Monday, July 19, 2010

Mary & martha - standing and sitting?

Why do we do what we do 2 .... stand up and sit down - Mary & Martha

Help us O Lord to always listen to your voice. In Jesus name we pray amen

The story of Mary and Martha.

This is a short but powerful incident which many if not all of us have heard before.

All of us I am sure can relate to the images used in the story. I don’t know what your house is like when someone is popping round for dinner, but with lots to be done, rooms cleaned, all the tasks to be done. I know that the ferris household grows quite frustrated. My sister is sitting in her bedroom ... my comment ... mum its not fair I have to do all the work. I am sure we are not unique.

There are a couple of things which need to be highlighted in the passage

Firstly we must remember that we could not function without Martha’s. Churches, families, organisations ... we really really couldn’t. People who clean, who cut hedges, who make tea, strawberry jam, scones. Who organise flower festivals, catering, flowers for church, sing in choirs, play instruments.

Taking it outside the church setting, our families couldn’t function without people doing the ironing, taking the rubbish out, providing lifts. For many people here we fulfill all of those role on our own, or share them with someone else.

Paying the Bills, juggling who we are perhaps as mum or dad, perhaps as grandparent, if we are a young person, keeping our friendships, juggling our school work, our extra curricular activities, keeping the house, maintaining the car. we are continually juggling lots of different jobs.

In Society today there are huge pressures on each of us which we need to hold all our tasks together. Martha’s are people who are on their feet and get jobs done. We need them!

Mary on the other hand had a different focus, her focus was Jesus.

In this passage Jesus comes in and mary sits at Jesus feet.

This position was in Jewish tradition was one of listening and learning. Paul the great rabbi sat at the feet of Gamaliel - to become a rabbi. To sit at the feet of a teacher was to give him priority, to give him complete attention and to say I want to be like you, i want to listen to you.

In that Culture, in that day it was not somewhere where you would expect to find a woman. In this section of Luke’s Gospel Jesus is opening up the kingdom of God to all. All are welcome to sit at Jesus’ feet

So often today we get distracted by many things - take for example listening, if we are listening intently we will hear things and remember them, but if our mind is distracted we may well be focusing on lots things we will not hear what is actually going on, what is important.

I wonder if you have been in a situation sitting round the table at the end of the day and your mind is somewhere else and those who are talking to you are , “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and you nodding affirmatively at their words and thoughts, but you haven’t heard a word that they said.

Or have you ever been introduced to someone and your mind is racing so fast about everything else around you that you actually don’t hear their name at all, and so you ask their name again, and you hear their name like you had never heard it before. You actually totally did not hear their name the first time. Have you ever had that experience? I think so. Many of us, in our intense busyness of life, have lost the art of listening.

Just as listening is key to building relationships with those we encounter. How much more important is listening and indeed focusing on God in Life.

This incident in the life of Jesus - with the sisters - challenges us to pause, to think of which of the sisters we are more like. Are we prepared to take the time listen to God?,are we prepared to listen and read his word, are we prepared to pray and ask for his guidance for things we are doing?

We are challenged by this story to strike the balance between doing work, and pausing for teaching and reflection.


One of the things which struck me over the past week as I have been reflecting on these readings ... is our positions in church- we are either on our feet or sitting down.

Sometimes in church people get confused wether they should be standing or sitting.

As we sit or kneel (like Mary) in church -we do so to hear the Bible read, to listen to sermons, to reflect on prayers, in the communion service we kneel as we receive, at the blessing we receive the blessing. We are doing what Mary did Taking time out with God, to receive from him, and to listen to his teaching.

And as we get to our feet to come in to church, to work through the service (the word liturgy means work of the people), so we stand when we are active ... we stand as we praise God in hymns and psalms, when we are affirming our faith in him, and when we go out we get to our feet and go and get on with the work.

Jesus in his ministry - did do lots of things, he was on his feet day in day out but he also withdrew to listen to his heavenly father, to read scripture, to pray

Perhaps this week, in the busy-ness of our world - we need to do a bit more sitting at the feet of Jesus, reading from the Bible, Praying, asking him questions, meditating on his word.

And then as we take to our feet we will be doing thing out of the place of relationship with God and also knowing what attitude we do our work in.

Let us pray


Monday, July 12, 2010

Why do we do what we do 1?

Why do we do what we do 1 ? ... Peace & Dismissal

Text :- Good Samaritan (Luke)

Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, speak to us, challenge us, mould us and shape us into the people you would have us be. In Jesus name we pray amen.

Why do we do what we do?

Sometimes it is said by critics of the church, dare I say especially of the anglican church that our traditions are outdated, that we are irrelevant to the world around us and we are just doing what we have always done.

