when we get out of the individualist rut that consumerism with its 'my rights' approach has edged us into... and get into a communitarian mindset of sharing the common task, learning the common message?
    Then again, my inner hippie peace-child is on the loose today... :)

  7. Tackled Amos last week. Not so sure he's gonna feature this week, with Mary & Martha & Jesus to tackle.

    One of my favourite bible-study books EVER, "To Love Delilah" by Mary Cartledge Hayes, notes that the pop culture moral to the Mary-Martha story is, "no matter what they do, women are always wrong."

    She then points out that, a little later on in the story, Martha gets her own chance to hang out with Jesus and talk shop--a fairly lengthy theological conversation, actually.

    So, where to go with all this? How do we keep either Mary or Martha's actions from being judged "wrong?" And, now that women are allowed to pursue our educations and reach for non-domestic goals--and women still manage domestic tasks to the point of irritation and exhaustion-- how do we find some liberating message here?

    No answers yet...just questions!

  8. Lots to wrestle with in this story. Instead of making a long is a link to my musings of this morning.

    Blessings on all...traveling, interviewing, preaching, not preaching, vacation-in-sight mode (me as well)and the rest of our ministries.

  9. My imagination upon reading this:

    The Gospel is read. The preacher instructs the congregation to Listen.

    They do, for a time.

    (A version of Nik's "doing nothing.")

  10. Is anyone else tackling the Christ hymn in Colossians? Or am I the only silly one to do so? Pondering on "the invisible image" and "in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." Hoping not to make it a heavy theological treatise, but I got mostly nothing.

    Songbird, many prayers for you this week.

    Nik, if memory serves, I think I've preached a both/and Mary/Martha sermon. There's a little of both of them in us, I would think. My MIL and her twin sister were named Mary and Martha, but their personalities were opposite of the Gospel ones, so I always am getting them mixed up!

  11. Ahhh Esperanza, 'the fullness of God bit' - you've reminded me of that wonderful song by the group 'Iona' [as opposed to the Iona Community] called ChiRho: if you can dig it up, might be cool to play at some point as a meditative piece in the service - here's a youtube link:
    It's from their Book of Kells album - old now but still good!

  12. Esperanza, I'm preaching Colossians and connecting it to John 1:1-18 so I can pull from a sermon that was required for ordination. I'm focusing on incarnation. Using the definition of body in one of my Bible dictionaries as means of contact and communication and linking it to our communion liturgy - "make this be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world, the body of Christ redeemed by his blood." I should have been looking at that today, but instead handled a dozen or more details including something that's been on my back burner since December. I guess tomorrow...

  13. Colossians for me, too. I'm so glad y'all shared because before reading your posts I only had "making the invisible visible" and some vague fleeting notion that something about "provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven," would be a good idea. That's it.

    MLR, I really like that thought a lot. So I think I'll add that to my pot of "sermon soup."

    Meanwhile, I'd appreciate prayers for healing to go with my antibiotics. I have the 2nd UTI in 3 weeks and tonight I feel miserable.

  14. Going with preaching Jesus here :) Colossians, with a little intro from Mary/Martha about making time to listen, because if we don't get Jesus right, the rest doesn't matter. Communion Sunday, so tying that in. Doing Jesus hymns from passion, resurrection and ascension to fill out the picture.

  15. Not sure that this will make it into the sermon, but what struck me this week was Martha whining to Jesus instead of going to Mary and asking her to help. Don't you just hear, "Mooommm. Make her ....(fill in the blank.)"

    Three years ago I tied this into the celebrations in the Episcopal Church of Marcrina, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Bloomer, Harriet Tubman and Mary Magdalen, whose days fall in the coming week. I'm considering doing that again (since this congregation didn't hear it).

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  17. Vicar, hope you're feeling better. Martha, traveling mercies and prayers for discernment - indeed!

    I am tempting iesegesis as I think about the gift each family member brings to the table and why it's important to have everyone there. This may change after I read the text again.

    Last Sunday before 2 Sundays off, so I'm trying to stay fo... look, a bird!

