Mary and Martha and Moving On:16th Sunday in Ordinary Time-July 17,2016
Gospel: Luke 10: 38-42- Mary and Martha-Serving Two Ways
Pastor Judy Beaumont and I have been Mary and Martha to the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida since 2007. We are living testaments to how much Jesus loved and called Martha and Mary. What grace enabled this marvelous community to develop, and what grace will continue with it now! We both are like Martha as we serve our wonderful community, and we both are like Mary in our discipleship. But Pastor B’s service includes the laborious preparations for the community to eat and to receive clothing and food and other items as well as helping people to maintain housing by paying bills for them, and mine includes preaching and teaching and counseling while we both shepherd people through maze-like systems toward self empowerment, and shepherd children and youth through enriching activities. Her ministry includes also leading in the Eucharistic celebration and an expertise in the liturgy we both prepare. Together we have “Pastored” this church of the poor and the not poor, the homeless and those with homes, those with much and those with very little of this world’s goods-people caring for and serving one another and their poorest neighbors.
We started our ministry with the homeless and hungry in a local Park early in 2007. This Sunday is our last time together as a church in the church-house we bought in late 2008. We are retiring from the level of active ministry we have done for the last ten years in Fort Myers, we hope to meet again with the people after a sabbatical time at various homes-“the good Lord willin’ an’the creek don rise! ” Some commitments we have made will be forever and others will continue as best we can until the end of 2016. The next steps we leave up to God.
Our hearts are full as we approach Sunday. They are full of love that we will always have for our people. They are full of joy as we can see so many that are able to carry this ministry on themselves. Our leaders and members can reach more people on the streets and in their communities than we ever could- and they do. Our hearts are full of peace knowing that well over one hundred have been housed and moved on toward income stability and fuller lives. Forty-nine people have lived in the rear apartment of the church house when they needed a home until they could have their own home. This includes old and young, families, children and individuals with pets-five dogs, two cats and a pet mouse found a home behind the church with their beloved people. Men and women have tended to health and mental health and recovery issues and some have found a way home to God and turned their lives around. What a rainbow community we are, black and white and brown, and yellow and all colors of the LGBTQ rainbow as well-a rainbow community choosing to follow Jesus. We have had twenty-five baptisms and twenty three youth and adults have been Confirmed in Christ. We have witnessed marriages and anointed the ill and dying. We have heard confessions and witnessed new life abounding and rising from the ashes. God has done a wondrous work in this small and modest building. And we will miss every aspect of our ministry there. Saying goodbye for now is a great sadness for us, but it does not compare with the love that remains for us and for our people. Together, like Mary, we sat at Jesus’ feet on Central Avenue and together and individually we will continue like Martha to serve. The church is not the building , it is each one of us and despite Pastor B’s serious illness and my own health challenges, reasons enough for retirement, neither we nor our members can or will ever retire from serving our loving God. As the Epistle says (Colossians 1:24-28) we , like Paul, can be joyful that even our bodily suffering can be aligned with the much greater suffering of Christ for the Church and the people of God. And we can paradoxically, like Paul, deeply know and feel the joy of this. We wish we could stay forever, but we can not and moving on makes room for growth in all of us to carry it on in other ways. We move on to different arenas of service and love, meeting again as we can, but never failing to serve one another and all we come in contact with in some way-perhaps a way that only God knows and makes possible.
What a beautiful Gospel for our last time together in this church and building as we know it now. It speaks to everything we are about, this Mary and Martha, and this church. Jesus and the Gospel writer think women are important enough to speak with AND to become both servants and disciples. And for this Martha and Mary being Priests and pastoring this people is simply responding to the call of Jesus to tend the sheep, and the ewes and the lambs. Mary is sitting at his feet as disciples sit at the feet of their beloved teacher. She has put aside whatever she usually does to take in what Jesus is teaching-only then she can live it and teach it and gain the strength to serve. Martha eagerly welcomed Jesus to her home and is busy serving Jesus and probably his disciples and friends. She is overwhelmed and needs Mary’s help, asking Jesus to tell Mary that. Instead Jesus legitimizes Mary’s role as disciple. He wants to relieve Martha of her burdens to serve when she too can listen. I imagine that didn’t go so well. But Martha also knew that Jesus wants her kind of service as well from all of us. The corporal works of mercy to others is what it is all about- Jesus himself washed feet and touched and healed the broken. But unless we love Jesus enough to sit at his feet, unless we listen to Jesus we don’t know the meaning of what we do, if we do it, that is. In all of us there is a Mary and a Martha. Let us move forward in active service and in sitting at Jesus feet. He said “Don’t worry about so much-just be my disciple. Come sit here…” Let’s do it as we go forth in deepening our service to our Loving God and one another. Amen!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
And now Rev. Beverly Bingle’s inspired homily:
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
That movie was released forty years ago, in late 1967,
just months before the assassinations
of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.
