A Sunday reflection.
The lectionary readings for the sixth Sunday after Pentecost are here.
My grandmother taught me about hospitality. It didn’t matter what time you showed up at her house or how many people there were, she laid out a feast. Now, granted this was back before there were entire tv networks devoted to trying to convince us that a ‘feast’ had to be certain recipes and menus and back before food competitions made us think that the most important part of having guests was gaining the admiration, envy, and applause of the guests, not the guests themselves. My grandmother could create the most delicious feast out of whatever she had on hand because she knew that hospitality was really about making others feel welcomed and at ease so there was a loving space to talk and be in relationship with each other.
In our gospel reading today, Martha is busy and hurried and wants so very much to please Jesus with her skill and talent of putting together the perfect feast. In her desire to impress she demands that others help her look good. Even without the aid of food tv, Martha has forgotten that the purpose of having guests is to be in relationship with the guests. And she also seems to forget that she is supposed to be following Jesus, not getting Jesus to follow her instruction.
Martha says, “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m doing all this work? You seem more interested in what my sister is doing, sitting with you and listening, rather than being impressed with all that I’m doing for you. Please tell Mary to stop being and come and help me do. Don’t you care that I’m frustrated with my sister?”
Ok, perhaps I’m paraphrasing there a bit, but I have been like Martha, and these are the thoughts behind my frustration at others not doing as I think they need to be doing. Jesus, don’t you care that the world isn’t operating how I think it should?
In another story, the gospel writer Mark tells us that the disciples asked Jesus a similar question when he was napping in the boat while a huge storm was brewing, “Jesus do you not care we are perishing?”
How often do we hear ourselves asking the same? “Jesus, don’t you care that the world isn’t as I want it to be? Don’t you care that I see pain and suffering and it makes me uncomfortable? Don’t you care that I’m feeling incompetent because I can’t fix it?”
When we see yet another senseless shooting, when we witness the ravages of war on our tv screens, when our world is turned upside down by a virus we can’t control, when we watch our politicians looking our for their own power and prestige instead of the greater good of all of us, don’t we all wonder whether or not God even cares.
God cares enough to come to us as Jesus, in flesh and blood, living as we live, coming to us to save us from ourselves. Showing us that following him, walking humbly with God our Creator isn’t about controlling others but about learning from Jesus to be the best neighbor we can be. That being in relationship with God isn’t about us fixing this broken world but living in it as God’s beloved children, building, restoring, reconciling relationships, so that we see the image of God in each other. God has promised to set the world right again and God is faithful. God has chosen to fulfill God’s purposes in God’s creation through us.
When we learn at the feet of Jesus how to be who God created us to be, when we let go of the need to impress others, or to be in competition with others, or to make ourselves the center of all that we do, we are choosing the one thing that we can never lose – our relationship with God.
When we let go of trying to lead Jesus into our camp and follow him in the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, we come to know just how much Jesus cares as we follow him through the storms, learning to love others better and better. This is God’s plan and purpose for us, living in relationship with God and letting God’s love shape our relationship with each other. We show the world that Jesus does care by the way we live.