Rev. Heather Blais
In today’s gospel lesson Jesus offers us an important lesson about distractions. In the story we witness Jesus and his disciples arriving in a village as they make their way toward Jerusalem. Since this story is in all four of the canonical gospels, we know that this village is actually Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. These other versions of the story tell us that Mary and Martha are actually Lazarus’ sisters, and that these women are not strangers to Jesus. In fact, they are female disciples that Jesus loves like family.
It’s clear that Martha has a gift for hospitality. She welcomes Jesus and his motley crew into her home. She is doing what any good host does when you welcome guests--you ensure there is a nice spot to take your sandals off and relax, that there is plenty of food and drink to serve, and space for good conversation. She is doing the invisible and thankless work that goes with keeping house, being a good host, and being a caretaker.
Martha is acutely aware that her sister has gone off to sit with the company and she’s been left alone to handle the work. When Martha brings her guests refreshments, she doesn’t give Mary a sisterly look, make passive aggressive comments, or even directly ask her for help. Instead, she puts her guest, who granted is like a brother, on the spot and asks, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me" (Luke 10:40).
Jesus answers her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…” (Luke 10:41). Some believe that “Martha, Martha” is a criticism of her behavior. I tend to see it as something else. A wake up call, an invitation. I imagine Jesus is talking to Martha as a parent might speak to their child with attention deficit disorder, with abundant love and a touch of exasperation.
The child is in their cloud focused on their agenda, and completely oblivious to you speaking to them. “Martha, Martha” is Jesus trying to get Martha’s attention. The way a parent would repeat their child's name when they want their child to focus on their voice for a moment, to actually hear what the parent has to say. The parent ensures there is eye contact, and sometimes this might mean holding the child’s cheeks gently with their hands to ensure they are looking face to face. The parent might be trying to get their child to simply brush their teeth in the morning, yet Jesus is offering all of us a lesson on our own distractions.
Jesus might as well be saying, "Heather, Heather; David, David; Sharon, Sharon; Rich, Rich; you are worried and distracted by many things… (Luke 10:41). Add your own name in, as Jesus is talking to each of us. Because in truth we are all easily distracted by many things.
We are distracted by emails, text messages, video games, silly apps, bills, phone calls, newspapers, housework, to do lists, meetings, lawn work, our jobs, our volunteer work, and by the onslaught of constant news and advertisements telling us how awful the world is and what we can buy to make ourselves feel better.
Some of our nations’ elected officials distract us on twitter, fox, and cnn with their arguments, fear mongering, and hate speech that is used to attack anyone that is different, but particularly people who are brown and black, people who have come to this county to make a better life--by legal and non legal means. Their banter and freedom to use such hateful rhetoric not only gives permission for any and everyone to do the same, including our children, but distracts us from their real goal of white nationalism. I imagine four hundred years ago when white European settlers came to America, they too were distracted, by the freedom of this new opportunity, by the beauty of this new world, by the harsh requirements it took to start a new life. They were too distracted to notice they had actually taken this land from those who were here long before them.
The examples of distraction within our individual lives, communities, and our history are endless. Which is why the second part of what Jesus says to Martha matters so much.
"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42).
“Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42)
I am quite positive Mary also was distracted from time to time, because we all are easily distracted. It’s part of being human. Yet in this particular moment, in this particular story, she sat at Jesus feet and listened. She showed up and had an open heart and mind. She practiced being present. She chose being in relationship over her long to do list. We are invited to do the same.
And notice what Jesus says, when we practice being present in our relationships, that peace, joy, and a sense of constancy will not be taken away from us. It will give us the strength to face the truth underneath our distractions. Maybe we scroll endlessly through our facebook newsfeed because we are lonely. Maybe we use apps and video games because we are bored and unsure of how our gifts could possibly be used to make this world better. Maybe we turn off the news because we can’t take it anymore.
Yet we are here today, in this absurd heat not because we thought it would be fun to sweat it out in uncomfortable pews. We are here today, together because we know being in relationship matters. That we need one another and our God to keep us from getting too distracted. That we need to be in relationship with one another, to trust in the knowledge that when we stand together with the love of our God this world can be made a better place. It’s not just idealism.
When we choose love, we are fighting against the distractions in our lives and in this world, which harm us and harm our neighbors. As we head back into the agonizing heat today, I invite you to ponder with me:
-What is distracting you?
-What is distracting our community?
-What is distracting our world?
-How might you practice being present today?
-Who in your life really needs you to be more present?
Rev. Jane R. Dunning
The seventy returned with joy…
What is Joy? What feeling does that bring to mind?
French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offers this definition:
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
Where have I seen joy?
I have seen it in the eyes of my giggly grandchildren when we spend time together.
I have seen it in the eyes of friends and strangers when there is a warm and loving greeting.
I have seen it in the embrace of friends and family when a loved one comes home at last.
It is a warmth that overflows, and a sense of peace deep within..
It is the feeling gratitude for the unexpected blessings that brighten our day
It is the feeling of being truly blessed…
True joy is far deeper than just the happiness of the moment…
True joy is a sign that the Kingdom of God has come near.
The word used in the original Greek gospel is “chara”
The Greek word “chara” means the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord, which is then expressed by love for others…
Jesus sent out the seventy, two by two, into the surrounding villages to be bearers of his message of Gods abiding Love…
He blesses them and sends them with just the clothes on their backs and the company of each other. They have no change of clothing, no supplies, not even an extra pair of sandals… They have no publicity, no audio system, no loudspeakers, none of today’s fancy paraphernalia.
They carry nothing but the presence of God as they go out on their mission.
