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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 16

Year C, Colour = Green


Mary and Martha by GaudinIntroduction


This week we have presented to us in the Gospel reading the two seemingly contradictory paths of the Christian life, the pious and the practical, or the spiritual and the down to earth. Last week we read about the Good Samaritan who cared for an injured man. His practical acts of kindness were contrasted with the pious priest and Levite who were more concerned with their religious purity than showing mercy and true religion.
This week we read about an apparently lazy Mary, who sits listening to Jesus whilst the practical Martha gets on with the chores. But Jesus does not call Mary lazy, Jesus tells Martha that it is alright for Mary to be still and listen to him.
Hopefully Mary was not a lazy person, but she did make use of the time when Jesus was around. She knew that there are times when jobs can be left and there was no need to justify her existence to Jesus by showing him how hard she could wash and cook.
Perhaps you feel that you are surrounded by lazy people and you end up doing all the work. Well perhaps this week it is time to listen to Jesus. There is no need to justify your existence to him, God's mission does not depend upon us slowly burning ourselves out and there will be time enough for working when we have enjoyed a day of rest.
 

Opening Verse of Scripture Psalm 29:2

"Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. CW

Almighty God, send down upon your Church the riches of your Spirit, and kindle in all who minister the gospel your countless gifts of grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading Genesis 18:1-10a

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to Abraham, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son. NRSV

Second Reading  Colossians Chapter 1:15-28

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him – provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. NRSV

Gospel Reading   Luke 10:38-42

Now as Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ NRSV

Post Communion Prayer

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by your governance, that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW


Commentary

A Spiritual Balancing Act

The gospel reading from last week underlines the need to take action, to be involved in serving each other in our communities and beyond, irrespective of prior prejudices or experiences and not to be consumed by spiritual and religious rules, regulations and regimes. This week’s reading seems to be stating the opposite; that Christian activity should take second place to spending time reflecting on the spiritual dimension of our lives. But just like the Samaritan, in this week’s gospel reading the stereotyping of an individual is being challenged, in this case Martha the host of the home. The passage gently reminds us that the practical side of our ministry is important but so is receiving the Lord and His word. The gospel message is not just about altruism, doing he best for each other, there is a deeply spiritual dimension to our words and actions as we allow our lives to be touched, transformed and directed by a creative, renewing and sustaining God. In challenging Martha, Jesus is actively encouraging her to abandon a role in which she is being held captive to serve the needs of others and to engage with Christ on a personal level. She is being challenged to leave behind the stance which says, ‘If I don’t do it, no one else will!’

Coming immediately after the Parable of the Good Samaritan the story makes the point that if our activity is to be wise and fruitful there must also be times of stillness, of prayer, of being in touch with our own inner worlds and being open to see and hear the inner worlds of God and of others. Our times of quiet reflection are times of being still in the presence of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. They are times of being still with the truth, and allowing God the space and time in our lives so He can be heard and our inner selves can speak with Him. Times of reflection are times of aligning and integrating our spiritual and emotional lives with the activities in which we engage. They are times that help us understand that we too can get imprisoned by stereotypes and thus help us to break free and move on into a more complete relationship with God and with others. Balancing our spiritual lives, both our times of quiet with God and our activities for Him is a bit like being on a train. We are in motion and yet we are stationary as we are seated (or standing!). There is action and yet there is stillness. We are moving forward and yet we are at rest. We are on a journey and yet we are being transported by something infinitely bigger than ourselves. In our Christian journey we need to live out the paradox of the stillness and the movement, the times of action and the times of quiet reflection. And as we do we find that they are parts of the same experience. As we take time to reflect on God we come to understand more about Him and of His will and calling on our lives and in particular the journey and actions He invites us to take with Him. And as we align ourselves with the actions which God has for each one of us so we find true stillness and calm.  Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation

The practice of hospitality was of great importance in Abraham’s time. Living as nomads the people would live in tents, moving from place to place to support their herds. Visitors brought companionship, an opportunity to trade for materials needed or for sale and potentially assistance for the nomadic lifestyle. As a gracious host, Abraham served a magnificent meal for his visitors and in return received the promise of an heir to carry on the family name. He did not hesitate to receive strangers, although he had no idea who they were, yet through his welcome he received the Lord Himself and the inheritance His promise foretold.

