Pentecost 9, 2016, Bunker Hill, Luke 10:38-42
Luke 10: Martha welcomed (Jesus) into her home. She had a sister by the name of Mary who continually sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His word. But Martha was worried about all she had to do for them.
We just finished singing the table prayer, ”Come Lord Jesus…” Let the pastor announce at a church function prior to eating, “Let us join in the common table prayer” and we Lutherans have no need to ask, “What prayer is that?” No, we fall right in with hands folded and heads bowed “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed.” We get in line, fill our plates from a large selection of these gifts of God, grab some utensils, and balancing a styrophone cup of beverage we make our way to a familiar table, sit down and dig in. And between the meal and the desserts we enjoy conversation with one another. But what about Jesus, whom we have invited to join us? Is he the forgotten guest? Before we take another forkful of potato salad, let’s go back to that “common table prayer.”
There is nothing common about that prayer. Like any prayer, praying for rain for instance, once a prayer is loosed it’s all up to God from there. In fact, we do well to be prepared for the unexpected, in things pertaining to God. In this prayer, we are inviting the Lord Jesus Christ join us as we enjoy the blessings of God’s gifts. We are inviting the only-begotten Son of God…who took on human flesh by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary…was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried…and in fulfilment of the scriptures rose three days later, ascended into heaven…and will come again with glory to judge both the living and dead. We are inviting God of God and Light of Light who participated in the creation of the universe to sit on a folding chair and eat off paper plate with plastic forks and spoons.
We ask in an advent hymn, “How (do we) welcome you aright?” That’s a good question as we turn to our Gospel lesson, “And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.” Martha was honored to invite her Lord into her home as we would be. But then what? She busied herself with being a good hostess. Nothing was more important than showing proper hospitality. The problem is that she, like us, ignored her guest. The danger of inviting Jesus to be our guest and then ignoring him, is that when we are caught up in the whirlwind of activity in our life, when we become as discombobulated as Martha, we can end up asking, as she did, “Lord, do you not care…that I’m doing all this by myself?” “Lord, why are you ignoring me.” From Martha’s point of view she had good reason to be worried about many things. When she looked outside there were the twelve disciples, and the seventy others who had just returned from a mission trip and some women whom Jesus had healed and others who helped support the group. Maybe a hundred people milling around outside her door.
When we invite God to be our guest, He is known to bring a surprise or two with him. The word “welcome” carries the idea of “surprise.” Consider Abraham and Sarah. God had promised Abraham he would make him a great nation and all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his descendants; specifically, through one descendant whom we and Martha invite to join us at our meals. When we encounter them this morning in the first reading, Abraham is 100 years old and his wife 90. What do they have to show for all of God’s promises? Not one child of their own. Sarah describes herself as worn out and her husband old. However, one day Abraham wakes up from his afternoon snooze, looks up and notices three men standing in front of him. According to established custom, he welcomed them and promised them a morsel of bread which turned out to be enough food to feed a regiment. Talk about Martha being busy. But Abraham didn’t neglect his guests, but like a good host he stood nearby in the shade of a tree ready to serve their every need. After they had eaten, “The Lord…” Yes, Abraham and Sarah had welcomed the Lord himself into their midst. The Lord promised that when, “I return in a year, your wife shall have a son.” Sarah listening from inside the tent laughed. Who wouldn’t? But by chapter 21 of Genesis we learn Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham.” Surprise!
Remember, Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, who because of his small stature climbed up in a tree to see Jesus as he passed through Jericho? Jesus was welcomed into his house with joy, while others who counted themselves more worthy of a visit were insulted. Jesus made a surprising announcement that for this sinner, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he is also a son of Abraham.” For Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not those who were busy making themselves worthy.
And after his resurrection, Jesus met with two disciples going to Emmaus. He accepted their invitation to be their guest. While they ate supper, surprise, they discovered that it had been Jesus with whom they had walked and talked all afternoon as he opened the scriptures for them.
There is something called a “host and hostess” gift to show appreciation for an invitation to dinner or barbecue. Jesus was not remiss in remembering to bring a hostess gift as he entered Martha’s house. Martha was too worried about how to feed a hundred people to receive Jesus’ gift. But Mary, Martha’s sister, decided it was more important to receive the gift that Jesus brought. When Martha became overwrought with all her doing, Jesus tried to get Martha, to take the time to receive the hostess gift which he had brought with him. “Martha sit down, stop doing.” What was this surprising gift? The same one Jesus had been giving the cities and villages through which he passed. He brought the gift of the kingdom of God with him. Peace and salvation for all people. In fact, that’s why Jesus came into the world, to visit us as our guest and give us that same gift. Salvation for all of the times we have invited him to be our guest and then promptly forgot about him. Salvation from all the times we enjoy the blessing of his gifts and failed to thank him. Salvation, from the business of our life, going from day to day without a thought but often filled with anxiety and worry about many things.
And now he says to us this morning, “Come my brothers and sisters be my guest. Sit down along with Mary and listen and then go and do. Do you realize that the word listen contains the word ‘silent’? Listen to my word and trust me that I have made you holy and blameless for the day when I return as judge. Let it be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path as you seek to live your life in me. Come, be a guest at my supper laid out on the altar, which I have prepared for you. Come and eat and you will discover once again, that I am visiting you in the bread and wine of holy communion. Come, whether you are a Martha or a Mary, an Abraham or a Sarah, a Zacchaeus up a tree in your life, or disciples walking down the road of life wondering. Come, and when you leave, my ever present peace will be with you always. My face will always shine upon you. Let these gifts of mine surprise you in the ways they carry my blessing to you.