Pentecost +8 - Year C
Last night we had a brief skirmish between atmospheric sisters of differing pressures - high and low, cold and hot, dry and wet. Less noticeable were the tectonic plates tussling beneath our feet (daily earthquakes). We are at another frontal conflict with Martha and Mary.
We've been hearing about the importance, high value, of hospitality and welcome. Here the tables are reversed. The one providing hospitality is reproved while the one acting as non-Samaritan Priest and Levite is commended.
I appreciate Richard W. Swanson's comment in Provoking the Gospel of Luke, "Many scenes in the gospels make better sense when you begin by surrendering the notion that Jesus is always right, no matter what. I am increasing convinced that the gospels do this intentionally, but ideological Christian reading simply refuses to go along."
Are there limits on hospitality? If so, what might they be?
A friend recently reminded me, "I would suggest that the huge irony of being irenic [endlessly hospitable/welcoming] is that 'tolerance' applied to intolerance is like pouring gasoline by the 55-gallon drum on an already raging bonfire."
Where do we need to pause in the never-ending work of welcoming to regain perspective? For instance, congregations often get into trouble when they claim they are "friendly". That may indeed be their intention, but they have no way of evaluating how their "friendliness" is being perceived by others [and, truth be told, have no interest in finding out, as it would lead to change]. Let's pretend that Jesus was holding a seminar on the effectiveness of current hospitality. Martha's very continuing to do what she has done is getting in the way of her doing hospitality well - it has become expected activity and folks better like the way she is friendly to them - or else.
If your congregation hasn't done it lately, it would be instructive to borrow a couple of lay members from another congregation to do two things for you: 1) drop by at a time of worship or fund-raiser and later report on their experience of actual hospitality received, and 2) to do a quick survey of people on the street, in the grocery store, at the gas station, and people such as a banker, police officer, school principal, regarding their perception of the congregation in question. You can even offer to return the favor. This Mary moment might affect Martha and widen the scope of hospitality for her and others.
With our usual behaviors being reviewed, we are also ready to review how deep are our spiritual disciplines undergirding our hospitality. This sets us up for next week's gospel lesson - not prayer as religious activity, but prayer as an evaluative tool for our behavior.