Sunday, July 24, 9:00 a.m.
Proper 11C*-1July 17, 2016 St. John’s Church
Rev’d Jennifer Phillips Amos 8:1-12;Col.1:15-28;Lk.10:38-42
The best gift we can give to another person is truly to see and acknowledge them and communicate our recognition of their personhood, their particular value. Nothing cramps the spirit of a child so much as to be ignored, to experience being invisible to their closest others; children often even choose receiving hurt above being unseen and unheard by their parents. We never outgrow our need to have someone cherish our person-ness and reflect this valuing of us back to us, no matter how sturdy our sense of self and sense of purpose may be. None of us can bear simply disappearing into our roles -- as Mom, Dad, teacher, banker, salesman, nurse, family clown, or chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. When we find or choose friends in life, we are drawn to those who really know and cherish us, who see us.
Of the many stories of Jesus and his friends, today’s story from Luke’s Gospel is especially loved and remembered and retold - the story of Jesus with Martha the busy homemaker and host bustling in the kitchen to feed a big group of guests, and Mary her sister, who sits down next to Jesus leaving all the work to Martha so that she may simply look at her beloved friend and listen to what he has to say and drink in the experience of him. And Lazarus their brother? This story doesn’t tell us where he is on this day -- out on business, or reclining in the company of Jesus with the others and hearing about their travels, but the two women are at home, and only one of them is laboring in the kitchen.
I can’t hear this story without remembering my maternal grandmother, at whose funeral this Gospel was read and preached on. My Nana was certainly a ‘Martha’, a good evangelical Treaty Road Baptist church woman turning out puff pastry sausage rolls and sandwiches and tarts and cakes for thousands of church suppers over her lifetime in Hounslow, England. In her youth, she was a servant, working as a kitchen maid, the bottom of the household hierarchy for a wealthy London family for whom my Grandad was a footman. There she learned to turn out endless perfect pastry day after day under a lot of physical and verbal abuse from the head cook. When Nana’s father was killed in an accident, crushed by a train on the railway line on which he was working, she was forbidden to take any time off to go home -- perhaps the one time in her life when she was uppity enough to put on her hat and walk out of the house anyway. But all her life, Nana worked hard to take care of others by feeding them, and even in her last few years, she ran errands and baked for and fussed over a couple of her even more ancient neighbors. Had she been Martha in the story, though, I doubt she even would have complained about Mary’s lack of cooperation…she would have just worked faster. Without Martha, the disciples and Jesus would have gone hungry and had no clean linen for their rest. It’s hard to believe Jesus, even a spiritualized image of Jesus, would not have appreciated being served a hot meal by dear friends when he came in from the road, along with whomever was trailing around with him!
But Jesus is remembered as praising Mary for choosing, not the ‘better’, but the ‘good part’. The Greek does not suggest so much a comparison with Martha’s ‘worse part’, but perhaps that Mary’s course is morally good, that is, not lazy or uncaring; and that Mary’s part is serviceable, practical good, even though it doesn’t appear so to Martha. And here I wonder whether Jesus is not appreciating more than just Mary’s often-lauded “contemplative” spirit. I picture Mary, sitting close to her beloved friend at his return, gazing into his face, drinking him in as one does a beloved, listening to his every word, listening to the stories of his travels, not simply staring into heaven in an abstract way, but absorbing the treasure of the loved one in his close personal presence.
And then I picture Jesus, looking at his beloved friend Mary and being warmed by the intensity of her attention, her devotion, her joy at simply being with him again. She is one of those nearest others who, I suspect, loved Jesus for himself, not for what he could do for her, not because he was a wonder-worker -- though later on she and Martha would have reason to be glad for that, too. Jesus, the human one, must have needed to love and trust and intimacy of his friends as much as any of us, and delighted in those who loved him not because of his roles for them, or his fame, but simply for his personhood. Those few would be people who could love him even in his frailty, his vulnerability, who would love him even in his failures, seeing him as he was, not according to their fantasies of him. It must have been that sort of attentive, non-judging love and loyalty --alongside God’s love -- that confirmed Jesus as fully human, that gave him strength to bear what he must bear, that offered just enough respite and comfort and closeness -- even imperfectly -- to undergird him in the work he was called to do.
In our era of hook-up and internet relationships, our own often nomadic lives of exchanging one set of temporary friends for another more convenient set, Martha and Mary invite us to a different kind of friendship. Martha reminds us of the value of hospitality and effort in serving friends, even when they don’t always appreciate our efforts. Without Martha there is no dinner! There is no comfortable relaxing over a drink and some soup and conversation for Jesus, his disciples….or for her sister Mary! And Martha, too, shows us the sort of friendship that will take any trouble or inconvenience in stride, that always makes room for the guest, that rises in the night to open the door and prepare a meal for the late-returning traveler and whomever he drags along with him.
Mary of Bethany reminds us of the inestimable value of intimacy and devotion - the gift of the loving gaze, the undivided attention, the open ears for whatever the friend has to say. Mary is the friend who communicates, “I am here for you completely, no matter what.”
Jesus calls his followers “friends” in Luke’s Gospel, and in John’s Gospel, the friendship Christ offers and asks is even more fully spelled out. The greatest love is that a person shows in laying down life for friends, says Jesus in John (15:13). You are my friends by doing what I command and by knowing who I really am.