  18. RevDrMom - love that idea for a sermon, tying it into the feast days coming....

    I've also done a both/and sermon in the past - discipleship is a both and process - so we all need to be both Martha and Mary....

    This time I think I'm going to preach on Luke, using an illustration abut the time I tried to make a pie crust from scratch but didn't have a rolling pin to roll out the dough, then using a both/and approach talk about discipleship and the need to adapt as we go along the way...?

  19. Rev Dr Mom-- oooh, I sure would love to see a copy of sermon and/or bulletin for a service that celebrated all those phenomenal women!!! (Amanda Bloomer and Sojourner Truth have long been personal heroes of mine.)

    Esperanza-- The indwelling "fullness of God" from Colossians? Seems like that's exactly what Mary was seeking, while Martha was caught up in her be-a-proper-host anxieties and irritations. The image I have is of someone carefully, lovingly, creating a soft nest of emptiness and quiet, welcoming expectation that invites the wild bird of God's Spirit to flutter in and be "pleased to dwell."

  20. Last time I preached M&M I had a great time: used an old "on air" light from my husband's days around a broadcast studio. He hooked it up so that it blinked red when I hit a little switch.
    And I asked people to consider how cool it would be if people we talked to had a signal or light that we could see that showed they were listening. Family, work, church . . . many situations when such an indication would be helpful.
    What Mary is doing is listening to J. And it does show. No dissing Martha, but busy-ness is sometimes a substitute for paying attention.

    Also I included the idea that Luke has put this story in to illustrate the first commandment, just as the Good Samaritan illustrates the loving neighbor command. Listening is love.

    Asked "Is your listening light on with God?"

  21. We just had a tragedy strike our home -- our beloved Gertie, the Best Dog Ever, died in a freak accident yesterday -- and I'm still reeling from experiencing that, and having a hard time keeping my head in the game for Sunday. But I think I want to address concerns I'm feeling from people who read our church blog's weekly ask-a-question feature, who have lately been asking, in various ways, "How shall we then live?" -- stuff like, "How am I supposed to 'live Christ into the world' when I leave church on Sunday morning?" So I think I'm going to go against my usual m.o., cherry-pick some relevant verses from all our main texts (especially the one about the famine of the word of God) and talk about that; about how this world distracts us from spiritual groundedness, how that leaves us feeling empty and confused, and how God calls us to the kind of Christ-centered mindful attention that Mary displays in the Gospel lesson.

  22. LutheranChik, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog!! How upsetting for you and your family. Many hugs.

  23. Songbird, prayers ascending for a space of quiet and discernment and joy in the midst of a very busy time!

    Starting point for my Mary and Martha sermon is a little poem one of my parishioners wrote:

    A Sisterly Perspective

    In the place where Jesus stayed
    Martha toiled while Mary prayed.
    This had Martha slamming doors
    Jesus said,"the choice was yours!"

    Mary, so demure and sweet,
    Seated at the master's feet
    Praying with the Holy One,...
    (That Martha had got the dishes done.)

    I'm talking about how even those of us who are Marthas need to stop occasionally and listen to what God has to say to us. We can't turn into Marys, nor should we, but we can open up a quiet space in the midst of busy-ness (just as those Marys should open up a space of hospitality to help the Marthas!) RDM, I was thinking about Macrina and the other worthy dames, but the story that flows off the poem ended up being enough, I think, for these folks at this time, but I too would love to see what you do with it. Will it be on your blog?

  24. I'm thinking that I will rework what I wrote 3 years I'll post it on my sermon blog when it's done. And hey, since I'm reworking maybe I'll even get it done before Saturday :)

    Does anyone else feel guilty when they reuse past sermons? This year is the first time I've had the opportunity, and it always (well the 2 times I've done it) makes me feel like I'm slacking. :(

  25. LutheranChik so sorry about your dog. Hugs and prayers coming your way.

  26. LutheranChick - sorry to hear the sad news.

    I've been remembering a rather torturous all-age address on Martha and Mary done by a friend last time these readings spun around. You can find it over here


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