This weekend, we hear the challenging Gospel of Martha and Mary.
When our Lord enters the house, Martha busies herself with the task of waiting on Him. Mary, on the other hand, sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to His Word. When Martha appeals to Jesus for her sister to help her, He responds: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (New American Bible, Luke 10: 41-42.)
Many of us sympathize with Martha; we understand what it feels like to be overworked, stressed and often unappreciated. It is usually the good intention of not wanting to let others down that leads us to this state. St. Augustine, in a sermon on this Gospel, mentions that Martha's fault was that she received the Lord as she would a stranger, someone to be fed by her generosity.
Certainly, we are all called to imitate Martha's generosity, but she failed to see that Jesus had come to feed her. There is a saying that goes "we cannot give what we do not have."
We often run the risk of so busying ourselves with the things we do, even the good things, that we forget Jesus is the Wellspring of Life that gives us Life. If we try to do everything on our own, our works become dry and selfserving; we begin to focus on what we are getting in return or what others are doing or not doing.
St. Augustine goes on to say that when we forget to listen at the feet of Jesus we run the risk of forgetting that the good works we do for others is a payment for which we should expect no return. It is God that gives gifts to us freely.
I wonder what the Christian church would be like today if Mary Magdalene, not Peter, was the foundational narrative that shaped institutionalized religion. I resonate with why feminists don't come to church. As mystical author and speaker Mirabai Starr observes, "Women do not always feel comfy inside traditional religious institutions. That's probably because the architecture of the world's religions and the furniture with which they are appointed have been designed largely by and for men. These structure are built to fit and uphold a male-dominated paradigm."
For 2,000 years, church leaders diminished Mary's leadership role, despite all four Gospels in the New Testament proclaiming that she was fearless during the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The male followers of Jesus fled, denied and disbelieved. False narratives are necessary for double-consciousness power structures to exist.
"Go back where you came from" reveals an aspect of double-consciousness, for unless one is Native American, our generational genealogy theoretically classifies most Americans as immigrants. This past week, Twitter feeds reminded me of lyrics from "The Hamilton Mixtape": "And it's, it's really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, 'immigrant' has somehow become a bad word." The dynamics of patriotism, colonialism, racism and xenophobia dynamically ignite one another in Hebrew and Christian texts, fueling institutionalized systems of patriarchal religious organizations that also mirror a double-consciousness because sacred texts are manipulated to justify misogyny and bigotry.
How do we awaken from our spiritual comas and engage in sacred activism? By connection — connecting with one another and escaping the talons of false narratives that satiate our dualistic egos that love to judge and imprison people based on gender, sexual orientation and skin color.
Please join us Sunday night at 6:30 as we welcome professor Mirabai Starr.
I recently saw this quote: "Don't let aging get you down. It's too hard to get back up." Perhaps you are getting older and this quote rings true for you. Aches and pains come with age, but even children have to deal with the pain of cuts, broken bones, or even pediatric cancer. No one is immune from feeling physical pain. Perhaps this is why one of the most popular prayers people have is for healing, for themselves and their loved ones.
In Luke Chapter 7, a Roman military leader sends a delegation to Jesus to ask a request of Him. This Centurion wants Jesus to heal his ill servant. But when Jesus decides to go to the Centurion's house, the Centurion tells Jesus, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed." (v. 7) Jesus is amazed at the simple faith of the Centurion and says, "I haven't seen faith like this in all Israel!" (v. 10)
Some people pray faithfully to God for healing, and their illness or malady is miraculously cured. Others pray for miraculous healing, but it never comes and death is the result. Our bodies have healing properties built into them, but there are aspects of healing that cannot be explained. We are caught in the complex mystery of the delicate balance of God's action and inaction in the world and in our own lives.
I think that asking for healing is less about getting God to take away my illness and more about me simply and faithfully releasing my worry and fear about the future. Of course, I'm going to pray for full healing. But I'm also going to go to the doctor to get her wisdom on what ails me. Asking God for healing is not just about being released from my illness, but is also a simple and faithful way I can release worry and fear about my future to the God who loves me and you.