Every creature is a word of God. Meister Eckhart, 14th century
 

Hymns

  1. Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour
  2. Father God I wonder
  3. Fill thou my life
  4. God is our strength and refuge
  5. O for a thousand tongues,

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

 

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word aove all else, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

O God our father, who through your servants Mary and Martha taught us to sit at your feet and to serve you; grant us your grace to fulfil the task you have given us and to draw us ever closer to yourself. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word above all else; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen
 


     

    Additional Resources

Post Communion Prayer

God of our pilgrimage, you have led us to the living water: refresh and sustain us as we go forward on our journey, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary

The parable of the Good Samaritan is immediately followed by the story of Martha and Mary. The parable of the Good Samaritan extols the virtue of rolling up one's sleeves and getting stuck into the work that needs to be done, however dirty that might be. The Samaritan had to clean and dress the wounds of the man, lift him onto his donkey and walk alongside to the inn. Even when he got there, he continued his care; only leaving him the following day after ensuring the continuing care of the innkeeper by paying him some money, and assuring him of further reimbursement if necessary. This practical attitude is contrasted with the 'other worldy' and wholly inadequate attitude of the priest and the Levite.

This week in the story of Martha and Mary, Martha is the one who gets stuck in, up to her elbows in dishes and cleaning, it is she who acts like the "Good Samaritan", but it seems she is not commended for her activity. Mary on the other hand is the listener, the one sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing the word of God. She is not helping anyone, just basking in the graciousness of what Jesus was saying. She, unlike the priest and the Levite of the parable, is commended!

Martha wanted Mary to help with the work, the inference is that Mary was being lazy. The prayer of Martha was 'Tell her to help me.' Perhaps we sometimes feel the same, that others are lazy and we end up doing all the work. Jesus doesn't answer Martha's prayer and get Mary to help in the housework, but this is not because Jesus wants to justify unfair working practices, neither does Jesus support the exploitation of some as a result of the idleness of others. Many people use this passage to juxtapose two types of people. One very spiritual and contemplative the other very practical and down to earth. And the message today seems to be that it is alright to be spiritual whilst other people get on with the work. Now I have a personal problem with that, because I think that those people who sit around being very spiritual often need a good kick up the backside. I believe very strongly in that expression that 'we can be so spiritual that we are no earthly good'. In the same way I find myself becoming increasingly intolerant when I am told of a person who is 'laid back.' Frequently this means that the person concerned is learning the art of encouraging everybody else to do their work for them. It is a thoughtless position in which the person doesn't worry about making sure they make appointments on time, complete their share of the work and so on. This is usually just slothfulness and bad manners. Invariably if you are not pulling on the rope the chances are that somebody else is having to pull harder to compensate for your laziness. So I think long and hard about this passage when it is used to justify a separated spirituality and the contemplative life as superior to ordinary and mundane life.

The answer is surely that there is no real conflict and real spirituality is not divorced from reality and does not flee worldly affairs. How often was Mary to be found at Jesus feet? The answer is probably 'not very often'. So here she was using the opportunity to listen to Jesus. Jesus was very dependent upon the ministry of women and he also depended upon them for his physical support - this was a vital and important role. (See Luke 8:1-3.) They gave to him practical acts of loving service. Real commitment and obedience demands service. Mary was turning her focus upon Jesus in a rare opportunity.

There is even more than this going on. The words used are that Mary was 'sitting at Jesus feet.' This is a phrase used in Acts 22:3 'under Gamaliel'. It was more than just like sitting in front of the telly. It was to be in the role of a disciple. Here was Mary being taught by Jesus as a disciple. It is unusual for women in the first-century Judaism to be accepted by a teacher as a disciple. Jesus was showing that we must all be conscientious in setting aside time for our spiritual growth and development. And so there needs to be a sense of focus. The priorities for Martha at that time were the wrong ones, hence Jesus tells Martha that her life is crowded with too many things. Her worth did not come from how clean the floor was or whether the dusting was all done. We all need to take time to focus our minds on Jesus, afterwards we can do the housework. Charles Royden

Prayer

A prayer of the Society of Mary and Martha caring for people in Christian Ministry and their families at times of stress or crisis.