This harsh critique may be true ... if ... we never asked the question - why do we do what we do
But actually when we delve into what we do, when we ask the questions of the traditions, of the actions we perform, of the words we say - we come up with perhaps surprising answers which are able to connect with our critics as well as todays culture and show them that we are indeed answering some of the fundamental questions and issues of life.

This year after Easter the Bible Study group looked at this service of Holy Communion, we took it section by section, prayer book in one hand and Bible in the other, and discovered that what we do here in HC is indeed what Christians have done over the centuries. That there are layers of meaning, that each of the actions of this service can help us encounter God and indeed help us on our life’s journey.

In the Bible Study we discussed that some days we come to worship and seriously engaged with the service, sometimes we come simply out of routine, sometimes we come with lots on our minds, sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are stressed, sometimes we are mourning, sometimes we come because we just want to get out of the house.

However you came to be here this morning, however you are feeling today, our church services have been structured in such a way as to hopefully allow every single person to engage, to participate with our worship and to receive from God.

The Christian community, the church, is called to be different from the world, we are called to show love not hate, we are called to build relationships, to support each other, to be there for one another, to cry with each other, to laugh with each other. Basically we are called to be holy, set apart from the world, different to others.

Let us take two why do we do what we do questions from our service this morning

Question 1 - Why do we do what we do ... when it comes to the offering of the peace?

Why do we bother offering one another a sign of peace?

The church is a community, made up of individual members, visitors, leaders ... beyond our own small groups of friends, looking around St Columba’s this morning, we do have babies, children, young people, young adults, parents, pensioners ... when we come together in church we are saying something powerful to the world. In a world which the individual is enhanced. Whilst of course we all have Personal preferences ... we are people who hold things in common, who are meant to look out for one another, we are all different yes, but we also are prepared to show love and concern for each other.

Our calling from God is to be at peace with one another, to like one another, to love one another.
In St. Columba’s we share the peace By reaching out the hand of friendship we are saying at the least - I have nothing against you, to visitors here this morning it is a sign we are saying hello and welcome. We are saying that as I come up for Holy Communion I have nothing against any of my neighbours.

When we share the peace with one another, we are saying - I am right with my neighbour, I have asked for forgiveness from those I have done wrong to and also I have forgiven those who have wronged me - it is not an easy peace but it is a quality peace, it is a peace which clears conscience and which allows us to be at peace with God and others.

Our second Question ....Why do we do what we do when it comes to the dismissal
The test: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord ... in the name of christ Amen

We are called to Go - We are called to go wherever God will place us in the coming week, wether that be at home, in the Golf Club, in the work place, the shops in Ballyhackamore, weeding the garden, in the gym, wherever that may be.
We are not just called to be there but we are called to be there in peace (right relationship with others around you and with God).

And we are not just called to be where we are this week, in peace but we are also called to love and serve the Lord. And that is the doing - the task to which we are called. We are called to love God and serve others.

Just over the last 10 days I have encountered in my ministry young people and adults who have problems being accepted by their peers, who turn to addictions, who are struggling with many and varied issues debt, despair, self harm. If the church is not engaging with these sort of issues, if we are not reaching out in peace to those who are struggling with life then what are we about.

Remember that when the Bible speaks of peace, it is the shalom, the peace that is deep, that is wholesome, it is where all is right in the world, a place of balance.

Who are you going to walk past this week?, Who are you going to be the Good Samaritan to this week? ... it is a huge question? the world is crying out for people to help, people to pause with them, to get a glimpse of God’s love.

I mentioned the people I have encountered in the last 10 days, people who have seen lots of people walk past them, people who are not like the man on the Jericho road - I am sure that not one of us, if we saw someone lying beat up, on the Kings Road out side church this morning would not dial 999 on our phone and get the ambulance out. But the people I have encountered have deep wounds, who don’t need plasters but do need genuine friends, people they trust.

We don’t need to look too far, I am sure there are people each one of us knows who would love a chat, a cup of coffee and someone to look them straight in the eye and say ... how are you ... really? There is a challenge! the bigger challenge then is to be prepared to say I will walk with you, I will find you somewhere that can help you. That in essence is the parable played out.

When it comes to our dismissal today, we should be excited - we have heard the Good news about how much God Loves the world, how much he has done for us. We should know that we are all in this together as a church and now we just need to get out there and show those around us Gods love for them.

This is how Bishop Tom Wright puts it:
“No church, no Christian can remain content with easy definitions which allow us to watch most of the world lying half-dead in the road. We need to find fresh ways of telling the story of God’s love; fresh ways of living this in our attitudes and behaviour – which will do for our day what this brilliant parable did for Jesus’ first hearers."

As we come to the communion rail today - are there people we need to forgive, to make peace with? People we need to seek forgiveness from.

As we go from this Service to day - are there people we need to serve, are there people whom we are tempted to pass by? who are they? how can I serve them?