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Welcomed

July 17, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

Proper 11/C [Pent. 6] July 17, 2022: Genesis 18:1-14; Ps. 27; Colossians 1:21-29; Luke 10:38-42.

Welcomed 

[A] woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving (vv. 38b-40a).

This morning we reflect on the priority and posture of Christian worship. Earlier Jesus had explained to his disciples, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables” (Lk. 8:10).

The upshot concerning last Sunday’s argumentative lawyer taught the Good Samaritan parable; and today “doubting Sarah”, and “distracted Martha”, is that Jesus urges priority and posture before God’s word and warns, “Take heed then how you hear …” (v. 18) for in Christ is revealed the mysteries hidden for ages (Col. 1:25, 26).

We gather this morning with sister Mary assuming a priority and posture that contrasted to sister Martha’s complaint about hostess duties. Like Mary you are quietly seated, without anxiety in this place, whence comes the Lord’s word delivered from servants. You expect “a lamp to [your] feet and a light to [your] path” (Introit, Ps. 119:105). From this posture the Bride welcomes her true Host, advancing faith and wisdom in heaven’s mysteries.

When the Lord visited Abraham and Sarah it was the “heat of the day” (Gen. 18:1). They prepared a harried meal for the Lord, then attending the Lord’s word; Sarah from behind the tent veil. When she heard that within the year, she would conceive and bear a son by her aged husband; disbelieving, she laughed within herself.

Similarly, in the “cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8) the Lord would come to Adam and woman. The man was ordained to deliver God’s word for the woman. He conveyed, a warning not to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on pain of death.

Satan intruded into man’s worship, challenging the woman, “Did God actually say …?” (Gen. 3:1); suggesting either the man an unreliable purveyor of God’s word; or if true, God was duplicitous in depriving “knowledge” and insinuating unbelief into the woof and warp of mankind.

The woman had stepped out of her listening position to bandy words with the serpent. Adam remained silent at the challenge to God’s word and his office dignity; at which the woman modified God’s word, adding, “neither shall [we] touch [the fruit] …” (v. 3).

Her addition is what Pharisees called “putting a fence around Torah”, making it more stringent in order to be on the safe-side of obedience. St. John relays God’s attitude on fencing his word, “if anyone adds to the words of the prophesy … God will add to him the plagues described in this book (the Apocalypse)” (Rev. 22:18, cf., Deut. 4:2).

The woman now stood-over her man’s preached word, moving out of its orbit to a critical stance toward the Word. Whether the woman intended to enhance God’s command, or like Sarah make God’s promise seem foolish, is of little significance; she was spiritualizing God’s word, the sin of every religious enthusiast throughout the ages. In the end Satan’s lie, “You will not surely die…” (Gen. 3:4) was accepted to turn worship up-side down.

No one, but God can know evil without doing evil, thus for man knowledge of evil is “forbidden fruit”; yet Jesus crucified, suffered for our knowledge to overcome death and grave.

Adam, schooled in the consequences of sin, however was not ejected from his pulpit; still congregations and pastors, as with man and the woman too often coexist in tension (v. 16b) still by grace.

After the Fall Adam’s first preachment was a gospel word for the woman; exercising his naming prerogative, she was, “Eve — mother of all living” (3:20). Eve, Sarah, the Virgin Mary, sister Mary all (and others) picture the church; yet it is only Sarah in her barrenness who experienced the Lord’s ironic humor, and so naming her son, Isaac, “laughter”.

As for Jesus’ mother, Mary, she would experience, through in her firstborn son, sin’s culmination spoken by Simeon, “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Lk. 2:35). So also, the church’s soul is pierced in remembrance of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

If Eve, the picture of church the mother of all living; she still experiences sin’s frustration, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b). The referent here is not physical desire; rather an on-going spiritual covetousness toward the Man’s word office and toward Christ’s lordship and rule.

In today’s Gospel Jesus arrived in Judea, the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Martha welcomed Jesus and his troop. She understood the take-away of the “Good Samaritan” parable: that Jesus is our Neighbor out of heaven for Service; yet old priorities and postures are hard to overcome.

Abraham and Sarah frantically welcomed the Lord under the oaks of Mamre; last Sunday’s lawyer searching the identity of his “neighbor”; and Martha’s failure to prioritize her service. All these, thought to host the Lord as their guest with whom they might trade words; but that is not the case, is it?

The tension between Adam and the woman is resolved when congregation, as Bride, hears her Lord’s word in faith for the mysteries of Jesus’ gospel rule in restored worship posture. Again, Jesus urges, “Take heed then how you hear …” In Christ we are invited to a new posture, that replaces personal pieties; rather, it is sister Mary’s receptivity of word at Jesus’ feet that is praise-worthy: communal, continual, undistracted, and uncritical in its hearing.

For sister Martha “real food” consisted of blintzes and other nosh; her folly only registered when Jesus taught Mary’s priority and posture, choosing the good part of his welcoming word. If Martha intended to marginalize her sister; Jesus already embraced Mary in his new kinship, “My mother and my brothers [and sisters] are those who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21; cf. 6:47, 11:28). The “do[ing] of it” consists in faith’s perseverant hearing in repentance.

We, like sister Mary worship in proper posture; sitting at Jesus’ feet for every provision of his word, attentive in hearing, awaiting his Meal, prepared before the foundation of the world. Hearing Jesus’ word, we are directed to forgiveness and Life in his crucified and risen flesh and blood, the Bride’s foretaste of eternal physical union at the Marriage Feast Lamb. Amen.

pem.