Monday, July 19, 2010

Sermon for July 18, 2010

Rev. George Miller
Luke 10:38-42
“Who Said Anything ‘bout a Kitchen? ”
July 18, 2010

(Pastor comes in acting like a game show host)
Good morning and welcome to the newest game show that’s all the rage “How Well Do You Know Emmanuel?”, the show in which you get to win money for our Global Missions Tuppence Tree.

(Pastor selects a volunteer from the audience). Contestant #1, for .25$, answer this question:

On Wednesday, Hardric was doing much work for the church. Was he
a) Wacking the Weeds
b) Busy with the Bulletin
c) Concocting Cocktails and Serving Shrimp

The answer is a) Wacking the Weeds.

Contestant #2, for .50$ to go towards the Tuppence Tree, Marge Hahn does many tasks for the church. On any day will you see her
a) Busy with the Bulletin
b) Motoring up the Mower
c) Concocting Cocktails and Serving Shrimp

The answer is a) Busy with the Bulletin

Contestant #3, for .75$ on any given Wednesday you’ll see Nancy Beatty doing much work for the church. Would you see her
a) Busy with the Bulletin
b) Motoring up the Mower
c) Concocting Cocktails and Serving Shrimp

The answer is b) Motoring up the Mower

Contestant 4, for $1 to go to the Tuppence Tree, Pastor George does much work for the church. On any given day you may find him
a) Wacking the Weeds
b) Motoring up the Mower
c) Concocting Cocktails and Serving Shrimp

Do we even need to verify that answer!?!

Contestant #5, bonus question for $2, in today’s scripture it says that Martha was distracted by her many tasks. Was she
a) ministering to the sick
b) collecting items for charity
c) preparing to lead worship
d) cooking in the kitchen
e) It does not say.

The answer is e) It does not say.

(Pastor dismisses contestants, lets character go).

It’s true: today’s scripture never says what kind of tasks Martha was doing. There is nothing about hospitality or food or plateware, so let me ask you this: why do we keep putting Martha by a hot stove when there is nothin’ about no kitchen?

I find the Martha and Mary story fascinating. A brief tale about two sisters, how Jesus enters into their lives and appears to scold one sister while commending the others.

I always felt a sense of unfairness about this tale, wondering why Jesus would shush Martha up when she’s just trying to get her work done.

It’s a great tale, perfectly told, leaving room for so much interpretation. Jesus, a single male in a household of women, apparently not caring what the neighbors may think.

Mary taking on the radical position of a student during a time when women were not formerly educated.

And Martha. Wonderful A-type personality Martha, with all the characteristics of a first-born child, running around like crazy, probably with her list of things to do, checking them off as she moves along, getting herself all worked over what she thinks she needs to do, when the Son of God is right in her midst.

Intrigued by this story, I wrote a paper about it in seminary, expecting to solve the Mystery of the Maligned Martha. What I found instead was a word I never expected to find, with definitions that have forever changed my take on this story.

If we were to read this story in it’s original Greek, we would find that Martha was distracted by her many diakonia. If that word sounds familiar, it’s because diakonia is where we gets the words diaconate and deacons from.

All throughout the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts the word diakonia is used to refer to Peter, Paul and the other disciples of Jesus.

Diakonia has a lengthy definition; I asked Kirk to put it up on our screen so we can see them for ourselves. According to Bibleworks, it can mean:

service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others, those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men; of the office of Moses, of the office of the apostles and its administration, of the office of prophets, evangelists, elders etc; the ministration of those who render to others the office of Christian affection, esp. those who help meet need by either collecting or distributing to charities; the office of the deacon at church; the service of those who prepare and present food.

That’s a whole lot of definitions, yet again and again where do we put Martha: in the kitchen.

Yet when Paul or Peter are said to busy where do we see them: out in the community, teaching, healing and preaching.

As writer Anne Thurston noted in the book Knowing Her Place- Gender and the Gospels, “when men serve it is called ministry; when women serve it is called women serving.”

Take a look through Acts, also written by Luke, and you will see that Martha was not the only woman doing diakonia.

There was Tabitha, a disciple devoted to acts of charity (9:36), Lydia, who invited the disciples to her home (16:14-15) and Priscilla who was a missionary (18:2).

And still, for nearly 2,000 years, when we hear that Martha was distracted we seem to automatically place her in the kitchen among the pots and pans, soap suds and brooms, with platters and platters of food. But nowhere is this stated.

So, if Martha was not necessarily concocting cocktails and serving shrimp, what could she have been doing?

Well, let’s do a little bit of history. If you recall, Jesus was quite the revolutionary, so much so he was condemned and killed for it.

Jesus also blurred the lines of acceptable culture. He dined with tax collectors, talked with women, visited foreigners, spoke grace to non-Jews, called the children to him and allowed women to be part of his entourage.

This breaking down of boundaries and welcoming of the outsider became a mark of those who followed Jesus and began the earliest churches.
If you recall from our lesson on Mother’s Day, the earliest churches took place in people’s homes, around the table. And many of those homes belonged to rich women, some of them widows or unmarried women who followed Jesus’ teaching.

It was in these women’s homes that people gathered to share and learn about the good news of Jesus. They also emulated the teachings of Jesus, which included, but was not limited to taking care of the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the widowed. It also meant praying, prophesying, teaching, and yes, even leading worship.

So Martha could have been doing any of these things. She could have been busy organizing the bake sale, making sure the parish nurses were ready for the blood drive, working on that weeks worship service.

She could have been contacting Panera Bread Co. to have them donate their day old pastries to the food pantry, arranging visits for the shut ins, prepping for the trustees meeting and yes, maybe she even had a roast in the oven and a bottle of juice chilling in the fridge.

Martha, as a first born, a-type personality who sincerely loved the Lord could have been doing anything and everything.

So it is time for us to take her our of the kitchen. It is time for us to lift her up and celebrate all the things she could do and probably did.
Because when we start to take Martha out of the kitchen and into the world, we begin to transform the world we ourselves are living and active in.

If you recall the words of Paul in Galatians 3 “...for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith...There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

The good news is that in the resurrected Christ we are all set free to be who we are, with culture’s gender distinctions no longer needing to limit or control where we go or what we do.

That means that in Christ Jesus a man can cook and care for children. It means that a woman can mow and play a role in building design.

That means in Christ Jesus the old can remain active and lively and the young can have something to teach us all.

It means that Mary can assume the role reserved for male students and it means Martha can organize worship or cook the meal if she wants to.

That’s one of the things I love about our church. That on Sunday we had Chuck Grimes in the kitchen helping prepare for, serve and clean up for Fellowship Hour.

On Wednesday we had Nancy riding the lawn mower, sweating it up in the hot sun. On Thursday I met with both Mel and Maureen to talk about finances. And on Friday both Eugene and Richard filled in for our secretary, answering phones and proofreading copy.

In conclusion, if there is one thing I want all of us to learn about this story is that nowhere, in any legitimate translation of this scripture, is there anything mentioned about a kitchen, food or housework. So let’s stop trapping Martha there.

Second, is that in our love and living for Christ our culture’s gender roles are not so much erased, as enhanced, to allow us to be all that we can be, the best we can be, at whatever it is Christ is calling us to do, from whacking the weeds, to being busy with the bulletin to motoring the mower, to even yes, concocting cocktails and serving shrimp.

In Christ we are all called to do diakonia; to serve one another, to serve the church and to serve the community, for when we do that, we are serving the living Christ and our Risen Lord.

Thanks be to the Spirit that speaks to us in unexpected ways, to Jesus who invites us to sit at his feet and to God who keeps us busy with so many things we can do.

Amen and amen.

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