Tola’s sermon preached on July 17, 2022

Posted by on Sun, Jul 17, 2022 in Season after Pentecost, Sermons

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 17, 2022

Good morning. My name is Tola Marts, and I’m a longtime parishioner here at St. Michael’s.

We live in an era where we have grown aware of the concept of representation—the idea that when one group of people speak for another group of people, something can be lost. As a Polish-American man, for example, it would be difficult or impossible for me to argue that I can speak to what it’s like to be an African American woman in today’s America. The Sacred Ground group looked into this concept of representation quite a bit.

As Christians, perhaps the highest application of that principle is to not assume we know what Jesus meant in the Gospels. The nature of his teachings often open us up to a wide and wonderful breadth of discussions and revelations of how his words can apply to us and our lives.

So for many reasons, I tread carefully when talking about Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary. I have heard Mother Katherine and others preach about this part of the Gospel of Luke, and I know how beloved it is for many women in Christian leadership, who hear in it an unmistakable invitation to discipleship.

What more can we learn from this Gospel?

One of the things we see often in the Gospels is the Apostles misunderstanding Christ’s message. He seems to spend as much time clarifying people’s expectations and conclusions as he does laying out the heart of his message.

We talked about Doubting Thomas in my April sermon. The Apostles didn’t understand when Jesus talked about the “yeast of the Pharisees” in the Gospel of Mark, and they didn’t understand when he told them that he was the “the bread of life” in the Gospel of John. Jesus seemed to care a great deal about how people approached his teachings- with an open mind and free from bias and earthly distractions.

I hear all this with Martha. Martha didn’t say “Lord, should I put down these tasks and sit at your feet, as my sister?” No, she asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Would Jesus have made an example of Mary and Martha if Martha had not called her sister out? Thank goodness she did!

I also suspect that when our 21st century ears hear this story, we have an urge to say “who was right? Mary or Martha? Is Jesus saying Mary is right and Martha is wrong?”

This is such a modern way of looking at this story. Nowadays every story must have a hero and a villain. Every political argument has a good, right side and a bad, wicked side.

Look around. We have these beautiful flowers provided by the altar guild. We have the candles lit by our acolyte. We have music provided by Jason on the organ. We have refreshments for fellowship after the service. Other than the word of God and our being present to hear it today, can we really say that any one of these other facets of the service are any more or any less important than any other? They all come together to help us hear and understand Christ’s message.

It seems like it would be a tragedy if what we took from this Gospel was a trivialization of Martha’s hard work. Do we say that the Saturday work parties are less important than the choir? Or that the choir is less important than being Worship Leader or Lector? Of course not. It all comes together to help us get closer to God.

I hear today’s Gospel reading, and I hear that we need it all—we need the Marys and the Marthas and the choirs and the work parties. There is no small task. Let us not artificially exalt one servant over another- we are all doing God’s work.

But it’s absolutely worth celebrating that Jesus told a first century woman that she was as worthy of his message as any man, and assured her that his message “would not be taken away from her.”

We live in a time where we are finally applying that message to the larger world. I’m lucky in that as a city councilmember I get to work with a woman Mayor in Mary Lou Pauly, a woman State Representative in Lisa Callen, a woman County Councilmember in Sarah Perry, a woman U.S. Representative in Dr. Kim Schrier, two women U.S. Senators in Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and a woman Vice President in Kamala Harris. And from the seeds planted two thousand years ago in today’s Gospel, I get to work with Mother Katherine Sedwick, as well.

Back to our church.

I struggled a bit to understand what Christ was telling us with this lesson, beyond the fact that women must be treated as equal members of our community.

I think the key here is Jesus’s love and affirmation of Martha. God loves us all. Christ wouldn’t have been pushing Martha down to lift Mary up. He presents them both because they are both important.

I believe this Gospel tells us that all our roles here at St. Michael’s are important in building our relationship with God, and spreading the word of his son Jesus Christ. I hear him telling us in every case to look far and wide and match talent to need.

Without regard to whether they’re new or long time parishioners, young or old, suave or rough around the edges, “Washington kind of people” or …any of it.

We must look to our left, and look to our right, with new eyes and say- am I encouraging my fellow parishioners in their leadership with Christ? All of them? Or am I just going with what I find comfortable? How do I know if I’m doing enough to support both the Marthas *and* the Marys? Or am I even making unwarranted assumptions about who’s a Martha, and who’s a Mary?

I believe Christ was commanding *all* of us to engage *all* of our community to build his church. It’s too important. And we are all needed.

Amen.

© 2022 Tola Marts. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.