Several of the great theological teachers of Christian tradition developed the idea of our friendship with Christ and the way it is a foundation for friendship with other people, and the essential nature of friendship for truly human life. Aelred of Riveaux wrote, “a man is to be compared to a beast if he has no one to rejoice with him in adversity, no one to whom to unburden his mind if any annoyance crosses his path or with whom to share some unusually sublime or illuminating inspiration.” and,“friendship is a stage bordering upon that perfection which consists in the love and knowledge of God, so that man from being a friend of his fellow-man be comes the friend of God…. among the stages leading to perfection, friendship is the highest.”
And when friendship goes awry? Aelred says, “If the one whom you love offends you, continue to love him despite the hurt. His conduct may compel the withdrawal of friendship, but never of love. Be concerned as much as you can for his welfare, safeguard his reputation, and never betray the secrets of his friendship, even though he should betray yours.”
Another great teacher, St. Gregory of Nyssa said this: "This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because we fear punishment, like slaves; not to do good because we expect repayment, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by enforcing some business deal. On the contrary, disregarding all those good things which we do hope for and which God has promised us, we regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful, and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing truly worthwhile."
There is perhaps no greater sorrow than to go through life with the greater part of oneself unseen and unknown and unaffirmed by one’s closest others. And conversely, there is no greater joy than offering and being granted in return that sort of holy and cherishing friendship that cannot be shaken by anything life brings. When we have the face of a friend to gaze into and see ourselves reflected in love, we glimpse some part of that greater loving regard in which we are all held by God.
 On Spiritual Friendship, 2:10-11. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1977)
 Ibid. 2:14-15.
 Ibid. 3:45
This is St. John's Episcopal Church...
Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day? Click below to go to the Lectionary page... all readings available for 2016:
Save Your Soda Can Pop-Top Rings to Help Sick Children!
Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield and Boston have been collecting pull-tabs or “pop-tops” from beverage cans since 1989, recycling them, and putting the money toward programs that directly benefit children. Since its inception, about a half-million pounds of aluminum tabs have been collected and recycled.
Bring them to church – there’s a collection basket in the entryway.
Did you know: The tabs are the only pure aluminum part of the can, and the cans may still be returned for deposit even after the tabs are removed.
Here are just some of the items that the Shriners Hospital has purchased over the years:
A Baxter Infusion Pump, used to dispense pain medication.
Arthrometer used to measure the degree of instability in the knee.
Bullard Laryngoscope used by an anesthesiologist to place a breathing tube in a patientwho has a complex airway.
A 10-foot trailer for the hospital van, used to transport medical equipment and records to outreach clinics throughout New England and New York State.
Computerized Pressure Mapping, a force sensing array used in evaluating pressure distribution for patients requiring customized wheelchair seating systems.
To Deliver Them – we’ll take our tabs directly to the Shriners
...maybe you can help when we have a good load? Tabs can be dropped off at the Shriners Burns Hospital, Boston at any time:
51 Blossom St. Boston, MA 02114 Telephone 617-722-3000 Fax 617-523-1684
July 11 and August 8:
Altar flowers: during the summer altar flowers will consist of offerings from members' gardens...So if you have a splendid array in our yard, bring a bunch!
Servers for worship: (readers, intercessors, chalices, greeters) will be recruited at the door - the rector will invite you to take a ministry card from the basket and do the task.
Acolytes: Summer is a perfect time for a child (or adult!) to try out being an acolyte. Children a bit younger than our usual acolytes are welcome to have some training - just come a half hour before the service and tell Jennifer you'd like to be trained and she'll put you to work.
Junior Altar Guild Minister: if you know someone who would like to become a junior altar guild minister, talk to Lynne Kozlowski
Are you challenged with senior care matters?
Many of our St. John's parishioners have faced senior care challenges with a family member or friend. Our own family's experience has shown this is a complicated and emotionally charged matter. It involves healthcare, financial and legal planning, social and spiritual wellbeing and navigating changing family relationships. Managing all of this is also enormously time consuming and stressful.
There are professionals who help folks sort some of this out, but they tend to be experts in one specialty such as care management, law or estate planning. There is also a tendency for their advice and representation to end upon placement of the family member into an assisted living or memory care facility. In fact, the challenges have often just begun!
Even though we are surrounded by some of the greatest medical institutions in the world who conduct much of the latest research in geriatric care, it's easy to feel lost when managing these family situations. Through my own personal and professional experience, I see firsthand what is lacking and how hard it is on seniors and their children.
I am doing an independent study with family, friends and professional colleagues. My focus is on using a more holistic approach to easing the impact on families to improve their experience and the outcomes with long term senior care. I would welcome the opportunity to meet in confidence to hear about your experience and offer my recommendation if you wish.
I can be reached at church, by phone (617-413-6314)
or email VLKingsley@comcast.net.
July 11 and August 8:
Flowers enhance the beauty of our church and greatly contribute to our worship. We place flowers near the altar to remind us of Creation, which brings us to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Sunday. Here at St. John’s, rather than have a general budget item for flowers, we invite our parishioners to provide the flowers in memory or honor of loved ones, or in thanksgiving for special events. There is a sign up sheet on the bulletin board on which one may select a Sunday, (or Sundays!), for a special tribute. The cost for flowers, which the Altar Guild orders, is $35. (Please be sure to note on your payment that it is for flowers.) We are grateful to Westwood Gardens Florist, which, for many years, has provided beautiful arrangements to us for a modest price.