Pentecost 9 C 2016 – Pastor Jolivette Retirement

July 17, 2016  


JULY 17, 2016 OSLC



I stand here this morning wondering what to say and how to say it all:


Let me start by saying, I am in awe of people who in their 90’s drive to church every Sunday.


And I am in awe of people who come to church the Sunday after a family member dies.


I am in awe of people who do not let a little thing like cancer keep them from worship.


I am in awe of people who put together menus of great food week after week and serve it for free to an audience which may or may not appreciate the gourmet feast they are eating.


I am in awe of people who get up early on a Tuesday to be at church at 7 am for Bible Study.


I am in awe of parents who bring children to worship and train them to join in the singing and the praying.


I am in awe of children who run down in front with joy to be cheerful givers.


I am in awe of children who say table prayers in school cafeterias.


I am in awe of altar guild members who come in on so many Saturdays to prepare for our worship needs.


I am in awe of ladies who serve funeral lunch after funeral lunch.


I am in awe of people who mow the church lawn on a hot summer day.


I am awe at the incredible sounds that our organists produce.


I am in awe of all the beautiful people God has put in this place.


I am in awe of a God who can take all of our burdens, including finding a new pastor, into God’s care.


I am in awe of our God who gives us far more than we can think or ask.


I am in awe of Jesus who picks ordinary people to be ambassadors to the world of God’s forever kingdom.


I am in awe of God who has let me try to tell God’s stories while feeling that I still have so much yet to learn.


I am in awe of Jesus who would not let a little opposition, or a lot, or wandering minds, or social norms, or etiquette, get in the way of a chance to be authentically and fully God to us and for us in our world.


So today we have a Gospel story we think we know well, the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus coming into their home.  Something out of the ordinary is going on.  These two adult women are apparently not married. They must be from an early Lake Wobegon,  precursors to Norwegian bachelor women, a bachelor family with a brother Lazarus thrown in on other stories.  How else can you explain 3 unmarried people living in this house?  That clearly wasn’t normal in Jesus’ day. I have met some of  their kin living  in some coulees around here.  And in Jesus’ day, a man didn’t enter an unmarried woman’s house.  But Jesus did.  He actually seemed to think that He belonged there. There are other times in Scripture when Jesus came to this family.  Sometimes it happened in a place called Bethany just east of Jerusalem, but this episode as Luke tells it seems to happen up north in Galilee some place.  So not all the details are clear about who Martha and Mary really are or where they live,   but Jesus shows up.  And He was not alone.

Did you hear the start of the story? “Now as they went on their way…” it begins. Clearly they means a group of some kind.  So what would you be doing if a group of people decided to descend into your living room?  You’d put out something to eat, of course. Hospitality would be the concern of the day. Maybe it’s stories like what happened to Martha that inhibit us now from inviting people to our houses.  There’s a whole lot of work involved. And cost.  There is also more than a little risk in offering hospitality.  Martha and Mary had just been put to the test.

A bag of potato chips would be easy, some oreo cookies put on a nice platter just fine, but this was Jesus, and special company needs something special.  So you would go into the kitchen and cook something up, right, and hope you had stuff at hand in the pantry.  Or if not cook, at least put a nice cheese tray together, with some nuts and berries maybe, because it would always be helpful to impress the Big Guy with something tasty and healthy.

So you’d be right there with Martha, wouldn’t you?? Of course you would.

I don’t think this is a story about good choices and bad choices, good Mary, bad Martha.   I don’t think Martha gets a big put down from Jesus. I don’t think this is a story about Mary being a winner and Martha a loser in Jesus’ estimation.  I think Jesus breaks the rules, comes into the house of single women, because this is about the kingdom and God. Martha gets a great big invitation, which is this:  Please stop worrying about hors d’ouevres and come eat the main course with me. I want you at the table right next to me, you and Mary together.

This is the One who sent disciples out 2 by 2 to announce peace and the kingdom of God, and 35 pairs went out to prepare the way for Jesus.  And their amateur hour turned into a night of stories and joy, of celebration that demons were sent packing and Satan fell from the sky like lightning, of doors opening in advance for Jesus to come to their village.

