Sermon From July 21st 2013 / “Hospitality and Martha.”
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / July 21st / Ninth Sunday of Pentecost, Luke 10: 38-42.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him 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. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends, do you want to hear some bad advice about kindness? The gangster Al Capone once said this about kindness, “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” A better pit of advice comes from the ancient philosopher Plato who said, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” In the closing line of A Streetcar Named Desire you will hear this famous line, “I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Today in the Gospel of Luke we see Jesus depending on the kindness of others, we aren’t told if this is His first visit to Mary and Martha’s house but when you look at everything happening in Chapter 10 of Luke it looks like it very well might be His first time at their house. The whole of Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel has a theme of Hospitality woven through it.
At the beginning of Chapter 10 Jesus sends out the Seventy two saying, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’”
Notice Jesus doesn’t send people out with the gangster Al Capone’s advice of “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” Of course they didn’t have guns back in the days that the Seventy Two were being sent out but you get the picture, this looks a lot more like “I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Luke 10 continues with the rest of Jesus’ advice to the Seventy Two and then their return and their excitement that “Even the demons are subject to [them] in [Jesus’] name!” Hearing this from them Jesus reminds the Seventy Two that that is not the important part, that if they are to rejoice about something they can rejoice about how their “names are written in heaven.” After this there is a great Trinitarian passage where Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.”
God the Father is gracious, Jesus values kindness and He himself shows kindness, and all of these things belong to hospitality. Before we get to the account of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s house there is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, last week we delved into that thinking about who it is that we are to be hospitable to and how Jesus treats you like a neighbour, how He treats you perfectly, how He shows mercy and kindness to you in your distress loving you with all His heart, all His soul, all His strength and all His mind. This sets the stage for when Jesus walks into the small village of Bethany, about two miles east of Jerusalem on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives.
Jesus doesn’t roll into town with a gun in his hand and kind words in his mouth like Al Capone, no Jesus would arrive as He had sent the Seventy Two, Jesus arrives with no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and when Martha welcomed him into her house Jesus would have said to her as He entered in ‘Peace be to this house!’ Jesus sat down and began to teach with Mary Martha’s sister attentively listening prepared to eat and drink whatever was put before Him. And Martha busied herself in preparing the meal.
Now in the ancient world, particularly in the days we are thinking of this morning they had some different customs around hospitality. And Israel was greatly influenced at that time by Roman customs and hospitality. Now the text doesn’t say what kind of meal Martha is working on but it might have been a good one because she’s working very hard to put it together, hard enough that she wanted Mary’s help. But not all meals were equal in those days. In fact where we work to give the best to our guest when they arrive, the Roman culture of the day had this idea that you should get what you deserve based on how important you were in society and/or how important you were to the host of the party. So when Jesus says, “eat what is set before you” what He is saying is, ‘you have no idea what people will give you – don’t be picky, don’t turn your nose up at what you’re given, don’t think that the meal is too good for you or beneath you, just eat what is set before you.’
To illustrate this I’ll give you an example, a man of that time who is critical of this disparity in hospitality describes dinner at another man’s house like this, he asks this of the host of the party, “Why is not the same dinner served to me as to you? You take oysters fattened in the Luc/Rine Lake, I suck a mussel through a hole in a shell. You get mushrooms, I take hog funguses. You tackle turbot, but I [get] brill. Golden with fat, a turtledove gorges you with its bloated rump, but there sits before me a magpie that has died in its cage.” Hear again Jesus’ words: Jesus says, “Eat what is set before you” whether its fattened turtledove or a magpie that has died in its cage.
It is unlikely that Martha was working hard in the kitchen to serve Jesus a magpie that had died in its cage. Regardless of what she was working to serve, Martha had been sucked into the world of the day and was more focused on the serving of the meal than she was on her guest. Mary had discovered the one needful thing and was receiving it from Jesus. When we become excited to serve Jesus we must also remember not to let this cloud the fact that it is Jesus who is serving us. He had more lasting food in His words than Martha would serve at the table. Do not become distracted with serving others to the point of being starved the Word of God from Jesus’ lips. With great kindness and generosity Jesus comes to you with His words offing you Hospitality like no other, even making a way for your names to be written in heaven, your name written in God’s Home, which has become your home in your baptism.
After Martha losses it on Jesus complaining, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Jesus answered her kindly and gently saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Martha however shouldn’t get a bad rap, remember what Jesus said to the Seventy Two whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. Peace did come to Martha’s house and even in their distress later at the death of their brother Lazarus you can see the peace of Christ Jesus resting upon them. On another visit, on the day Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead, this same Martha has a conversation with Jesus, this time it is Mary who is in distress and won’t leave the house and Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Martha like Mary had chosen the good portion, she believed as Mary did the one thing which is necessary, Martha along with Mary her sister is shown to have faith in Jesus. She who was fussing over showing Jesus hospitality had finally trusted in the kindness and mercy of God in Christ Jesus.
The events of Luke Chapter 10 come after the event of the Transfiguration, which is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus, from there on in Jesus was moving toward the cross, today’s reading is a brief resting point along the way, on that day with Mary and Martha, the day that Luke chapter 10 depicts, on that day Jesus knew that He was going to be going soon to Jerusalem, He knew that their hospitality towards Him would start out good with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the crowds calling out Hosanna, Save us, feeding Him with their Hosannas a fattened supper of turtledove but that their hospitality would fade away as the week progressed and by Friday He would be eating the magpie of death at the cross.
Because Jesus went to the cross to eat the magpie of death, you will have the turtledove of eternal life. The hospitality God share to you in Christ Jesus is a perfect hospitality: He doesn’t turn you away when you come to Him for forgiveness, for forgiveness for all the times you have been unkind, for all the times you’ve failed to show generosity, and love to your neighbour, for all the times you refused to open your house to the one who arrives on your doorstep with no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals. Jesus shows you mercy and forgiveness even when you have become distracted in the service of other and have failed to set your eyes on Him, and have failed to open your ears to hear His word.
Remembering Jesus’ word, remember that this House, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, is God’s House and it is open to all people, the word of God feeds all who enter here, and when they are prepared for the Supper then Jesus is here for them not just in His mighty and powerful word but in the Super too, He comes to you in the meal and gives to you in His Supper His very Body and Blood to eat for the forgiveness of your sins unto life everlasting. It is the same body and blood that Martha welcomed into her home, the same Jesus at whose feet Mary Martha’s sister sat. Jesus is the one necessary thing for you and God the Father gives Jesus to you without reservation, He gives Jesus to you in the Word of God, He gives Jesus to you at the Cross, He gives Jesus to you in Holy Communion. Such is the Hospitality and kindness and generosity of God, He has opened Heaven to you and your name is written there. And Because of Jesus, God’s hospitality is not the hospitality of a stranger, but it is rather the hospitality of a father, the hospitality of a brother, perfect in every way. Batter than that of an earthly father or of an earthly brother; God’s hospitality towards you packs no gun like Al Capone, and it serves you no magpie at supper, Jesus’ hospitality is pure kindness and mercy. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Quotes for Quite Interesting Times, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, 2010, pg 177.
 Luke 10:3-11
 Luke 10:17
 Luke 10:20
 Luke 10:21
 St. Paul’s Corinth, Texts and Archaeology, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, pg. 185.
 John 11:21-27
 Luke 9:28-36 “Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”