July 21, 2019

Choosing the Better Part
Pentecost 6,
Year C
Becky Robbins-Penniman

Poor Martha. Year after year, some preacher shakes a finger at her, giving her a hard time for being in the kitchen making dinner rather than sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary was doing. As much as I dislike cooking and would like to justify myself with that approach, that’s just not the point of the story. No, Martha was doing a lovely thing by serving Jesus like this. In fact, the Greek word for serving at tables, διακονέω [diakoneō] was brought almost unchanged into English as the word deacon. Deacons are the epitome of loving service at the Table for God’s sake.

Gracious hospitality is something the Bible consistently approves of! Abraham makes sure those 3 travelers get some pretty awesome hospitality: water to cool their dusty, tired feet; rest under a shade tree on a hot day; and an absolutely huge, fancy feast – enough to feed dozens of people. The amount of flour Abraham tells Sarah to use will make at least 24 loaves of bread – some for the travelers to eat now, some to send with them, some for the family to keep at home. A fatted calf (with all the fixings) is well over 100 pounds of meat – again, some to eat now, some to send with the guests, some for the family.

Time and again in the Gospels and epistles, generous hospitality is praised and stingy hosts are criticized. A common image for the Reign of God in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures is that of a wedding banquet with tons of guests. Someone has to cook it all! I hate to admit it, but God really likes a great party with wonderful food.

No, Martha’s problem was NOT that she was making a nice meal for Jesus. What was Martha’s problem, then? …

For a full sermon transcript, click HERE.