And when some wanted to take detours from heading toward Jerusalem and the cross and all that Jesus had laid out for them, he had told them to let the dead bury the dead, and not to go hang out with friends at parties before they left families and friends.  They weren’t to look back, but ahead.

And they were told about opening their heart and soul and mind and strength to God and equally to their neighbor, and then given a story about the Samaritan who opened a charge account to pay for all the medical costs of the enemy he found lying by the side of the road, with a promise to come back and check in on him regularly. And Jesus would become the Good Samaritan, offering an open charge account to care for all, including his enemies.

Jesus was calling disciples to go all in, not to go halfway, and Jesus was constantly inviting and calling and instructing those whom he would soon leave behind about all this. As I have been going through these last few weeks of Luke’s stories about Jesus’ last weeks and months, I have been clearly thinking about what it means to invite people and train people and get ready to leave them. Today’s Gospel is one more story in a string of stories about Jesus offering a group pushed to the side an equal participation in His work.  Today’s Gospel is about two women, a focus on women in a day when women didn’t study at the feet of any rabbi,  and they are asked to be disciples, with everything that involves.  Today’s Gospel is Luke’s reminder that the church is an open house built with all people, no exclusions,  sitting down for the main course with Jesus, and then living out the story they have been told.

Here was Martha, getting those cheddar slices all lined up nicely, and he wanted her to hear about the kingdom; not just hear, but announce it, and be in it.  He wanted both Mary and Martha to be His disciples.

Jesus is still calling disciples, I hope you know, and frankly, Jesus wants you right next to Him. Jesus would like us to eat the main course with him and then take that walk to Jerusalem with Him.

I am in awe of Jesus who was so intent on including everyone in this incredible opportunity that he stopped at this house and made sure all its inhabitants were onboard.

I am in awe of a congregation who wants everyone to be invited to be part of this journey.

I am in awe of God who wants no exceptions to our participation.

I am in awe of God who can take one who threw the first stone to kill one of the first deacons of the Christian church and turn him into an unrivaled missionary.

And that missionary named Paul writes a letter to a bunch of adults who have just been baptized into the salvation story of this Jesus, the story Mary and Martha had just joined. These new Christians were now disciples with Martha and Mary and Lazarus.  The letter is called Colossians, and in it Paul is so excited to talk about Jesus whose cross they now wear and whose name has become their new identity that he writes in great big run- sentences.  He is just pumped to tell them about Jesus. It sounds something like this:

Jesus is the one who makes God known to us, the image of the invisible God, and what he did was to create everything and then hold it all together.  But he didn’t stop there.  He founded his church, and he is the head of this church, and he is the bridge pulling heaven and earth back together.  He is the reconciler, the one who brings peace between God and all people, even those who have been wicked and fought against the church. And he has given you faith to believe in his story and he has been working so that you will never stop believing that story. Even when I am suffering, I will not stop talking about this story. God commissioned me to keep telling this story, even when life is not fair or easy.  And I have the joy of telling you the great mystery, hidden for years and years and ages and ages.  Jesus made it clear. God chose to make God’s-self known to you who didn’t grow up as believers or as insiders who already knew about God.  And it will always be my job to help you understand this mystery.  I can’t wait to tell you more about our great Lord Jesus. And if I can’t make it clear, Jesus will do it Himself.”

Paul was so in awe of what Jesus had done for him that he couldn’t wait to have more baptisms and more adult inquiry classes and more deep, deep discussions with anyone about the greatest mystery of all – God opening the doors of the kingdom through Jesus to all people.

I am in awe of a church which feels this joy that Paul felt.

I am in awe of a God who called me to join Paul, commissioned me to join Paul, to tell this story to all who will listen.

I am in awe of a church that can write our welcome statement and mean it. Read it with me one more time:  All are welcome in this church!  The Good News of God’s grace is for all, regardless of age, abilities, physical & mental health, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, income or strength of faith.  There is nothing we do, have done or will do that can separate us from the love of God.  God makes no exceptions, nor do we.  Come join us in praise, prayer and the work of our Lord!


And I am so awe that you, my dear brothers and sisters, invited me to help lead the story telling right here.  I am counting on all who come to this place to join Martha and Mary in receiving the main course that Jesus offers.  I am confident that we, fed by Jesus, will never stop feeding our community with the rich food which Jesus brings.