Pentecost 6, Year C

Title:Pentecost 6, Year C

 Pentecost 6, July 21, 2019 (full size gallery)

The second Sunday of Catherine’s vacation and the second Morning Prayer. Salli Hartman who is in Deacon’s school was the preacher on Mary and Martha. Johnny was the officiant Helmut the lector. A low congregation – only 19. This week has probably been the hottest week of the year. The insects didn’t seem to mind, based on their frantic activity.

An eventful week ahead with Acolyte training and the Children’s summer program on Wed. and then Spanish Bible Study on Friday. Also this week are two significant saint days – Mary Magdalene and James the Apostle.

Today’s readings remind us of the surprises related to hospitality and the hidden presence of God. In Genesis, Abraham receives three heavenly visitors who speak of the imminent birth of Sarah’s son. Paul describes the mystery of reconciliation with God and its implications for the Church. Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha and reminds us of the importance of paying attention to God’s presence and words.

An extraordinary message runs through today’s scriptures. The theme is best expressed in the question put to Abraham: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

Sarah laughed at the promise that she would bear a child in her old age; thus the name of this son of promise was given before his conception. It means “He will laugh”! The divine communication surrounding the birth of Isaac gives us the delightful feeling that God loves to surprise people. Isaac’s very name seems to convey that God’s joy in fulfilling the promise to Abraham would ring through the universe forever. In this way the messianic line was established by God’s miraculous power.

The scripture readings contain another miracle. The question in verse 1 of the psalm is not found in today’s reading, but it prompts the response contained there: “Who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” The psalmist answers by saying that only those who lead a blameless life are entitled to abide with God. If this were the only message we had, we might despair, for not one of us would qualify. But if we leap from the psalm to Colossians, the “hope of glory” is electrifying news. Miracle of miracles—Christ dwells mysteriously within us. Through him we stand holy and blameless before God. We can now abide upon God’s holy hill.

Christ for us and Christ in us is a mystery we can never fully understand. Better we stand in humble awe and gratitude than to try to analyze God’s doings. It is enough to know that God’s steadfast love and mercy shine in God’s word and deeds.

The gospel passage continues the line of thought that there are moments when the most important thing we can do is immerse ourselves in the wonder and glory of God’s self-revelation and to enjoy abiding with God. “There is need of only one thing” for God to work miracles in our lives.

It would be wrong to over-generalize specific occasions in scripture. It is possible that the next time Jesus visited that household, Mary served while Martha sat at his feet and Jesus chopped the vegetables. The point is that we must be attuned to the Lord’s visit in our own household. We need to strike a balance between serving and simply enjoying the Lord’s presence in quiet attentiveness to God alone.

Genesis 18:1-10a

Today’s reading is both an epiphany story—an account of the Lord’s appearance to Abraham—and an annunciation story—a proclamation of the coming birth, contrary to all human expectation, of a significant person. The precise identity of the “three men” is not clear; that is, whether all three are angels representing the Lord in earthly manifestation (hence the shift from plural to singular in vv. 1, 13) or whether one is indeed the Lord and the other two are attendants (18:22, 19:1). Abraham’s reception of these sudden guests illustrates the hospitality of a nomadic society.

The Lord then renews the promise of many descendants (12:2, 13:15f), now specifying the birth of a son (15:1-6) to Sarah (17:15-21) in the spring (v. 10). As Abraham has typified the natural virtue of hospitality, so he also typifies the theological virtue of trust in the Lord’s promise. The meaning of Isaac’s name is here explained by Sarah’s incredulous laugh.

Psalm 15

This psalm presents a brief entrance rite for someone desiring to enter the temple for worship. The pilgrim’s question about who can enter (v. 1) receives a response from the temple personnel describing the attitudes and behavior required for worship. This portrait of an ideal worshipper can still act as a guideline for our approach to the altar of the Lord today.

Colossians 1:15-28

Paul strongly presents the supremacy of Christ over the universe and in the Church (vv. 15-20). Then he applies the meaning of Christ’s cosmic victory specifically to his audience. The purpose of Christ’s death is to reconcile every person to God. But the ‘indicative’ description of what God has done for humans in Christ is inescapably joined to the ‘imperative’ discussion of what humans are to do in response.

The theme of rejoicing in suffering is very Pauline (Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:9; Philippians 2:17, 3:7-10). “What is lacking” may be the manifestation elsewhere, especially among the Colossians, of the suffering of the cross in the present life of the Church.

Paul reminds them of a common theme of the early Christian preaching. The “mystery” of God’s purpose, formerly hidden, is now revealed in Christ. The purpose of this revelation is that everyone may become “mature,” literally whole, complete or perfect, in Christ. This was a term used in the Greco-Roman world for those initiated into the mystery cults or those who through self-discipline and study of wisdom had reached advanced levels of insight. Paul uses the word to emphasize that there is no special caste or elite in Christianity but the Christian mystery is Christ’s abiding presence in the community, (the “you” is plural).

Luke 10:38-42

The little story about Martha and Mary is the second in the section on the characteristics of the disciple (10:25–11:13). As the story of the Good Samaritan showed how the disciple should act to the neighbor, so today’s story shows how the disciple should relate to Jesus.

The story is almost an enacted parable. Martha (whose name is the Aramaic word for “mistress of a household”) receives Jesus as her guest, and undertakes the duties of hospitality. Her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, in the traditional position of a rabbi’s disciple (Acts 22:3), a shocking place for a woman to be.

The story has usually been interpreted as an allegory, perhaps in the early Church contrasting the ministry of service to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-6) or a Jewish Christian emphasis upon works (the Letter of James) to a Gentile Christian emphasis upon faith (Paul); or (in the medieval Church) contrasting the active life to the contemplative life. The point is probably more general; Martha’s attitude of anxiety and care is rebuked, not her actions. The disciple is not to allow concern for worldly affairs to interfere with devotion to Jesus and his teaching.