Fully alive

marthamarybyheqichinaLet me confess to you: I have never much liked the story of Martha and Mary. Maybe it is because there is a part of me that likes “to do,” to see measurable progress, and know we are moving ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I treasure my quite time, but… Most of my life I have heard that the point of this story was that Mary’s attention to Jesus’ teaching is better and more important that what Martha is doing – the work of hospitality. The women in Kenya heard it that way and it rubbed them the wrong way. They quickly pointed out the biblical importance of their work: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2) They also could have just stayed here in the Gospel of Luke were hospitality is evangelical. In the end, these women felt that they story undervalues or dismissed their efforts to be welcoming, hospitable and to serve. Continue reading

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The better part: final reflection

marthamarybyheqichinaA Reflection. Part of Culpepper’s (Luke, New Interpreter’s Bible, 232) final “Reflections:”

In its own way, the conjunction of the stories about the good Samaritan and the female disciple voice Jesus’ protest against the rules and boundaries set by the culture in which he lived. As they develop seeing and hearing as metaphors for the activity of the kingdom, the twin stories also expose the injustice of social barriers that categorize, restrict, and oppress various groups in any society (Samaritans, victims, women). To love God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor as oneself meant then and now that one must often reject society’s rules in favor of the codes of the kingdom — a society without distinctions and boundaries between its members. The rules of that society are just two — to love God and one’s neighbor — but these rules are so radically different form those of the society in which we live that living by them invariably calls us to disregard all else, break the rules, and follow Jesus’ example. Continue reading

The better part: out of place

marthamarybyheqichinaOut of Her Proper Place. There are somethings that are culturally amiss here.  First of all, Mary is not in her “proper place” according to the culture. In the gender-based division of space in that culture, it is very likely Mary who is sitting with Jesus in an area reserved for men (whether dining area or “living room” area). Second, it is not clear who is the elder sister here. Since Jesus interacts with Mary here and in John 11, perhaps Martha might have been the younger sister. But since Martha extended the hospitality into “her” (?) home, she is the elder sister. Continue reading

The better part: encounter

marthamarybyheqichinaThe Encounters with Jesus. “She [Martha] had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Mary was listening to Jesus’ word or message (logos in the singular) when “Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

From the welcome of hospitality, we move to this scene. Culpepper simply states it: “Martha presumes to tell Jesus what he should do; Mary lets Jesus tell her what she should do.” Is that a bad thing?  As we shall see next week (Luke 11:1-13), Jesus is clear about the importance of persistence in prayer, e.g., the friend at midnight (11:5-8), the widow before the judge (18:1-8). Telling God repeatedly what we want God to do is not necessarily bad! However, Martha’s words, like the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:9-14, indicate flaws in their motivations. Continue reading

The better part: hospitality

marthamarybyheqichinaGreek: philoxenia. The practice of receiving a guest or stranger graciously was common to all cultures in the period of both the Old and New Testament. The word most often associated with hospitality in the LXX and the NT is xenos, which literally means foreigner, stranger, or even enemy. In its derived sense, however, the term comes to denote both guest and host alike. Typically, the verb used to describe the extending of hospitality is xenizein (Sir 29:25; 1 Macc 9:6; Acts 10:23; Heb 13:2). In the NT one who receives visitors is said to be philoxenos, i.e., a “lover of strangers,” or to be practicing the virtue of philoxenia (1 Tim 3:2; 1 Pet 4:9; Rom 12:13; Heb 13:2). Continue reading

The better part: context

marthamarybyheqichina38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Continue reading

Winner the Pooh, Rabbit, Martha and Mary

A Very Merry Pooh Year

Patrica Datchuck Sanchez had an interesting beginning to her commentary on the Martha and Mary story in Luke’s gospel:

Convinced that there is a discernible wisdom in A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh (Dell Pub. Co., New York: 1926), I consulted the portly bear for a lesson in hospitality, the central theme of today’s first reading and gospel. Edward Bear, known to his friends as Winnie the Pooh, or Pooh for short, decided to visit Rabbit. As he drew nearer to Rabbit’s home, Pooh began to hum. “Aha”, he said, “Rabbit means Company and Company means Food and Listening-to-Me-Humming!” When he called out, “Is anybody at home?” he heard a scuffling noise and then silence. He called again, more loudly, “Is anybody home?” No!, said a voice and then added, “You needn’t shout so loud. I heard you quite well the first time!” “Oh, bother!” said Pooh. “Isn’t there anybody home at all?” The answer came back, “Nobody!”

There is, perhaps, at times, a little of Pooh and Rabbit in all of us. Pooh regarded hospitality as an opportunity for food, fun and attention. Rabbit saw it as a bothersome chore he’d rather forego.

Martha and Mary

English: Johannes Vermeer's Christ in the Hous...

English: Johannes Vermeer’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luke 10:38-42 – Martha and Mary

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Continue reading