Sermon for July 17, 2022 Sixth after Pentecost “The Right Time”
Today we are gifted with two wonderful and intriguing texts that I hope cause to ponder over for the week ahead. The first from Colossians reminds us that ‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created’. The idea and truth that Jesus was in the beginning, has been in history, is with the unfolding of creation today and will be into the future, is for me reassuring and calls me to live my most authentic, selfless self. The Gospel teaching in Luke’s telling of Jesus visit to Mary and Martha’s home is about shattering stereotypes and choosing the right time to practice our particular gifts.
Let me begin with an edited interpretation of biblical scholar Brian McLaren’s research on the Colossians text. We are Christian because of our bold claim in believing in Jesus. The church’s purpose is the body of Jesus Christ and our, at one time unflinching but now shy proclamation of Jesus teachings.
Brian describes the seven Jesus’ he has known: Conservative Protestant: we are sinners and Jesus died for our sins, Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus: Jesus was dramatically present in our personal lives but oddly absent from concern for the justice for all, the Roman Catholic Jesus: with its focus on liturgy and Eucharist but strangely exclusive in many of its views, Eastern Orthodox Jesus with a strong focus on the Trinity and Mystery, the Liberal Protestant Jesus with a focus on social justice that grew from a personal experience of Jesus but so often forgot about Jesus on the social justice bandwagons, and the Anabaptist Jesus with a focus on peace and non-violence and standing with the poor and oppressed.
I know that many people here today have experience in other traditions and that is a good thing. All expressions of Christianity that keep the teachings of love, inclusion and justice at the core, and proclaim Jesus in a way that is inviting and accepting are good and acceptable. We know that Jesus says ‘many will come saying ‘I am the Messiah’ and yet have undesirable motives, beware of them’ and so it critically urgent that we, in prayer and meditation and action discern the will of Jesus. It is human to want my or our way to be right, but Jesus is multi-hued in texture and people respond in differing ways. That is true of each of us and for churches.
During his ministry Jesus spent many days at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were friends and the door was always open. On this particular occasion Martha was preparing food and Mary was with the others listening to Jesus. This is one occasion where Jesus is gently trying to break down well leaned notions of gender role and who does what in a home. Jesus does not berate Martha for being in the kitchen. He reminds her that there is a time for everything and at that moment the right thing to be doing was to listen to Jesus.
The right thing to do? And when to do it? Excellent questions anytime but certainly the correct question for the church as we get further into the 21st century. For some wisdom on what is the right thing to do and when to do it read Leo Tolstoy’s ‘The Three Questions’.
Right now is our time to worship. That intentionally set apart time to gather to praise, be silent, be prayerful and be grateful. Is it the only time to worship…absolutely not. There are, right times for all sorts of things that happen in our day and we make room for the unexpected along the way.
For Jesus, it is always the right time for justice, love and compassion. He teaches us that our idea of right may not be as helpful as it was a few decades ago. He teaches us the urgency to listen intently. And in that listening open ourselves to the new way that is opening before us with wonder and yes with a bit of nervousness. But that is ok. Remember earlier today when we heard ‘Jesus was the firstborn of all creation, in him all things in heaven and earth were created’? well it’s true. What we do this day and in the days to come, with love, justice and compassion, is the work of Jesus.