O God our father, who through your servants Mary and Martha taught us to sit at your feet and to serve you;

Grant us your grace to fulfil the task you have given us and to draw us ever closer to yourself. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those things which last for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word above all else; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, you are the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; help us so to know you that we may truly love you, so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. —Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

God of time and eternity:
We bless you for our hope in Christ Jesus and for his life in our lives.
In the week that is ahead our relationships to family, possessions, work, and
moods will demand our attention. Free us to love you with all our hearts
and to love the world into what it is to become by your mercy and justice:
Let our love be genuine.
Let our affections be tempered with holiness.
Let our desires be shaped by the vision
of a new heaven and a new earth.
Let our actions reflect the balance of love for your reign in all things.
Let our perceptions and feelings be ordered by the hope we have in Christ.

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word above all else. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Meditation

Perhaps this week we should all consider how much time we spend at the feet of the Master. May God gives us ears to listen to his word and willing hearts that we might serve and obey


Mary Magdalene could be thought of as the patron saint of the Much Maligned. For centuries, she has been depicted as the scarlet woman, the "tart with a heart" who abandoned a life of prostitution to follow Jesus. In Jesus Christ Superstar she sings of Jesus: "I’ve had so many men before in very many ways: he’s just one more." In the film The Last Temptation of Christ she is introduced to us in her bed, and it is to her that Jesus’s mind wanders during the crucifixion. Such imagery has proved undeniably powerful, but has no scriptural basis.
St Luke mentions "some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities", among them, "Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out" (Luke 8.2). Elsewhere in the Gospels, an unnamed woman washes Jesus’s feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair — a scandalous but loving and generous act. It has traditionally been assumed that she is Mary Magdalene. She is thus confirmed as a woman who loved Jesus dearly and as someone who knew the power of sensuality and her own sexuality.
Thankfully, our post communion prayer ignores the unfounded tradition. Instead, it recognises that even if we know nothing else about Mary, we know this: it was she who first saw the risen Lord, and it was to Mary that Jesus gave the apostolic commission: "Go to my disciples . . . and tell them" (John 20.17).
The prayer reminds us that she was called by name. In John’s account of the resurrection, Jesus does indeed call her by her name. When she mistakes him for the gardener, he turns to her and says, "Mary". It is one of those moments that never fails to make the hairs on my neck stand up, because it is the saying of her name that causes her to see who he really is. The scales of grief fall from her eyes. It is Jesus, her Lord, alive before her when she expected to find him dead.
More importantly, it is the saying of her name that opens her eyes to the resurrection and its meaning. It takes us back right to the creation in Genesis where, in order to bring something into life, God names it. And it takes us on to the baptism service, in which the candidate is brought into the resurrection life by being named. Jesus said, "Mary", and she became alive.
More than this, the word "called" in this prayer reminds us that Jesus not only said her name aloud, but he also called her to a task, a vocation — to go and tell his disciples about the resurrection. Being part of the resurrection meant sharing the good news, telling others that Jesus was risen from the dead.
The prayer ends by weaving her calling into our own calling. It is a post-communion prayer, and, as such, sends us out from the church and back to the world. We who have been brought near to Jesus Christ in the eucharist are called into the new life of the resurrection.
We, who have been united with his body and blood, are called to open our eyes to who he is — even when we encounter him in unexpected places. And we, who, like Mary, have reached out and touched him, are called with her to depart and proclaim the good news.
The Revd Georgina Byrne is Vicar of St Kenelm’s, Romsley, in the Halas Team, in the diocese of Worcester.
 

Hymns

  1. Hosanna
  2. Amazing grace
  3. It passeth knowledge
  4. Just as I am (Tune Woodworth)
  5. Before the throne of God above
  6. 1 Before the throne of God above
    I have a strong, a perfect plea:
    A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
    Who ever lives and pleads for me.

    2 My name is graven on His hands,
    My name is written on His heart;
    I know that while in heaven He stands
    No tongue can bid me thence depart.

    3 When Satan tempts me to despair,
    And tells me of the guilt within,
    Upward I look, and see Him there
    Who made an end of all my sin.

    4 Because the sinless Saviour died,
    My sinful soul is counted free;
    For God, the Just, is satisfied
    To look on Him and pardon me.

    5 Behold Him there! the risen Lamb!
    My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
    The great unchangeable I AM,
    the King of glory and of grace!

    6 One with Himself, I cannot die;
    My soul is purchased by His blood;
    My life is hid with Christ on high,
    With Christ, my Saviour and my God.