Sermon - 7/21/19
2019.07.23 21:50:12

Proper 11/C [Pent. 6] (2019): Genesis 18:1-14; Colossians 1:21-29; Luke 10:38-42.


Welcomed,            [A] woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving (vv. 38b-40a). 


This morning we reflect on the posture of Christian worship.  Sarah and Abraham honored the Lord’s visit with frantic hospitality; but when Sarah listened to the Lord from behind the tent veil, she laughed at his promise that within the year she, a barren old woman would give birth to a son by her ancient husband. 


Similarly, last Sunday Jesus taught by parable an argumentative lawyer, the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained to his followers, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables” (Lk. 8:10).  


The upshot about Sarah, the lawyer, and today distracted Martha, is that Jesus urges vigilance for a correct posture before God’s word, to “Take care… how you hear…” (8:18), for in Christ is revealed to the saints the mysteries hidden for ages (Col. 1:25, 26).


This morning Christ’s bride is gathered. Positioned you assume Mary’s posture before the Word; in contrast to Martha insinuating herself before Jesus to “stand-over” him and malign her sister for not sharing the hostess duties.


In your position you are seated quietly, without anxiety in this place whence comes the Lord by his word. By your posture you appear in rapt expectation to receive, “a lamp to [your] feet and a light to [your] path” (Introit antiphon).  This is the church’s welcoming worship advancing to mature faith in the wisdom and revelation of heaven’s mysteries (v. 28).


In the “heat of the day” (Gen. 18:1) the Lord made a surprise visit to Abraham and Sarah.  After completing harried preparations, Sarah attended the Lord’s words; yet she did not comprehend, there is nothing too difficult for the Lord (v. 14a).  Sarah’s laugher expressed her critical disbelief in God’s promise; with Abraham’s silence, they had just reprised original sin by Adam and the woman. 


The Lord came to Adam and the woman in the Garden’s “cool of the day”.  Adam ordained into the office of word delivery to the woman had already conveyed the Lord’s warning, that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must not be eaten on pain of death. 


Satan intruded into their orderly worship suggesting that either Adam was an unreliable preacher; or if true, then God must be suspect for depriving mankind of knowledge. To the woman, Satan insinuated unbelief, “Did God actually say…?” [Gen. 3:1).


The woman stepped out of her ordained hearer position to bandy words with the serpent while Adam remained silent at both the bald challenge to God’s word and the dignity of his office. The woman then took it upon herself to modify the word she received, adding, “neither shall [we] touch [the fruit] …” (v. 3). 


This addition is what Pharisees would call “putting a fence around Torah”, making it more stringent in order to be on the safe-side of obedience.  St. John relays God’s attitude on fencing his word, “if anyone adds to the words of the prophesy…God will add to him the plagues described in this book (the Apocalypse)” (Rev. 22:18, cf., Deut. 4:2). 


The woman’s offense was in standing-over her husband’s preachment of word. She had moved out of its orbit, into that a critical posture of the word.  Whether the woman intended to enhance the force of God’s command or, like Sarah make God’s promise sound foolish, is of no significance; she was spiritualizing God’s word, the sin of every religious enthusiast throughout the ages.  


The woman had turned God’s ordained posture for worship up-side down. By Adam’s silence and participation in the forbidden food, he acceded to the woman’s new theology conforming to Satan’s lie, “You will not surely die…” (Gen. 3:4).  Adam was not ejected from his pulpit, nevertheless from that time on preachers and congregations often coexist in tension; sadly, a given preacher may not be faithful or even know the word, that said we are here and graciously find ourselves at Grace Lutheran. 


Adam and the woman attended Satan’s contrary word and altered mankind’s posture toward God as source of Divine knowledge. No one, but God can know evil without doing evil, thus the “forbidden fruit”; yet the man Jesus crucified, suffered for us to know both evil and death. 


Adam’s first preaching in the Fall was a gospel word; prophetically he named the woman, “Eve—mother of all living”.  Eve, like Sarah, and the Virgin Mary are icons and types of the church.  And yet it was only Sarah in her barrenness who experienced the Lord’s ironic laughter in child birth; Isaac’s name means “laughter.  As for Eve and Mary, the mother of Jesus, each would experience through in their firstborn sons the culmination of sin spoken by Simeon, “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Lk. 2:35).  


If Eve is picture of the church with the Man Jesus; still she was destined for frustration. God informed, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b).  This prophesy in the first instance does not refer to physical attraction; rather God speaks to the woman, the church’s on-going original sin nature, a covetousness of standing over her husband’s office of word according to God’s order; ultimately toward the Man Christ for lordship and rule in his church. 


In today’s Gospel Jesus comes to Bethany, home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Martha is a disciple and desires to welcome Jesus.  From reportage she understood the take-away of the Good Samaritan parable: that Jesus is our Neighbor out of heaven, the One come to do for us God’s Service. 


Yet, old priorities are hard to overcome; Abraham and Sarah’s frantic welcome; the lawyer’s searching of Scripture for his “neighbor”; and Martha’s desire to prioritize her service over what Jesus came to extend. All of these thought themselves host to the Lord as guest with whom they might trade words with him; but that is not the case, is it? 


The tension between the Man and the woman finds resolution when the congregation, responds as bride, hearing her Lord’s word in faith for the mystery of Christ’s gospel rule and her restored worship posture. Again, Jesus provides the guidance, “Take care then how you hear…”      


In Christ we are invited to a new posture replacing our piety of service to God; rather, it is Mary’s receptivity to Jesus’ word at his feet that is praised: communal, continual, undistracted, and uncritical in faith’s hearing.


For Martha “real food” consisted of blintzes and nosh for a party of 85 plus; but the folly of this finally registered when Jesus advised her that Mary had chosen the good portion as when he effortlessly fed 5,000 in Galilee and 4,000 in the Decapolis on his way to Jerusalem and the cross.


If Martha intended to marginalize her sister Mary before the Lord; Jesus responded by embracing Mary in a new kinship of the word, “My mother and my brothers [and sisters] are those who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21; cf. 6:47, 11:28).  The “do[ing] of it” consists in our on-going faithful hearing and so participate in the word’s empowerment.


This is our proper worship posture before God. Like Mary we sit at Jesus’ feet for every provision of his word in attentive and uncritical hearing.  By careful hearing of God’s unfenced word, we are directed to the Food he imparts for forgiveness and Life, in, with, and under his crucified, risen flesh and blood.  The is the bride’s foretaste of eternal physical union in the Lamb’s Marriage Feast.  Amen.





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