The Pas Propers / Ordinary 16 – Pentecost + 6
21 July 2019
Psalm 15 pg 718
you draw near to us in Christ
and make yourself our guest:
amid the cares of our daily lives,
alert us to your presence
and make us attentive to your voice,
so that we may treasure your word above all else.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.
Today’s gospel is one that, I have to admit, has always left me wondering about the perception of gendered roles in our society.
What it shows us, today, is Martha in the kitchen, preparing a meal for Jesus and the disciples while Mary ignores the looks and the gestures to come and help her sister in the role of meal preparation, as she sits at Jesus’ feet listening to the conversation, maybe even participating.
But, gendered roles in our society, it seems, have been around since almost the dawn of recorded history, no matter what the culture, each gender has its assigned roles. And, if you haven’t guessed, I’m a child who was told that I can do whatever I set my mind to doing. I’m a product of the social revolution of my childhood, the 1970’s.
So, then, as a child, if I’d wanted to be a firefighter, or a police officer, then that career choice was as open to me as nurse, or teacher, or secretary, when I was growing up.
And I swear that my husband is a better cook than I will ever manage to accomplish. I can cook to survive, but he has the talent and the ability to create culinary masterpieces! At the same time, I’m the one that sees that the lawn needs to be mowed long before he does.
So, then, today’s gospel has to have more in it than requiring me to cause people gastric distress with my attempts to make soup.
Perhaps it’s the pull between the apparently unrelated roles of hospitality and devotion? After all, it’s not easy for one to show worshipful devotion if one is ensuring that there is always a good supply of coffee, and clean cups in which to serve it.
Perhaps it’s the perceived inequality of the situation? Martha is desperately trying to make sure all of the cats are herded appropriately so that she is the honoured hostess of the evening, although Jesus is the guest of honour.
Or, maybe it’s that Mary has ignored the gender assigned tasks of good hospitality that Martha gave to her to complete. There are probably vegetables to be pealed, table to be set, and she probably got distracted while ether serving a welcoming cup of something or offering water for the washing of feet.
Or any combination of the above.
I was speaking with my husband, about the perceived roles of equality, how one equality, naturally, leads to another – even over genders, treatments of those from other cultures, and even in the areas of equal pay for equal work.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s where it starts, not where it ends.
The gospel tells us is: “38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Lk 10:38-40a)
And this is lacking a whole lot of detail in its brevity of words.
And today we are able to get equally caught up in the minute details, as well. Those ones we’re not being told in this brief description of a quiet evening at Lazarus’ house.
At the same time, we’re also able to find ourselves distracted by Jesus, by God, by the Holy Spirit who has different plans, designs, and motives in for and through each of our lives, than just providing a great relaxing environment and a home cooked meal.
But, it’s also the way our society relegates each gender to different tasks based solely upon our gender, although if we’re looking at equality, a man can wash dishes as easily as a woman takes out the garbage, and so on.
After all, it was the women who followed Jesus through the passion, along the Via Dolorosa to the cross, and witnessed the crucifixion, after the men had fled in fear of persecution by both the Jews and the Romans.
It was the women who watched while Jesus was taken down from the cross, and who watched where he was laid, so that they could come back, on the first day of the week to do his embalming properly.
And it was the women who first carried the news of the resurrection back to the men.
While the world is watching the men, the women are coming out of the woodwork to see that the events of Jesus’ life and ministry are witnessed, that the news is carried beyond where the men are able to go, and shared with all who will listen.
So, maybe then the clue is found in Jesus reply to Martha, today: “41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Lk 10:41-42)
So, let’s look at this closely.
“40 Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Lk 10:40-42)
And here’s the pull, in our gospel for today.
To do what is expected by the larger society to provide hospitality to all who come through the door, even though it comes with societally assigned gender expectations. Hustling and bustling around the tasks of creating a meal that will be enjoyed, and hopefully, talked about for some time, until our joy of visitors flees for sunnier climes.
Or, will we break from the gendered expectations and be one of those heralds of the good news, caring it where men cannot go, to markets, and kitchens, to coffee clutches, and to discuss as we travel throughout our day.
Jesus tells us: “few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:42)
So, in the realm of “few things are needed – or indeed only one”, maybe Jesus had funds to order pizza, or he wanted to take Lazarus and his sisters out to dinner, but the gospel doesn’t tell us this.
The point is that Jesus doesn’t see the roles of hospitality and a home cooked meal to be the necessary bodily and spiritual needs at the moment.
And here we are, still, in our lives, today.
How will we share the gospel of Christ? Will we bustle around, slightly harried by the sudden influx of guests, to be the best hosts on our street? Or will we sit down with our guests and listen to the wisdom shared in the conversation, and have the love of God, of Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit to share with others whom we encounter in our day to day tasks.
So, if Jesus declares that “Mary has chosen what is better” we need to discover what that is, and emulate her. And we can do this, even if dinner is burned, even if feet go unwashed, even if the table is missing a row of forks, as long as we are open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in and through the world, in and through each of our lives.
But it means stepping out of our comfort zones.
It means seeking equality in all things, places and matters.
It means finding where and how the Holy Spirit directs our lives, through the teachings of Jesus.
The world continues to assign roles based upon gender, but these days we’re free to decide within our families, within our communities, and within each of our lives who and how will each of us assume which roles.
I know that in our household, I’ll continue to mow the grass; and my husband will continue to create culinary creations. Together we’ll discuss the working of the Holy Spirit, the leading of God, in and through our lives, for the sharing of the love of God with all whom we meet, building bridges between peoples, who never thought bridges were possible, and following where God leads.
This is our lives, today because we acknowledge what society sees as gendered roles, and we play to our strengths as a couple, and as family. And in this same way that we are able to determine who, in our household does what tasks.
At the same time, how we live our lives, how we interact with the world around us will live out the love of God, the leading of the Holy Spirit to spread the teachings of Jesus as far as is possible to the ends of the earth.
In todays gospel, we can see that gendered roles isn’t the issue, rather it’s the overcoming of that societal expectation, that we see is the issue, today. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus didn’t just have 12 disciples, but that evening, he has so many more.
So, whether we choose to follow, to listen, to learn and to carry that message into the world, or to sequester ourselves in the kitchen fussing over a gourmet meal, that is the question we face today, and tomorrow, as well.