Joanna was bringing her new fiancé John
to dinner with her parents
in a groundbreaking film that
presented interracial marriage in a positive light.
It turned America’s cultural biases upside down.
Same thing happened 4,000 years ago,
when it was God coming to dinner
in the form of the visitors to the tent of Abraham and Sarah.
And again, 2,000 years ago,
when God again came to dinner
in the presence of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.
And guess who’s fixing the dinner?
Just take a look at Abraham, the father of our faith.
He is indeed the patriarch.
He gives orders, and everyone jumps.
His wife heads for the kitchen to bake bread.
His slave runs off to slaughter the steer.
Abraham is consumed with providing the hospitality
that customs requires.
Sarah, on the other hand, is in the background,
baking the bread
and listening to their conversation from the tent.
She laughs—to herself—when the visitor says she will have a son.
But God knows what’s in her heart
and asks Abraham why she laughed.
Then Sarah speaks up,
and God speaks directly to her.
A woman talks, and God answers!
That turned the cultural norms upside down!
Luke’s story of Mary and Martha is usually presented
as the difference between contemplation and action,
but it’s more than that.
Before this, in chapters 5 and 7,
Luke put Jesus at two other contentious dinner parties,
one where he ate with tax collectors and sinners
and the other where he praised the woman
who washed his feet
and criticized the male host who did not treat him hospitably.
There’s no question that he made a habit of turning the tables
on the social and religious norms of his time.
Now, in chapter 10, Luke shows Martha
toiling away in the kitchen at what she,
and the society she lives in,
consider to be women’s work,
but Mary is sitting with and listening to Jesus in the living room,
where the men gather while the meal is being prepared.
Martha complains, asking Jesus
to tell her sister to get back in the kitchen…
to get back to the acceptable role for women.
But Jesus says that Mary has “chosen the better part.”
It’s one more dinner party scene
that contradicts the culture of the time.
What is that “better part?”
It’s not to be contemplative instead of active.
And not that contemplation is better than action.
It’s both at the same time.
When we love God and listen to God’s word,
we learn to love our neighbors
and help them when they’re in need.
As Pope Francis puts it,
contemplation and service to others
“are not two opposing attitudes….
For a Christian the works of service and charity
are never detached from the main source of all our actions:
listening to the Word of the Lord,
being—like Mary—at the feet of Jesus
in the attitude of the disciple.”
It’s not an accident that Luke tells this dinner story
right after last week’s Good Samaritan parable
that showed us the second commandment—
love our neighbors as ourselves.
This dinner story shows us the first commandment—
love God with our whole being.
Living that first commandment
isn’t just for when we’re at church or reading the scriptures…
…or attentively listening to my homilies.
No matter what we’re doing or how busy we are,
we are called to live in reverence and gratitude to God.
It will show in everything we do.
It will show especially in the way we treat the least among us—
the ones our culture tells us are not as good as we are.
Here in the United States these days,
that may be blacks or women
or immigrants or Muslims or LGBT folks.
It may be older people or younger people, single parents,
uneducated or poor or homeless or jobless people.
Some of our biases come from who we are,
and some from what we’ve experienced,
but the most insidious ones are hidden
in the systems and practices
that are so much a part of culture that we are blind to them.
It’s hard to remember that God is not only with us but among us,
always present in the people we have learned not to see.
Down at Claver House this week my friend John—
he’s the one who fixed my lawnmower
and didn’t charge me anything for it,
and does that same kind of thing for a lot of other people;
John, a Vietnam vet with a pacemaker
and a weekly visit to the clinic
to get the fluid drained from his lungs;
a lifelong truck driver,
living alone on a fixed income;
John, big black John,
who usually takes part
in the animated conversation that goes on at Claver,
so I asked him what was up.
He told me that two young men
were shot behind his house last night,
and one of them died.
Then he lifted up his coffee cup and said,
“So I was just being thankful for the coffee.”
Then he added, “And breakfast.
“And a safe place to be.
“And nice people to be with.”
He leaned forward a bit, looked me straight in the eye, and said,
“And I was hoping
that everybody else in the world
could have as much as I do.”
It was like a eucharistic prayer:
thanksgiving for life and food and drink and community.
All I could do was say “Amen!”
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006