Just two by two, out into the world. Wherever they go, they are to say, The Kingdom of God has come near.”
Jesus has come to know these men, and they have felt the deep calling to follow him, to learn from him, to let him into their hearts and their deepest longings.
He knows their gifts and empowers them to take these gifts to spread the word of God’s love, Gods healing, and Gods peace.
They have a found, within themselves, a deep calling to proclaim the gospel, the good news, and they are now taking the first steps of that journey…
I believe strongly that each of us has been given our own personal gifts, gifts that are our strength, those gifts which will bring blessing to those we meet along the way.
For many years, I was a teacher, first in Kindergarten, then in First Grade… I loved the job, I loved the kids, and thought that this was the best fit for me.
When I started teaching, back in 1988, there were no ordained women in the Episcopal Church. In fact, there were no women or girls on the altar, no girl acolytes, no girl crucifers. Women were only serving behind the scenes, serving as the altar guild, choir, and ushers… Never on the altar.
On July 28, 1974, eleven women were ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia, without the official approval of the church, and there was much furor and controversy. Two years later, in 1976, General Convention approved the ordination of women. Now it was official.
Later this month, we will celebrate 45 years since these eleven women were ordained to the priesthood…
This change had a significant impact on the church. It has also had an impact on my life personally, on my sense of who I was and where God was calling me. Fifteen years later, I was ordained deacon and then priest.
As I look back on my life I am amazed at the opportunities I have been given and the amazing joy that I known in my ministry..
Each of us has a calling to ministry. Sometimes it may take years to discover the ministry that brings us the deepest satisfaction, that brings us joy.
God calls each of us out to be bearers of God’s love and healing power, using our gifts in service to others, in whatever way fits our strengths and brings us joy. As Jesus sent the seventy out into the countryside in witness to Gods Love, so we are called to follow… not alone, but in twos or threes or even more…
May God bless each of us in our ministry, and like the seventy, may your journey bring you joy.
May you find joy, in the words of the poet, John O’Donohue:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace….
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.”
Note: John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
Rev. Heather J. Blais, Rector
Every Sunday after the sermon, we rise together and say the Nicene Creed. Why is this important?
This ancient statement of belief was created in the early days of the Christian Movement at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.
At that time, there were still wide variations in practices and distinctly different understandings of the nature of God held by bishops in different localities. Bishops across the Church gathered for this special council, and at future councils, to sort through and articulate their shared common beliefs. These leaders made decisions about what would be considered 'officially Christian' and what would not.
It was not a perfect system. And given they were responding to particular teachings popular at the time, we may notice things in the Creed today that seem strange or even objectionable. Yet the Creed does not need our belief in every precise word to stand up on its own. You may be annoyed with one clause, or confused by another. You might change the gender pronouns, calling Father- Mother, Creator, or Parent; or refer to the Holy Spirit as she instead of he.
When we rise together to reaffirm our faith, we are rising together with other Christians across denominations and across time; those who have gone before us and those who have yet to come. That is part of the beauty of the Creed--not the exact words but the common experience of rising together and reaffirming our faith across time and place.
The Creed is also beautiful because it is an attempt by God’s children to articulate the mysterious relationship of the Holy Trinity. It is a bit like a young child’s drawing of their family. It’s imprecise and imperfect, if we are measuring it by artistic standards. Yet when you look at the drawing through the eyes of a loving parent--the drawing is a masterpiece ready to be hung and framed. Because in the drawing, your child gave it their all as they sought to understand their place and relationships in their family.
I imagine that is how God feels about the Creed. The Creed is the way we attempt to understand our place and relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our imprecise and imperfect way of articulating what we hope we understand about the nature of God and the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Somehow our God is three in one and one in three.
The Creed tells a story about God the Father, “...maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen” (BCP p.358). It says the universe is good and is the work of a single, loving God who creates, sustains, and redeems (BCP p.846).
It is a story about God the Son, Jesus; in whom God literally becomes flesh like ours to show us the nature of God is love, love, love.
It is a story about God the Holy Spirit, where God is at work in the world and in the Church, even now.
In truth, we will never fully know or understand the inner and outer workings of the Holy Trinity.
So, I cut eight pages from my sermon....
Because in the end it is a mystery.
Yet we have experiences throughout our spiritual journey, where for a moment, we gain an awareness, a deeper knowing of God. A sense of clarity, peace, and love.
As a child, I found comfort and strength in the unconditional love of God the Father. My dad didn’t know how to be a parent or how to stick around, but this heavenly parent would never go away, and there was nothing I could do about it.
As a teenager, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride yo-yoing between good and bad choices, sometimes by the hour.
Yet I always felt heard, seen, and understood by Christ. In every teaching of Jesus, I could see it didn’t matter how worthless I might feel, Jesus was telling every single person, that might only half be listening, that we are valuable, we are worthy, we are loved. And once that news has sunk in, go and do likewise. Help others.
As an adult, I have felt the Holy Spirit guide decisions, big and small, over and over again. First would come prayer, giving God all the uncertainties, and then, eventually, a peace that surpasses our understanding. And even when there was not peace, a trust, that the Holy Spirit was with me.
In the church year, today is Trinity Sunday. It's when we sing all the best hymns. Once a year, we join St. Patrick of Ireland in picking up that three leaf clover as we try to gain a deeper understanding of the Holy Trinity. The Celtic tradition believes that all of creation is sacramental because God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sustainer are in every living thing. God is right here with us, our Companion in this life and the next.
As we prepare to make our way back into the world today, I invite us to go deeper in pondering our relationship with our Companion.
Some possible questions for reflection:
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