Old Testament: Amos (8:1-12)
This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
The Response: Psalm 146
1 You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness *
against the godly all day long?
2 You plot ruin;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor, *
O worker of deception.
3 You love evil more than good *
and lying more than speaking the truth.
4 You love all words that hurt, *
O you deceitful tongue.
5 Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, *
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!
6 The righteous shall see and tremble, *
and they shall laugh at him, saying,
7 “This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, *
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.”
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; *
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9 I will give you thanks for what you have done *
and declare the goodness of your
Name in the presence of the godly.
The Epistle: Colossians (1:1-14)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
The Gospel: Luke (10:38-42)
As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “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.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
This morning’s gospel reading is one that has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries, often being used simply as an attempt to justify the point of view that the commentator already had. At one time, for example, Mary’s role as compared with Martha’s was sited to assert the supposedly holier nature of a cloistered life over that of the 99.9% of us Christians who, at least much of our lives, need to be busy about many things. One basic problem with that approach is that, at the time the gospel was written, there were no cloistered Christian communities; so that interpretation obviously makes no sense.
Luke’s gospel is the only one that provides us with this account; so, in order to understand it, we need to begin by looking at the context in which he places it. Key to that context is the story that comes immediately before it, the one that we heard last Sunday: the parable of the Good Samaritan. The two of them form a balanced set. At the conclusion of that narrative, Jesus instructs the lawyer, “Go and do.” At the end of today’s passage, he instructs Martha, “Sit and listen.” Together these two stories remind us of the two different, but equally essential and ultimately complementary aspects of our life of faith: sitting and listening intently to the teaching of Jesus and then going and doing.
Jesus’ own ministry reflected his emphasis on both. The four gospels, each in its own way, alternate accounts of Jesus teaching and Jesus doing. His formation of his early followers seems to have been designed to ensure that they valued and embodied both elements of the life to which he was calling them. But at various times in the church’s life, we have neglected one or the other of them, and, far too often, both simultaneously.
Twenty years ago this summer, as I was preparing to leave my profession in the computer services industry to join the people of St. Mark’s in this church’s life and ministry, I carefully reviewed and reflected on the Parish Profile that the Calling Committee, Vestry, and parish at-large had created. One of the many things that strongly attracted me to this church was that one of the primary concerns that the parish had at the time was to expand its Adult Education. That had been an emphasis of mine during my entire ordained ministry.
It occurred to me many years ago that, in the gospels, Jesus taught the adults and played with the children. Somehow over the centuries, the church had decided to turn that pattern around and do just the opposite. It taught the children, at least until the end of sixth grade, when they were confirmed; and then focused on recreational and social events for adults. We had, I realized, been getting our educational priorities completely backwards.
Here’s a question for those of you who, like me, are of a “more mature age”: who remembers “The Beverly Hillbillies”? (You could probably even sing the theme song, couldn’t you?) For those of you who are younger, “The Beverly Hillbillies” was a sit-com that ran for nine years in the mid to late 1960s. It focused on Jed Clampett and his family. They were from way up in the hills of the Ozarks; but, when they struck oil, they moved into a Beverly Hills’ mansion, yet kept living as they always had. Along with Jed were Granny, Jed’s niece Elly May, and his nephew Jethro. Jethro was a big, strong, good-looking young man, who was totally clueless. He used to think of himself as the brains of the family since, as he constantly reminded people, “I got me a sixth-grade education!”
We can laugh at his delusions, but don’t they too often reflect the faith-education of many Christians, maybe even ours? As I mentioned earlier, our emphasis as a church was, for generations, focused on providing Sunday School lessons for our children. At about the age of 12, they were confirmed. Some of them continued in some sort of religious education through high school, but many stopped where they were.
Would you trust a doctor whose education or understanding of the world stopped when he or she was 12 – or a teacher, or a financial advisor, or a builder, or a military or government leader, or a scientist, or anyone else entrusted with an important role and responsibility? Of course not. Then why would we, who bear the great responsibility of serving as God’s representatives in the world, think that the knowledge and understanding that we had as a pre-teen is sufficient for us for life? When are we going to commit ourselves to a lifetime of sitting and listening to Jesus and his teaching, to expanding our understanding of our faith, to allowing it and nurturing it to become an ever-more mature, adult faith?
We’re now — young people here, cover your ears, because you probably don’t want to hear this! – we’re now only about one month away from the first day of school. Those who have assignments to do during the summer have reached a point where they have, one hopes, at least begun reading the books, and doing the research, and writing the essays that they need to complete before this year’s classes begin.
This might be a good time for us who have left formal schooling behind to start thinking about how, over the coming year, we might ensure that we continue to grow in our understanding of our faith. We already have several different opportunities that are or will be available to anyone who is interested. We have our Adult Forum, which meets here on both Wednesday mornings and Sunday mornings, in which we dig into the scripture readings for each Sunday and explore also the prayers and hymns for the day. We have publications such as our diocesan paper, Connections, which explores faith-related topics from a variety of perspectives. There are some very user-friendly and helpful and reliable web sites, such as Bible Odyssey, that allows anyone at any place and time to deepen their understanding of God’s word. Within the next couple of weeks, we will have information for you on a new EfM or “Education for Ministry” series that will be starting next month in our area. And this fall, the Kettering location of the ELCA Lutheran “Lay School of Theology” will be offering an introduction to Christian Ethics and Moral Theology, taught by an excellent teacher, our own Bishop Tom Breidenthal. One or more of these might just be for you.
The life of being a follower of Jesus must always be a combination of sitting and listening plus going and doing. Or, as Fred Craddock, in reflecting on Luke’s pairing of the parable of the Good Samaritan with the story of Martha and Mary, puts it: “If we were to ask Jesus which example applies to us, the Samaritan or Mary, his answer would probably be Yes.”